A dog’s breakfast at Tiffany’s? What SMEs can learn from its recent rebrand

Why rebrand?

Rebranding is often essential to the longevity of a business. While familiar branding often ensures businesses have a longstanding and loyal clientele, stagnancy in branding can prevent new growth and become less appealing to new generations of customers over time. At Skout, we have recently undergone a rebrand to reflect our positive and optimistic attitude to B2B PR. Recognising that our sleek grey and green branding represented our corporate identity but not our unique enthusiasm, we opted for a bright and brilliant sunset colour scheme. We wanted to convey to our clients past, present and future that a B2B marketing agency can be just bold, exciting and creative as its B2C cousin, putting a sincere, fun and human touch into business relationship building.

Despite the rebrand, many of our core values have remained intact. We continue to work as an honest and resourceful business determined to deliver the best possible client results. Our rebrand also provided us with the opportunity to step up our commitment to equality, inclusivity and diversity in the workplace following our appointment of diversity and inclusion officer, Becky McArdle. However, world-renowned jewellers Tiffany & Co, opted for a more brash and divisive rebrand that has made press headlines around the world.

Tiffany’s rebrand attempts to, in-part, relinquish the brand’s traditional image of opulent Hollywood glamour and attract a more fashion-conscious, younger clientele. The rebrand has sought to thrust Tiffany into the discourse of a young, creative and woke generation as fashions become more relaxed and casual, even in workplaces and on the red carpet.

Tiffany’s rebrand methods

Tiffany revealed its new campaign in true twenty-first century style; July saw the company publish a series of Instagram posts of LA billboards featuring young twenty-something models casually dressed in distressed denim, plain t-shirts and simple silver Tiffany jewellery. However, the posts were bombarded with online fury from loyal Tiffany customers, all due to the accompanying text: Not Your Mother’s Tiffany.

In Tiffany’s strife to attract younger customers, the brand was accused of directly snubbing its longstanding clientele. Cherished jewels bought for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases were now deemed officially unfashionable by the very company that made them. Customers took to the comments section of Instagram to voice their utter disappointment and offence: “This is cheapening the brand”, “Disgusting and disrespectful campaign trying to ‘please’ a young generation” and “Alienating older women (who have money) is insanity.” However, amid the chaos were comments of flame emojis, love hearts and the occasional comment praising the marketing strategy. Followers were clearly divided.

Tiffany’s teamed posts with the captions “Maybe it was cool back in the day? Maybe your mum is cooler than you” and “Tell your mum we say hi” which sparked further confusion from Instagram users. On reflection, what could these cryptic captions really suggest about the Tiffany’s rebranding goal? Or were they just misplaced social media responses by someone again misaligned with the traditional audience?

Tiffany is of course acutely aware of its reputation across generations; the universal agreement that the household-name jeweller is symbolic of wealth, status and sophistication. Yet, these characteristics are slowly becoming less important, and less fashionable, as we progress towards a society built on equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion. In this new culture, Tiffany’s old branding and values appear significantly out of place. Tiffany’s manipulation of generational changes in the campaign acknowledges and embraces these social shifts. “Maybe it was cool back in the day? Maybe your mum is cooler than you” cleverly references the current nostalgic wanderlust amongst younger generations for the eras of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Fashions today feed off the styles of yesteryear started by parents of millennials and generation z. While “Tell your mum we say hi”, sees Tiffany confidently predict an influx of younger customers to the brand and subtly mocks their favouring of the fashions of their parent’s generation.  

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Tiffany situated itself as a brand synonymous with extravagance and royalty. However, in its new branding strategy, Tiffany has ditched these associations. In addition to their Not Your Mother’s Tiffany campaign, Tiffany have partnered with Beyonce and Jay Z in its first joint campaign. The couple are pictured in a series of shots backdropped by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Equal Pi. Jay Z is styled with dreads that pay homage to Basquiat’s own unique style while the artist’s rarely seen painting appears to pay tribute to the iconic Tiffany blue. The campaign is also the first time the iconic Tiffany Diamond has been used in a campaign worn by Beyonce, the first black woman to wear the diamond. But despite opting for Queen B herself, Tiffany’s effort to rebrand became a source of questioning, criticism and praise. Some loved the new modern and artistic Tiffany look; some questioned the use of art for advertising and others noted the racist history of the iconic Tiffany diamond.

Lessons learned

Tiffany’s rebrand has caught the headlines of international and marketing press who have all attempted to unpick the complex nature of such a bold rebrand. While advertisers and those working in media and the arts dig deeper to negotiate their opinions on the brand’s strategy, older customers are decisively against the rebrand. Nonetheless, the rebrand has thrust the brand back into the limelight, attracted fresh new eyes to the brand and reimagined the brand’s image in a new and evolving society. Perhaps the expense of losing an older clientele is one Tiffany was willing to accept in order to secure longevity. As a world-renowned iconic name, Tiffany undoubtedly has a privilege that many small businesses cannot afford. The privilege that customers continue to desire the name and brand due to its known prestige.

Smaller businesses may struggle to be as bold in their rebrand strategy, but the bravery and boldness of such a drastic rebrand can be a source of inspiration for businesses wanting to learn how they can adapt their branding to suit the current climate and appeal to a desired customer base. Alternatively, smaller businesses are often heralded for their continuous loyalty to delivering excellent and competitive customer service, their willing flexibility and fresh approach. Smaller businesses therefore must nail their rebrand by showcasing their core values.

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