Luxury's Got Brand New Style

Why Tiffany Fails & Brands like James Avery Succeed

Last week Tiffany gave a depressing report on its two-month holiday sales. U.S. store sales were down 7% from previous year. That caused the company to give a sobering expectation for the full year, with expected net earnings to decline by 10%.

But while Tiffany is struggling on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the jewelry market is booming for other brands. For example, Texas-based James Avery by all measures had a great year, as it opens new stores and repurposes some of its older ones to reflect a more contemporary and engaging shopping environment.

Affluent consumers are looking for an understated expression of luxury

The difference? While Tiffany clings to its elitist luxury image, James Avery is subtle and understated. More affordable sterling silver is important to both brands, but the artisan jewelry offered by James Avery is giving affluent jewelry customers something special: Meaning and value. James Avery is getting back-to-basics with a taste for simplicity and view toward delivering more value for less.

Affluents are searching for a new expression of luxury

Today’s affluent consumer is looking for a more understated, even modest, expression of their lifestyle, that focuses more on substance than style and on quality at a price that respects the customer’s intelligence.

Rather than conspicuous consumption and status symbols that proclaim one’s wealth, like Tiffany, the affluent are embracing brands that tell them new stories about quality and reflect their personal values, as James Avery does so well. As a result, cracks have begun to show in the the traditional luxury-marketing platform.

This need to tell a new story is bringing challenges to many mainline, traditional luxury brands and retailers, but opening opportunities for other brands that interpret luxury in a new, value-based way. A trend report from Unity Marketing, Luxury’s Got a Brand New Style, delves into the new consumer values that are causing them to turn away from brands like Tiffany and embrace brands like James Avery.

Among brands that understand the new consumer mindset include high-end brands (Fischer Voyage and The Row), mid-range (Filson, Bonobos, Shinola) to low-end (Everlane, Warby Parker, ALEX AND ANI), many sporting made in America roots.

Jeweler James Avery tells a story of simplicity and meaning that is in tune with affluent’s back-to-basics mood

In particular, a made-in-America story resonates powerfully with today’s consumer with its reflection of American-made quality and ‘substance over style’ approach, as opposed to the ‘style over substance’ positioning reflected by Tiffany and many heritage Euro luxury brands.
The meaning for American-made James Avery is founded upon four basic values that resonate with American affluents:

  • Simplicity
  • Integrity
  • Meaning
  • Universality

Notably, this brand, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, doesn’t have to tell a new story of luxury; rather, its traditional story is now perfectly in tune with affluents’ more practical, values-based mood.

Brand storytelling is a key component of James Avery marketing, which is reflected on its website, Facebook postings and in the store, where product displays are arranged in a series of theme-based ‘shops’ including Milestone Creations for wedding bands and spiritual products and the Charm Bar to create customized and personalized bracelets.

The old luxury brand story of elitism disguised as exclusivity won’t work with today’s affluent consumer

For years, for decades, and in some cases for centuries, luxury brand marketing has been based on a story of elitism and that ownership of a certain brand confers special status to the individual. That old luxury story of elitism comes disguised by claims of exclusivity, design excellence and workmanship. It is supposed to create desire and aspiration for luxury brands to own and to show off. But today’s affluent just aren’t buying into that story anymore, most especially the Millennial generation as they grow in affluence and wealth. 

The idea of consumer aspiration for luxury brands – that people will see the brand as a realization of a hope or ambition – is dead. The truly affluent don’t need status symbols; quite the contrary, today they are going undercover.

Affluents need to be inspired to buy up and pay a premium for luxury. The inspiration must come from a strong value proposition with an equally strong story hook. For 2016 luxury brands will have to learn a whole new way to tell the story of their brand to a new breed of affluent customers.

Get inside the heads of affluent customers and their changing tastes for luxury in this trend report from Unity Marketing, Luxury’s Got a Brand New Style:  How to Position Your Brand to the New Affluent Consumer Psychology. The report goes into depth about how affluent’s changing tastes demand new expressions of luxury brands aimed at this high-spending customer.  It reveals:
  • Affluents’ shifting attitudes toward money.
  • Affluents’ new  shopping strategies.
  • How to position your brand to appeal to these consumers.
  • The role of discounts and special offers.
  • What purchases give affluents the most pleasure.
  • What brands are doing things right in this new affluent economy, and
  • The psychographic profiles of affluent customers brands will encounter in 2016, and how to talk to them in a values-based way.


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