"Not Your Mother’s Tiffany" campaign sparks backlash

Tiffany & Co.’s latest attempt to court Gen Z is alienating some of its longtime fans.
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Tiffany & Co.

· 4 min read

This month, Tiffany & Co. pulled an Oldsmobile. The luxury jewelry brand rolled out a campaign called “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany”—and some mothers didn’t exactly love it.

The campaign’s multiple videos, running on Instagram and Twitter, feature posters of young, edgy-looking models—coupled with the bolded words “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany”—plastered around LA and New York.

Le response

NSS Magazine wrote that the ads were “not very well received by some more traditionalist parts of the public,” citing a tweet from entrepreneur Rachel ten Brink—in which she says the brand is “dissing” its longtime customers—as an example. Tiffany & Co. did not respond to Marketing Brew’s request for comment.

On Instagram, the brand’s followers didn’t shy away from critiquing the push. A few particularly representative examples:

  • “As a mother who has spent the last 15 months working from home and homeschooling my daughters at the same time I feel really offended by your campaign. Mothers all over the world have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic—I am not sure this is [the] right moment to diminish us (it obviously never is). If it wouldn't hurt my husband I would take off my Tiffany's wedding band and my Tiffany's engagement ring right now,” Instagram user @drea_steiner commented.
  • “As a mum and older woman you're saying you don't need me as a customer anymore,” @mexwinder commented.

Zoom out: NSS also noted that “as Business of Fashion pointed out some time ago, Millennials and Gen Z will account for 45% of global luxury sales by 2025.” In recent years, Tiffany has been attempting to resonate with consumers of a younger variety (remember the A$AP Ferg performance?). So this isn’t the first time the brand has tried to shift its branding into the 21st century—it just might be the most blatant.

Swing and a miss?

Of course, a few Instagram comments (okay, more than a few) don’t dictate a campaign’s overall performance. But some marketers who work in the luxury sector think this was a miss for Tiffany & Co.

“For a brand as iconic as Tiffany, I would have expected a more unique way to appeal to a Millennial and Gen Z buyer,” Joel Kaplan, executive creative director at MUH-TAY-ZIK / HOF-FER who works with clients like Audi, told Marketing Brew. “Instead of standing for something, they took the more common approach of standing against something, their own history and tone. And to a younger buyer, being common is almost as bad as being ignored.”

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Katie Keating, founding partner and co-chief creative officer at ad agency Fancy, agreed. “Boy, I have a lot of feelings about this campaign. None of them good,” she told us, adding that she thinks the “not your mother’s” phrasing is a cop-out.

“It’s too easy. It’s been done plenty of times in one version or another to say, desperately, ‘We’re not old-fashioned! No, really we’re not!’ It’s like they’re apologizing for the previous 184 years. And then there’s the issue of tossing one generation away in favor of another. Not cool, especially when that other generation has been loyal customers for decades,” she explained.

But others feel like it could land well: Ryan Jordan, executive creative director at IMRE, who works on its Infiniti account, told us he thinks the new positioning is effective—not only based on the cultural conversation happening around it, but also because, in his words, “We’re in a moment in time where relevance is everything and even the most iconic brands can’t rest on their laurels. Brands are also always grooming the next generation of loyalists, and a failure to do so is a risk to fall into obscurity.”

Jordan also pointed to Tiffany’s newest competitors for Gen Z attention: direct to consumer brands (DTCs). He said DTCs with no physical footprint showing up in Gen Z Instagram feeds are finding success with the age group “at the expense of legacy brands that are unwilling to change. For Tiffany to compete with these DTC brands, they had to shift their approach,” he continued.

Regarding those older generations, Jordan added that the loudest voices don’t always represent the overall reaction to a repositioning. “Some mothers may also be looking to identify with a younger feeling brand or campaign—the opinion is personal at an individual level,” he said.

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