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Bling and breakfast at Tiffany’s: Refreshing a 181-year-old brand

31 Aug 2018

‘Everyday luxury’ brings the venerable American luxury brand to a younger audience. Embracing digital marketing and social media is key to cultivating a new generation of lifelong customers

Clad in sneakers, jeans and a hoodie, Elle Fanning walked up to jewelers Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store on New York City’s 5th Avenue in the 181-year-old luxury brand’s latest TV commercial. Clasped in one of the actress’s hands was a takeout cup of coffee, and in the other, a paper food bag.

With the 20-year-old Fanning singing Moon River as she looked into a window decked with diamond jewelry, it is a clear reference to the opening scene from the classic 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and in the process bring the brand to a younger customer segment.

But what should one make of the rapping by A$AP Ferg?

“The current campaign is young, fun, almost like a music video type interpretation of Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” explains Erica Kerner, Tiffany & Co.’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Asia Pacific. While conceding that Tiffany’s “older consumers aren’t exactly sure what to think of it”, the need to move with the times is crucial in keeping the brand relevant.

“The codes of luxury are very tightly controlled because the brand is so important,” Kerner elaborates, detailing the cautious – some would say slow – speed with which luxury brands embraced digital marketing. “They were slow getting on the digital trend because they didn’t know how best to do it, even though they knew it was important.

“We’re 181 years old and we are a conservative brand, but some of the things we’re doing today are so progressive and innovative. We’re giving our voice to consumers and letting them talk about our brand – that’s an incredibly risky strategy but I think it’s proving to be very successful for a lot of luxury brands.”

Kerner points to the company’s involvement in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an object lesson in the risk and, perhaps more importantly, the potential benefits of taking risks with regard to product placements and associating with influencers and endorsers. Audrey Hepburn’s character in the movie, Holly Golightly, is often perceived as a social escort although it was never explicitly acknowledged in the film. Nevertheless, it is hardly an association a luxury brand would want.

“One of the greatest product placements of all-time is Breakfast at Tiffany’s [but] at first we didn’t want to do it,” Kerner told the audience at the recent of Digital:works 2018 organised by SMU’s Centre for Marketing Excellence. “Senior management said no but in the end they went for it. That was a big risk but I don’t know if Tiffany’s would be the brand it is today without that. I was in Vietnam and all the millennials were quoting that movie back to me!”

Attracting the millennials

As with every business, attracting a new generation of customers – preferably loyal – is crucial for its continued success. Cosmetics and perfumes, Kerner explains, are the usual entry points for luxury brands. Chanel No. 5 is perhaps the most prominent example but Dior and Givenchy, among many other brands, also have cosmetics lines.

For Tiffany’s, it is their silver jewelry.

“The entry point for us is the silver product line,” Kerner says. “You can have someone buying a $300 silver RTT (Return To Tiffany) bracelet for a Sweet Sixteen present in the same store as a woman buying a $6 million diamond ring. One of the beauties of the Tiffany’s brand is that it is stretchable to be very democratic luxury. You can buy into the brand at a more affordable price point and hopefully become a consumer for life.”

But how exactly do you talk to customers with such different profiles? How can brands leverage on digital marketing to influence their purchase decisions? And will Tiffany’s ever become an all-digital business without the physical store?

“We design everything to be mobile-first,” Kerner says while pointing out the trend of customers buying diamonds on their mobile phones. “But I don’t think Tiffany’s will ever get away from having a brick-and-mortar presence because that Tiffany’s touch and that experience in the store is still so important. Buying a diamond is perceived to be a complicated process and you want that sales associate to work with you on it.

“I don’t think there is a starting point anymore [in a consumer’s decision journey]. It’s really a cycle. Whether you get on by walking into a store or by seeing a picture on Instagram of Kendall Jenner wearing a piece of jewelry that you like, it’s changed so much the consumer journey is now really a constant cycle.”

Tiffany’s everyday luxury

With Reed Krakoff, the new chief artistic officer hired from Coach, the mantra of ‘everyday luxury’ has rubbed off on Tiffany’s product lines and branding strategy. With customers now actually able to have breakfast at Tiffany’s – US$29, by reservation only – with the 2017 opening of the Blue Box Café, one cannot help but wonder: is there a risk in losing the brand’s luxury premium in the process of increasing accessibility?

“The tone absolutely has changed,” Kerner agrees. “For us, luxury is about wearing your diamonds with a white t-shirt and jeans. That, I think, is the difference between American luxury and European luxury. It’s the sense of the everyday and not taking yourself too seriously.

“We’ve definitely changed our communication style but I hope that the Tiffany’s touch, the Tiffany’s service, that feeling when you get the blue box or when you walk into the store, you should still feel special and that this is an important experience.

“Definitely we are evolving but I hope still keeping the roots and the mystery and legacy of what makes us America’s premier luxury brand.”


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Last updated on 30 Aug 2018 .


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