That Little Blue Box

The Most Iconic Packaging In the World....

You knew from the title of this post exactly what I was talking about without even having to look at the picture, didn’t you? That little blue box is really quite special, isn’t it?  There is something exciting about receiving one tied up with the perfect bow of white satin ribbon!

Tiffany Blue, which graces the store’s boxes and shopping bags, came about in 1878 and is actually trademarked.  The color was used on the front of their catalog and never left since. Charles Tiffany realized the power of the color and having their brand identified with it as reported in 1906 by the New York Sun:

“Tiffany has one thing in stock that you cannot buy of him for as much money as you may offer; he will only give it to you. And that is one of his boxes. The rule of the establishment is ironclad, never to allow a box bearing the name of the firm, to be taken out of the building except with an article which has been sold by them and for which they are responsible. Glimpsed on a busy street or resting in the palm of a hand, Tiffany Blue® boxes and shopping bags epitomize the jeweler’s great heritage of elegance, exclusivity and flawless craftsmanship.”

And, at this time of year, I thought it was most appropriate to discuss the power of packaging as it pertains to brands and I think that Tiffany has probably done the best job of this. Hermes is another notable example, but Tiffany’s is of course quite a bit more pervasive and accessible.

You can’t pick up a copy of The New York Times today or any other day without seeing the marketing decision that both Tiffany and the Times agreed to many decades ago. Tiffany would own the upper right hand 1/9th page ad position on Page 3 forever. Or so it seems. Your eye goes right to that sophisticated looking Tiffany ad with its jeweled visual or on occasion, public relations message or holiday thoughts without feeling good about the company.

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 general opinion is that Tiffany’s marketing has succeeded due to exactly this type of consistency. Consistency, Restraint and Persistence.

The color and the box has become so iconic that Tiffany’s even sells a porcelain version in their stores and on their website. Additionally, people even sell their empty Tiffany’s boxes online. Furthermore,  Tiffany knows the power of their blue boxes and use them extensively in their advertising. Most of the time, they don’t even show anything they sell in the ads, just images of the little blue boxes.

Here is another example of their simple advertising

Tiffany & Co. - Globe & Mail Feb 22 2010 adAn additional aspect of their strategy are their elegant store and online environments. Display practices require sufficient store footprints and lease budgets to enable Tiffany to showcase fine jewellery in a retail setting consistent with the Brand’s positioning. Stores in the best “high street” and luxury mall locations are more expensive and difficult to secure, but are important to Tiffany’s because they reinforce the Brand’s luxury connotations through association with other luxury brands.

Tiffany’s makes a trade-off though with their advertising and branding. Despite having many items that are priced at under $100, because of the sense of luxury that they cultivate, many people believe that Tiffany’s is not something they could afford even though many of them could. But they have decided that is alright, it is a trade-off they are willing to absorb. Because, after all, even those people know what the little blue box is!


15 Responses to “That Little Blue Box”
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