McKinsey vs. The Ice Queen

by Vault Consulting Editors | August 26, 2009

  • My Vault
Round one seems to have started already in the battle for the future of the Condé Nast publishing empire. In case you missed it, McKinsey was called in a few weeks ago in an attempt to turn around their ailing business. Much more difficult to miss is what's looming on the horizon: the folks at McK have selected the Vogue and Traveler titles as their two case studies in determining how best to cut costs and realign the company's web strategy. Vogue, of course, is helmed by Anna Wintour, a doyenne of the fashion world known as much for her irascible nature and extravagant lifestyle (much of it on the company dime) as her visionary leadership.

The notion of a team of consultants going through the books at Vogue and recommending spending cuts to an editor who routinely spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on accommodations for her traveling party at events such as Paris fashion week is an enticing one indeed. Wintour, lest we forget, is widely acknowledged to have been the inspiration for this character:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when hard business strategy collides with the concept of "necessary" excess in the fashion world. Somewhere, somehow, there has to be a winner—either the world's most famous consulting firm, or the world's most famous fashionista will come out on top. And one suspects Wintour might not be nearly as willing to play as nicely behind closed doors with a bunch of suits as she was on her recent Letterman appearance.

According to the New York Observer, one of the biggest problems facing the company—and therefore McKinsey—is its failure to embrace the Internet thus far. That, according to the article, is at least partially caused by the fact that "Vogue is represented online by style.com and Traveler by concierge.com., rather than by their own brand names." Not to worry though; apparently Anna Wintour "is beginning to 'get the Web'"—a development that the Observer wryly notes may well have been prompted by the arrival of McKinsey.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the internet's been around a long, long time. If Wintour has survived this long without a coherent online strategy for Vogue, why would anyone think she's going to change now?

Should be an interesting few weeks ahead…be sure to watch this space.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer

Filed Under: Consulting

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