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Jay Z and Beyoncé – wearing the Tiffany Diamond – in the new Tiffany & Co. campaign 'About Love'. Image credit: Mason Poole/Tiffany & Co.
Jay Z and Beyoncé – wearing the Tiffany Diamond – in the new Tiffany & Co. campaign 'About Love'. Image credit: Mason Poole/Tiffany & Co.

Beyoncé, Tiffany, and the marketing conundrum

Tiffany & Co.'s latest advertising campaign has made headlines – but will it attract new customers, asks Arabella Roden.

When French luxury conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) acquired Tiffany & Co. in January, it signalled that big changes were afoot, whether customers liked them or not.

Tiffany wasn’t just getting a takeover, but a makeover.

And with the deep coffers one might expect from Europe’s most valuable company, LVMH was willing to commit the funds to seeing its new vision become a reality.

Tiffany’s CEO, chief artistic officer, and chief brand officer were promptly shown the door, and new management – selected from LVMH’s existing stable of luxury brands – was ushered in.

One of them was the son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, who was named Tiffany’s new executive vice-president of product and communications.

Born in 1992, Alexandre Arnault already had an impressive resume, having repositioned 123-year-old German luggage brand Rimowa during his tenure as CEO as a luxury powerhouse of modern travel accessories.

His appointment was a clear indication of LVMH’s new marketing strategy for Tiffany – ‘freshening’ the brand for a new generation of consumers.

“The old adage states that any publicity is good publicity, but have the ‘Not Your Mother’s Tiffany’ and ‘About Love’ campaigns convinced anyone, let alone Gen Z, to buy more Tiffany jewellery?”

Barely two months into Arnault’s tenure, Tiffany & Co. cancelled its New York Times print-edition ad, which had run on page 3 since 1896.

The re-branding continued with a controversial billboard campaign bearing the slogan, ‘Not your mother’s Tiffany’. The intention was clear – positioning Tiffany as a youthful, on-trend, and unpretentious brand, accessible to Gen Z.

Yet it fell into the trap faced by many heritage brands attempting to shift their image: alienating its existing customer base.

The ire was palpable on social media: “Tiffany is classic and iconic. Why is there a need to pit generations against one another?” one Tiffany customer wrote.

Another was more blunt, “I am a mom. Am I not good enough? Am I too embarrassing? Too old? My values and thoughts too stupid and dumb? Is everyone better than me because I gave birth? Or is it just all old women are not worth it and embarrassing?”

Industry commentators were also unimpressed, with some calling it lazy, ageist, uninspired, and fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of Tiffany jewellery as an intergenerational product – a treasured heirloom often passed from mother to daughter.

With a less-than-stellar reception for its first marketing foray, Tiffany switched gears and brought out ‘the big guns’: international superstar Beyonce´, the 128-carat Tiffany Diamond, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Against a backdrop of a rarely-seen painting by iconic 1980s street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat – featuring Tiffany- blue paint, no less – the ‘About Love’ campaign sees Beyoncé don the canary yellow pendant and croon Moon River alongside husband Jay Z.

 

• The Tiffany Diamond is a ‘blood diamond’  While mined during colonial rule, the Tiffany Diamond is not a blood diamond, or conflict diamond, according to the United Nations definition.

• Wearing the Tiffany Diamond is an endorsement of colonialism The diamond was worn by Lady Gaga to the Academy Awards in 2019, and by Audrey Hepburn in the 1960s, without reference to its colonial history

• Celebrities should wear ethically-sourced diamonds and gemstones – The diamond industry, and more recently the gemstone industry, have made significant investments into supply chain transparency and ethical sourcing; however, historical jewellery pieces cannot be judged by modern standards.

"It’s our biggest campaign for the year," Arnault said. "It’s the most enduring campaign. Also, it’s the only year-long campaign that we have.

"It marks a clear evolution of what we’ve been doing from a creative standpoint.”

Indeed, if Tiffany was intending to ‘break the Internet’ with this campaign, it certainly succeeded; breathless headlines abounded over every detail, including Tiffany’s accompanying donation to historically black universities and scholarship funds in the US.

However, for every post excited over the first woman of colour to wear the Tiffany Diamond, there was another criticising Beyoncé for donning a diamond mined in colonial South Africa, where African labourers were often ruthlessly exploited under British control.

For every article marvelling at the Basquiat, there was an opinion piece decrying the use of the artist’s work in a commercial campaign.

In an attempt to appeal to Gen Z’s ‘woke’ – that is, politically correct and socially aware – sensibilities, Tiffany opened itself up to severe criticism, muddying the message of its eye-wateringly expensive advertising.

The old adage states that any publicity is good publicity, but have the ‘Not Your Mother’s Tiffany’ and ‘About Love’ campaigns convinced anyone, let alone Gen Z, to buy more Tiffany jewellery?

Arnault seems to think so. "'Not Your Mother’s Tiffany’ has been met with quite a bit of adversity, which we anticipated, but we’ve seen great growth from the product categories in it," he has said, noting that 62 per cent of new Tiffany customers in the US are younger than 40 years old.

He added, "We obviously welcome the dialogue, whether it’s positive or negative. We were spoken about by people who had never spoken about Tiffany before."

In a crowded marketplace, a business must work harder than ever to win the attention and dollars of consumers.

On an investor call in April, Jean- Jacques Guiony, LVMH’s chief financial officer, said, "It will take years to do what we want to do with this brand, from a distribution, merchandising, and marketing viewpoint. It is a lot of work – we are committed to doing it."

It’s clear that the French conglomerate has the will and the money to turn big plans into reality. But first, it must work out exactly what it wants Tiffany to be.

Tiffany Campaign

 

WATCH FULL VIDEO: 'Moonriver'

Updated 14th September


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arabella Roden • Editor

Arabella Roden is the editor of Jeweller and writes in-depth features on the jewellery industry. She has ten years media experience across Australia and the UK as journalist and sub-editor.

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