Vice Brand Strategy Analysis

Media & entertainment – magazines, digital media, TV channels, publishers

Owner of the brand:
Vice Media

Key competitors:
BuzzFeed, YouTube, Netflix, MTV, Vox, Refinery29

Brand essence

The genuine rebel of the media world.

Brand values

Authenticity, curiosity, youthfulness, creativity.

Brand character

Provocative, authentic, bold, daring, surprising, edgy.

Dominating archetype

Vice is the rebel of the media world. Once a Canadian punk magazine, now a global powerhouse revolutionising mass-media storytelling. Shane Smith, Vice co-founder and CEO, once said he wanted Vice “to be the next MTV, ESPN and CNN rolled into one[1] and this vision is coming true. Vice, on top of its print edition, now has multiple digital platforms, a TV channel, record label and a publishing business.


However, regardless of the platform, Vice always reports about the topics other, more traditional media wouldn’t and does that in a unique, immersive, unpolished and uncompromising manner.


Vice’s key success factor lies in an accurate understanding of the youth, its primary target audience. When it was cool to be cool, Vice was cool (some used to call it the hipster’s bible). Now, when millennials want authenticity, Vice delivers just that – its style is real and raw, no matter whether it’s a documentary about ISIS or an article about a new drug in town.


Over the last few years the brand has matured significantly. It seems to be showing signs of responsibility more often than signs of recklessness. Once solely about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, it now covers more serious issues – warlords in Liberia, climate change consequences, teenage refugees, Afghan women’s rights, etc.


At the same time, the brand also got involved in more mainstream topics, such as food (Munchies[2]) or technology (Motherboard[3]) and applied its unique approach and tone of voice into these categories. Alex Miller, Vice’s Global Head of Content told Columbia Journalism Review: “With expansion comes a sense of responsibility. As time goes on I don’t think that being silly, being stupid, is cool anymore. When you look at the planet, at the state that it’s in, it demands attention. It demands scrutiny. And it demands a certain level of seriousness.[4]


Vice’s lack of fear to cover unpopular topics, its rebellious, provocative style and an uncompromising approach make it an Outlaw brand.

Most important campaigns

1. “Vice Give Pepsi’s Protest Ad A Closer Look” (2017)

2. “Welcome to Viceland” (2016)

3. “World’s Scariest Drug” (2012)

4. “Vice Guide To Travel: The Gun Markets Of Pakistan” (2011)

Official brand statement:

The Definitive Guide To Enlightening Information. From every corner of the planet, our immersive, caustic, ground-breaking and often bizarre stories have changed the way people think about culture, crime, art, parties, fashion, protest, the internet and other subjects that don’t even have names yet. Browse the growing library and discover corners of the world you never knew existed. Welcome to VICE.[5]

Interesting facts:

Vice was initially called the Voice of Montreal. It launched in 1994 as a government-funded project with the intention to provide work and a community service.[6]

The URL, before being acquired by Vice in 2011, belonged to an adult industry company.[7]


1. An interview with Shane Smith, Vice Media CEO
J. Bacon, “Vice’s Shane Smith On Content Marketing Pitfalls, Tech Trends And Disruption”, Marketing Week, Mar 2016,

2. Columbia Journalism Review’s analysis of Vice
C. Ip, “The Cult Of Vice”, Columbia Journalism Review, Aug 2015,

3. The Guardian on Vice’s ambitions
T. Adams, “Shane Smith: ‘I Want To Build The Next CNN With Vice – it’s within my grasp’”, The Guardian, Mar 2013,

  1. M. Garrahan, “Vice Media Nears Sale Of Stake To A&E”, FT, Aug 2014,
  4. C. Ip, “The Cult Of Vice”, Columbia Journalism Review, Aug 2015,
  6. The Vice Squad: How ‘Vice’ Magazine Became The New Teen Bible”, The Guardian, Jul 2008,
  7. T. Adams, “Shane Smith: ‘I want to build the next CNN with Vice – it’s within my grasp’”, The Guardian, Mar 2013,

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