Friday, 8 June 2012

Going for Gold

        It may be a well-known fact but covers sell. Content may sustain loyal followings of avid readers but covers sell magazines. They are the devices which entice us into acknowledging the news-stands. They are the tools which force us to take into account what lays behind them. They are the gimmicks which cause us to momentarily discard of our shopping and delve into their depths, so that with any luck, when we arrive at the checkout, they are in our grasps ready to be purchased. Covers sell - but, more importantly, what exactly makes a good cover?
       Vogue has acted and still acts as a fashion bible in the U.K. today and around the world. However, regardless of its prominence in the magazine arena it, like any magazine, still struggles to gauge exactly which covers will appeal to the masses and which won't - it still struggles to get it right. Kate Moss' May 2003 Aladdin Zain inspired cover may be one of Vogue's most famous but it is also one of its least successful. The cover, despite being beautiful, edgy and interesting, failed to entice the public into buying it at the time of its release. It didn't sell.

        However, whilst the poor sales of Moss' Bowie cover may always remain a mystery to fashionistas and fashion editors across the globe, there do seem to be some general rules as to which covers sell and which don't. There seems to be a general list of dos and don'ts in the publishing world and, though these aren't fool-proof, they do for mostly work. Regardless of time or place, a cover with the perfect ingredients should sell and it should sell well.

The Ingredients

      The first ingredient is a celebrity. Whilst beauty may be at the heart of fashion magazines, the in depth interviews and celebrity photo-shoots alike are what sell them and so, a celebrity draped in Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren is far more likely to sell than a model in Haider Ackermann or Helmut Lang. We live in a celebrity culture and our magazines reflect that.  No doubt Elle's first male cover will sell well - who doesn't love David Beckham...topless?

         The second ingredient is space. It may sound stupid but a cover needs space to work. Crowd it and it will blend into the crowd of magazines that surround it - no matter how clever or kitsch its concept is. British Vogue learnt this lesson in January 2002 when it decided to put 10 of Britain's biggest models on its cover in 10 different Union Jack dresses each designed by 10 different British designers. Whilst the idea was great, and incredibly patriotic, it was too busy and, as a result it failed to sell well. It was an expensive failure.

         The third and final ingredient is an eye-catching colour. The magazine needs to stand out among its counterparts and chances are in nude tones of beige and magnolia it won't. It will fade into oblivion. Red usually does the trick as it's not too offensive and it's not too dull. It's sensual, it's flattering and it makes us gawp and stare at those who wear it - whether it's Jennifer Lopez in a gorgeous Bottega Veneta creation or Cheryl in a figure-hugging scarlett number. Red works.

        So there we have it - the recipe for a top-selling magazine cover: celebrity, space and colour...and looking at British Vogue's June issue, they've done just that. Now on her 32nd British Vogue cover Moss is something of a celebrity, there is space in abundance and with the seductive detail of a red lip the colour is there. What's more is that with the rope and the Versace dress Moss looks like an Olympic Goddess. The cover is a beacon for the 2012 Olympics and as a result is publishing perfection; it's relevant and it's beautiful. Vogue really has gone for gold this issue.

        However, whilst covers such as these are beautiful, a risk can work too. Vogue UK's mirrored millennium cover, Kate Moss' silhouette and Lily Cole's summer extravaganza all proved that a magazine can sell well without conforming to these rules. Formulas work but sometimes, just once in while, something different catches our eye and it sells...what type of covers catch your attention?