Thursday, April 8, 2010

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Essentials: The Tiffany Standard

In luxury real estate marketing, your aim is for your personal brand to become a household name, like Tiffany. The New York Times Weekend Arts section featured the headline “On the Beach, Under a Tiffany-Blue Sky.” The article was about books to read on the beach. The Tiffany blue color is trademarked and was first seen in an 1891 New York Times advertisement. Whether or not skies are actually the color of Tiffany-blue is irrelevant. It is the associations with the brand that sets an emotional tone for the article.

The reference to Tiffany illustrates the potential power of the brand. As a jewelry store, Tiffany is the best known brand across America. It has a prestigious heritage. Tiffany jewels have been worn by famous US families, such as the Vanderbilt’s, the Astor’s, and also the J.P. Morgans. According to the company’s history “a Tiffany’s gemologist was instrumental in the international adoption of the metric carat as a weight standard for gems. Tiffany’s standard for sterling and platinum has been adopted as United States Standards.”

The 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” starred Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. This love story brought more fame to the brand. Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, walks into Tiffany because it is "the best place in the world, where nothing bad can take place." What a glorious association for a brand.

In 2002, Tiffany promoted to a new generation of consumers in “Sweet Home Alabama”. This time, Reese Whiterspoon’s character, Melanie, goes into Tiffany’s during off hours with her boyfriend to pick out engagement rings. This was a brilliant example of product placement in a film. Driving to Tiffany’s in a limousine and gaining access to the store for a private shopping spree evoked a wonderful romantic notion that dreams can come true (especially if they come in blue boxes).

The Tiffany mount has become a classic standard for engagement rings according to DeBeers, the largest commercial supplier of diamonds in the world. It is simply comprised of four or six prongs securely holding the diamond around it girdle (the largest part of the stone), elevating it above a plain band. The prongs are spaced equally around the stone, mimicking the symmetry of the diamond’s cut.

Tiffany lamps, with their stained glass shades, were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder’s son. Like the Tiffany diamond mount, Tiffany lamps have defined a standard for a certain type of lamp. The handmade shades are comprised of pieces of patented Favrile stained glass that are soldered together with copper foil. Even when one sees a replica it is still referred to as a Tiffany lamp.

When a brand transcends its own category of product or service, or is used as a standard within the same industry, it reaches the pinnacle of its power in our culture. “The Rolls Royce of watches” would be an example. When a brand becomes a common noun like “Kleenex” to describe a facial tissue, or a verb, such as “to Xerox” or “to Google” it also falls into this elite category.

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