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Tiffany looks to “unlock” Chinese consumer potential with artist collaboration

June 10, 2014

Key from Tiffany's Keys collection Key from Tiffany's Keys collection


Jeweler Tiffany & Co. is targeting consumers in China through a collaboration with Chinese painter Yu Hong that symbolizes the brand’s Keys collection.

Known for her paintings of contemporary Chinese women, Ms. Hong worked with Tiffany to create a series of portraits that work to “unlock” the subject’s future possibilities. By partnering with a Chinese artist who focuses her work on the experiences of women, Tiffany will likely see increased awareness from female consumers in China who are familiar with Ms. Hong’s paintings.

"The collaboration between Yu Hong and Tiffany's is relevant for a couple reasons," said John Casey, senior vice president of Havas Public Relations, New York.

"First, unlocking applies literally to how you place and remove the necklace, so Yu Hong's creed works for the functionality of the product, and 'unlocking future possibilities' applies to the forward thinking strategy the brand probably wants to convey," he said.

Mr. Casey is not affiliated with Tiffany, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Tiffany did not respond by press deadline.

Unlocked potential
To promote the portrait series painted by Ms. Hong, Tiffany shared a social video that interviews the artist in her workshop and explains how the paintings link to the jeweler’s Keys collection.

The copy of the post shared on the jeweler’s Facebook page notes that the subject of the featured portrait in the video is Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi. By including an actress in the post, it will likely garner attention from Ms. Ziyi’s fan base even if the consumer is not familiar with Ms. Hong’s art work.

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Facebook post for Tiffany's collaboration with Yu Hong 

Tiffany’s video, directed by Mackenzie Sheppard and director of photography Oliver Millar, begins with a butterfly flying near a skylight in Ms. Hong’s studio. The camera then pans to Ms. Hong as she looks up at the butterfly while she narrates the video in Chinese.

To better appeal to Chinese consumers, the video’s voice over is recorded in Chinese. Since the video is not translated to English, subtitles are included to ensure that Tiffany enthusiasts will be able to understand the video.

The butterfly remains in the video as Ms. Hong describes her approach of painting, saying that “it’s difficult for someone to look objectivity at themselves,” but she becomes close with her subjects through her artistic process and experiences as a woman.

tiffany.keys yu hong still

Video still of Yu Hong painting Zhang Ziyi's portrait 

Next, the camera zooms in on the Tiffany Key necklace with yellow diamonds worn by Ms. Ziyi as she sits for her portrait. As butterflies continue to fly around between scenes, Ms. Ziyi speaks about her move from dance to acting and how the transition took courage.

The video, which runs just shy of three-minutes in length, continues with Ms. Ziyi speaking about how she dealt with the fear of failing on her new path by running. The video alternates between vignettes of Ms. Ziyi speaking, running through a foggy forest and Ms. Hong painting.

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Photo of Yu Hong's portrait of Zhang Ziyi by Oliver Millar 

Then, Ms. Ziyi talks of her generation growing up in China and how the key is a very familiar symbol. Many wear the key to their homes on a string as a necklace, according to Ms. Ziyi.

As she speaks about a key opening many doors, but finding the right key to “unlock the possibilities,” the scenes alternate from the Tiffany key worn by Ms. Ziyi and her finished portrait.

Zhang Ziyi unlocks the possibilities

In addition to the video and copy on the Facebook post, the jeweler included a link to shop the Tiffany Keys collection. On the Tiffany Web site, consumer can browse the various styles of keys available ranging in price from $250 to $8,000, although not all prices are listed.

The site does not include the full portrait series of influential women painted by Ms. Hong in collaboration with Tiffany.

The key to China
Tiffany has produced additional content that appeals to the sentiments of the Chinese consumer to better position itself.

The jeweler, for example, employed Chinese composer Tan Dun to create a piece that sets the tone for the brand among affluent consumers.

Mr. Dun’s composition was inspired by the jeweler’s Tiffany Diamond, a 128-karat yellow diamond that made its debut in China early in December. Tapping a local, yet world-renowned, musician will help Tiffany appeal to affluent Chinese consumers with a penchant for modern classical music (see story).

Other marketers have achieved creating a connection with Chinese consumers via social media.

For instance, Germany’s Montblanc, maker of writing instruments and watches, aimed to increase engagement among Chinese consumers through an in-application game on social network WeChat.

With approximately 396 million active users per month, WeChat is seen as a gateway to interacting with Chinese consumers on mobile. Montblanc’s game, “Daban,” was hailed as an unprecedented move by a luxury brand as it went beyond the traditional touchpoints used on the social channel (see story).

Creating regionally-specific content may help Tiffany stand out among its competitiors in China.

"China is increasingly becoming a key market for global retailers, and most particularly, for luxury brands; thus, it's a smart strategy to engage a popular artistic figure in that country, since Tiffany's products are considered by many to be works of art," Mr. Casey said.

"The collaboration should help the brand build awareness, particularly with Chinese consumers," he said.

Final Take
Jen King, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York