‘Vogue’ Vogues Its Way to Reputation Redemption

Thom Weidlich 05.26.22


Brands like to protect their names and trademarks and sometimes do so in an overzealous manner. We have a recent, fun example of that. To its credit, once the situation became notorious, the brand in question, Vogue magazine, managed to correct the problem, and even did so with some humor, which is always challenging when responding to a crisis.

In March, Vogue, published by megapublisher Condé Nast and headquartered in New York City’s World Trade Center, sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Star Inn at Vogue, a pub and restaurant headquartered in Vogue, a wee village in scenic Cornwall in South East England.

Condé Nast suggested the Star Inn at Vogue should change its name “to avoid problems arising,” according to the BBC. “We are concerned that the name you are using is going to cause problems because, as far as the general public is concerned, a connection between your business and ours is likely to be inferred.” It threatened to take “remedial action” if the pub didn’t reply.

Companies House

The March 1 letter was reportedly written over the signature of Condé Nast Britain’s chief operating officer. To be fair, the issue popped onto the publisher’s radar after the eatery listed as a private limited company with Companies House, the U.K. registrar.

Mark Graham, who with his wife, Rachel, has owned it for 17 years, wrote back, noting that the pub is older than the publication — about 150 years old — and the village has been around even longer. He also noted that the fashion magazine “didn’t seek permission from the villagers of the real Vogue” to use the name, according to CornwallLive. He concluded: “In answer to your question whether we would change our name, it is a categorical NO.”

The kerfuffle took a while to gain traction, but in the past week or so it garnered an impressive amount of coverage, including in the BBC, The Washington Post, New York Post, The Daily Mail and The Guardian. On May 17, Piers Morgan interviewed Mark and Rachel Graham on Sky News (pictured).

Framed Apology

Condé Nast eventually saw the writing on the wall. It wisely sent the couple a framed apology letter. “From one Vogue to another — please accept our apologies,” it wrote. It admitted that “further research by our team would have identified that we did not need to send such a letter on this occasion.”

The frame was classy and the stab at humor — usually not advised in a crisis — was appropriate in this instance. It’s a nice example of a company owning up to a mistake, which is what companies should do when they make mistakes.

Mark Graham said he is considering inviting Vogue to do a photo shoot at his pub in Vogue.

Photo Credit: Sky News

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