Bringing people to their knees the world over – Tiffany & Co

I guess you could say it came from humble beginnings but the powerhouse that is the Tiffany & Co brand today is anything but humble now. With sales of almost $4b annually and a share market capitalisation of $8.8b, this is one serious jewellery store.

It all began some 178 years ago. The year was 1837 and Charles Tiffany opened a “stationery and fancy goods emporium” with a couple of business partners in Union Square, New York. In 1853, Tiffany took over, renamed the store to “Tiffany & Company” and re-established its direction towards fine jewellery. Hailed for the introduction of the Tiffany setting, a revolution in diamond engagement rings, Tiffany & Co quickly became regarded as a king of craftsmanship.

Today, almost 300 retail locations exist worldwide and the Tiffany magic is alive and well. But what made the company catapult from stationery and fancy goods to a brand whose boxes makes women giddy with one glance?

Tiffany & Co commands a great deal of respect, attention and desire in the minds of consumers and its story a carefully crafted one of intention, luck and of course, exceptional branding.

The colour

It really is a great lesson in branding. For many, we assume that a brand starts with a logo but for Tiffany & Co, its logo is one of the least valuable assets it has to communicate. The brand is the colour and Tiffany has spent almost two centuries embarking on a mission to own that colour. And own it they do. The Tiffany colour has been written about more often than the Tiffany company and in the 1880’s the blue engagement ring box created a stir in the city still experienced today. The decision to focus on a colour in my opinion is one of the most forward thinking case studies of its era in branding.

The box

As an extension of the colour, the box was the vehicle to transport that Tiffany blue. By the 1900’s, the Tiffany box was an institution within the city of New York and desired by many. The Jewellery almost played second fiddle to the box and from the moment you gifted it, what was inside though important was veiled in satisfaction because it was a Tiffany’s piece. To have a women excited before she even opened the gift is impressive and in reality, impressive branding.

The movie

Many believe that Tiffany & Co was a no name jewellery store before “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was released starring Audrey Hepburn but this certainly wasn’t the case. The movie was a social commentary on the times and Tiffany’s was at that point a world-renowned Jewellery store. What the movie did however was catapult the brand to a cult like status, which we’d never seen before in this space. Tiffany & Co transcended quality, it transcended service. Those things didn’t matter any more (not to say they didn’t continue to focus on them). The value, the demand however was in the name.

The Expansion

The movie was released in 1961 and continues to be hailed as one of the greatest of all time. For the brand of Tiffany & Co, the next 50 years has been one of rapid expansion. There’s no doubt the company continues to push itself to strive in service, retail experience, product innovation and quality of craftsmanship and materials. Kudos to them for keeping these values at the heart of who they are and what they do. But there are many fine jewellers around the world who have not capitalised in the way that this brand has. The brand is now a destination, a tourist mecca, a statement of desire and an experience. It has expanded world-wide to open its doors to guys and girls around the globe. It has capitalised on the good fortune of being the star of a movie.

Four quick lessons

I learn four lessons from studying Tiffany & Co

  1. Own something – Find uniqueness and own it and don’t feel like your logo is your brand
  2. Cherish luck – Capitalise on opportunities that come your way and strategically leverage
  3. Foresight – Build your brand for the next decade (or century), not just the next year
  4. Develop your experience – The experience is as important as the product, never forget that