#TBT: Today we look at Tiffany’s old and new face.
The Tiffany Brand
Our story starts with Audrey Hepburn’s starring role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Tiffany was reputedly grateful for the publicity but needed 40 security guards during filming.
This beginning scene is wonderful:
Through Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Audrey Hepburn image became attached to the Tiffany brand. Her Holly Golightly black dress and her Tiffany taste spilled over beyond the screen. With Hepburn, Tiffany acquired extra sophistication.
From here we can jump to Super Bowl 2017 when Lady Gaga was introduced as Tiffany’s new face:
WSJ tells us that it will be “tricky” to shift from Hepburn to Gaga. However, analysts have said that the Tiffany brand is tired. It needs to be aware of the online millennial customer who wants diamonds, “newness” and “cool.”
So yes, Lady Gaga injects “newness.” But I will miss the sophisticated Hepburn connection.
Our Bottom Line: Veblen Goods
As economists, we should conclude with Thorstein Veblen.
In his Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Thorstein Veblen helps us understand why some people shop at Tiffany. The key he might say is conspicuous consumption. By purchasing expensive items that do little except scream wealth, the upper class signals its power. Then, aspirational shoppers try to follow.
Scholars at USC’s Marshall School of Business used the following diagram to convey some of what Veblen taught us. Because of Audrey Hepburn’s patrician image, Tiffany could attract the “parvenu” and “poseur.”
My sources and more: This WSJ article on Tiffany is ideal for an investing perspective. Adding some Quartz’ history and this McKinsey report, you can create a complete picture of the diamond industry. But I especially enjoyed this NY Times 1960 article about the film shoot and always love to read about Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). He was an odd gentleman with insight.