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If it’s not my mother’s Tiffany, why bother?

by Hannah & Lara - August, 2021

The “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany” campaign sprung up guerilla-style in New York City and Los Angeles. Campaign by Sharif Hamza, street photography Maxwell Schiano for Tiffany & Co

Some of us are ring people. Some are necklace people. Some of us are ‘chuck every available shiny object within a three-mile radius onto my body’ people. We love adorning ourselves with whatever jewellery we can get our hands on, and we always will.

Looking back over the years, it’s clear that a lot of the big luxury brands we love today have been the figureheads responsible for keeping us shimmering from head to toe since the beginning. The ones lucky enough to be seen as timeless have never had to rely on anything but their name to bring in the crowds.

Well… that was until they came face to face with the rather unforgiving duo that is Millennials and Gen Z.

Millennials are gaining more and more spending power, making them an audience ripe for the targeting, and Gen Z are following close behind. It’s predicted that 45% of luxury brands sales will go to these two age groups by 2025. To a lot of high-end retailers this means a rejig is in order to stay relevant, which we have seen come into the advertising world recently in dribs and drabs (possibly more drabbing then dribbing). But the one that seemed most bizarre to us (and the passionate LinkedIn commenters of the world) was Tiffany’s.

Firstly, let’s quickly give you the run-down of Tiffany’s last couple of years.

Like a lot of luxury brands, Tiffany’s sales depend on loyal customers coming into store and buying that same day. So, as you’d probably guess, Covid 19 didn’t thrill them all that much. The French conglomerate LVMH (which has a history in revamping luxury retailers) ended up buying the brand mid pandemic for tens of billions of pounds and dived head-first straight into updating it.

Or at least attempting to.

It was out with the old management team and in with the new, including a new Creative Director, Ruba Abu-Nimah. This kickstarted a whole bunch of bold moves, some more successful than other, including an April fool’s prank of turning their iconic 1837 blue shade into yellow, as well as applying their blue shade to sporting products such as skateboards. But their most recent effort was a not-so-sparkly step too far for a lot of people.

They released a campaign in July this year featuring models photographed in a very modern style that you wouldn’t be ridiculous in thinking was more Topshop than Tiffany’s. And at the centre of it all, the pièce de résistance, was the headline:

“Not your Mother’s Tiffany”.

It’s safe to say that this line hit a few nerves for most people.

For one thing, it completely alienated their loyal and traditional consumer base that they’d built for generations, suddenly making them seem unimportant and undesirable for the brand. A huge proportion of comments online, from customers and professionals, pointed out that the ads were a huge loss of elegance for the brand. Where was the sophistication everyone loves? Where was the romanticised idea of Tiffany jewellery we have had since Hepburn? Why would a company with such a rich heritage and timeless products work against their image rather than with it?

Millennials are an unforgiving audience.

They value honesty and great storytelling, rather than trashing all the generations that came before them, and other brands have managed to pick up on that. Just take Burberry’s widely loved ‘Singing in the rain’ Christmas ad which intertwined together a touch of classical culture with modern day life. Or, how they worked with role models such as Marcus Rashford to represent changes that society very much need. Burberry recognised that their new customers wanted authenticity, diversity and above all truth.

And what if we look at other jewellery brands too? Cartier is another that got it right. This year they released a social media campaign entitled, ‘Unforgettable Cartier Stories’ which centred around telling real love stories from Cartier clients. They knew we could never resist a soppy tale. But more than that, they tapped into truth and real lives, without compromising who they are as a brand.

This is what Tiffany’s has arguably missed.

It’s inevitable that brands are going to have to take big strides to appeal to modern audiences, and this can certainly mean drastic changes. But for a lot of people, it’s apparent that if Tiffany’s want to do it well, they need to work harder to understand their younger buyers and what they value.

Furthermore, many are raising another point online that Tiffany’s so clearly missed. People love their mums. And along with that they love borrowing their mum’s stuff. Vintage/ reclaimed clothes and jewellery have been an ever-growing trend. People love wearing items that have a backstory or sentimental value to them. To be honest, they also just feel pretty damn cool wearing something their mum did in the 80s rather than the same old Pandora ring everyone has. In other words, there’s so many other paths Tiffany’s could have strutted down.

But believe it or not, there are people in Tiffany’s corner. Their argument? It’s not 1837 anymore.

We shop differently, live differently and express ourselves differently. Some ad experts online are claiming that big changes for the oldest brands aren’t just possible but essential now, and the best way to do that is being radical. They claim that luxury brands that are big and iconic enough can get away with the boldest moves. And to be honest, in Tiffany’s industry, you have to. So, you could argue they got the publicity they probably wanted. Where publicity goes and arguments form, sales often follow.

But what do we, a little Junior Creative pair, think about all this?

Well, we have to agree with the critics, they missed the mark.

Modern society is bloody exciting. There are amazing cultures everywhere and so many people with spending power who care more about what they’re buying than ever before. Tiffany’s chose to ignore all that and slag off everyone’s mums instead. In our very humble opinion, it’s bold and we respect that. Some of the best advertising out there is the most unexpected.

But you can’t just slap up some rebellious language and whack a model in some ripped jeans on an ad and expect people to relate.

Tiffany’s need to ask themselves, what’s more important; brand identity or staying relevant? And if they do that, hopefully they get to the conclusion that they can do both.