Gourmet Magazine: Right Ingredients. Wrong Recipe.

The announcement today that Condé Nast has decided to shut down Gourmet Magazine after 68 years was a stark and startling reminder that even great brands go stale.

In the moment its demise was announced, Gourmet was revered by the professional and privately passionate alike. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, regarded as one of the most celebrated chefs on the planet is a fan. And a subscriber. As are 978,000 others. A number that has stayed relatively unchanged for a decade. Indeed, Jean-Georges attributes his success to Gourmet’s prestige. “It helped make me what I am today.”

How then does a 68 year old institution with the power to make or break the world’s greatest restauranteurs, become a memory?

There are two reasons. One we talk about a great deal. One we do not.

The first is that Gourmet failed to understand the essence of its value to consumers. Not as a magazine. But as an authenticator of taste. Sensory and subjective alike. Regardless of the medium. Or the calendar.

Absent that understanding, Gourmet did not bring us YelpFoursquare. Or even an iPhone Gourmet app. They gave us information. Great information. But on their terms. Not ours. As Jean-Georges explained, “Even I look up information on restaurants on the Internet when I travel, to see what's good or bad."

The second, is that McKinsey, the consultants brought in to analyze the state of Conde Nast concluded that Gourmet was better dead than alive. A decision that suggests a failure to see the possibility of repurposing the value of a 68 year old iconic brand. Or an unwillingness to re-invest in it by its owner.

A waste. By consultant and corporation alike.

And unnecessary if you take time to understand why you’re really in business in the first place.