When Tiffany & Co. posted a three percent decline in worldwide net sales for the year ended 31 January 2017 and managed only a modest increase in the following quarter, commentators were ready to gun for the Lady Gaga HardWear campaign, which was also announced in late January this year, breaking in April.
Although it’s credible to argue that Lady Gaga isn’t a good fit for the brand, I applaud the match. Even if the campaign itself does not yield an instant ROI, through clever strategic and creative direction the relationship will surely pay dividends because I believe that HardWear has positioned Tiffany strongly for long-term growth based on three notable achievements.
1. Credibility with a new audience
By picking a surprising celebrity, Tiffany benefits from Lady Gaga’s individualism and reputation for only doing things she believes in, which itself confers priceless credibility to the partnership. It’s seemingly a rarely genuine connection that Lady Gaga reinforces in her convincing monologue on Tiffany’s Super Bowl spot.
“I’m a rebel … I always want to be challenging the status quo, it makes me feel alive.”
By emphasising her desire to shake things up, Lady Gaga refers directly to her unexpected affiliation with the brand and echoes what Tiffany is trying to do with its own image. This messaging was echoed in behind the scenes video of the official marketing campaign, in which she describes the collection as “different and elegant, but it’s not what you would expect of elegance. That’s like me I think – I’m a bit different.”
With disarming honesty, Lady Gaga helps Tiffany prise open the door to a new and younger audience, which was intrigued by the pairing but may previously have overlooked the brand due to its conservative image and traditional association with members of the upper class aged 35-55. Equally, by presenting Lady Gaga in a neutral – almost demure – aesthetic, the brand avoids alienating its core customers by venturing too far from an image it cherishes.
As Tiffany gains endorsed access to Lady Gaga’s younger fan base of avant-garde individuals, to whom it is able to present its credentials and demonstrate its relevance, a crucial first step in building brand affinity with a new generation of customers has been taken.
2. Strong message
Designed to “reflect the strength and spirit of the modern woman”, the HardWear collection provides a platform from which Lady Gaga can deliver her supporting message of self-love and female empowerment.
“It’s a misconception that a man or your lover has to buy you jewellery – I think a woman can buy herself jewellery and put it on with dignity.”
Not only does the rhetoric of power amplify Tiffany’s own message, Lady Gaga simultaneously challenges the conventional method of acquiring jewellery, enabling the brand to be considered beyond occasional romantic purchases.
Behaviour will not change overnight but Tiffany’s ambition to redefine the purchasing triggers of jewellery investment can only increase long-term sales potential. Lady Gaga accelerates the trajectory of this strategic market expansion by making it perfectly acceptable for women to buy for themselves while her values of female strength and independence are clearly represented in the tough yet feminine designs of the HardWear line. It’s a shift recognised by Zoë Kravitz; “New York women are hard in a good way. We’re warriors and we’re unafraid. It’s nice to see Tiffany evolve into something that’s modern and young and still maintain their elegance.”
3. Hype and anticipation
Tiffany’s half-time Super Bowl debut, dubbed “music’s biggest moment” certainly got people talking about Lady Gaga but the brand successfully sustained the dialogue about the HardWear collection through to release of the campaign proper fully two months after the show. With sneak peaks, B-roll and Lady Gaga’s ongoing media activity, Tiffany shifted the focus from its falling profits to generate anticipation about the future of the line and real excitement around the brand.
From celebrities hosting parties to toast the HardWear line, to social media feeds raving about wrecking-ball rings, Tiffany became the talk of the town and the hype that was generated testifies to Tiffany’s latent strength as a luxury brand.
By releasing new lines only rarely, it is well positioned to cultivate mystery, exclusivity, and excitement for any new launch. As a result of this campaign, however, Tiffany was able to re-present itself to existing customers while captivating an entirely new franchise. Both will continue to anticipate what the brand might do next.
Tiffany has proven its willingness to challenge and venture beyond its classic image. While a new ambassador was unlikely to boost Tiffany’s sales overnight, the Lady Gaga tie-up demonstrates a concerted effort to reposition the brand for future growth. By embracing new audiences, with a strong and clarion message and by generating a genuine buzz about the brand, Tiffany’s bold move is a commendable triumph of reward over risk. I, for one, am happy to raise a glass to their union.
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