If you were a brand, how would you smell?


Everyone is talking about “brand experience.” Gone are the days of brands consisting of mere logos and taglines—current consumers demand more. We want the experience of taking our iPods to the Genius Bar and customizing a pair of shoes with NikeiD. We want to connect with brands as extensions of ourselves. We see them (visual identity), we talk to them (social media), we hear them (naming, commercials), we touch them (product design), we might even taste them (food and beverage products)… 

And now, we can smell them…?

Photo Credit: 1229scent.com

12.29 is an olfactive branding firm based in Manhattan, started by twin sisters Dawn and Samantha Goldworm. The two specialize in distilling the essence of a brand into a single scent. Their firm has received a lot of buzz after NYFW, for their work on the CALLA and Tocca shows, as well as creating the official scent of the American Express Skybox at Lincoln Center.

What’s more, the twins were literally made for this profession: they both have a condition called synesthesia, which causes the input from their senses to blend together. In other words, they can “see” smells in the form of textures and colors.

When news of these aromatic twins appeared in my newsfeed, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But as I shook my head, I realized that 12.29 Scent is capitalizing on something we’ve all known for decades: smell is the strongest sense linked to memory (there’s scientific evidence to prove it). It’s why the scent of Dial soap still reminds me of visiting my grandmother’s house ten years ago. It’s why you know you’re nearing an Abercrombie and Fitch store from blocks away, and why Capri Blue Volcano candles will always remind me of Anthropologie stores-- their scent unmistakable and as much a part of their brand as any logo or color palette. In these situations, scent acts as an instantaneous brand trigger. This method of brand activation is not new at all—it may be one of the most primal ways we connect with brands. 

While most of these examples are product scents, 12.29 has taken olfactive branding to the next level—giving scents to brands that otherwise wouldn’t have them, like those in high fashion or financial services. Imagine if tech brands like Apple or Google had scents. As clients try harder for consumers’ attention through new and exciting customer experiences, perhaps scent will play a larger role in branding—beyond just products.

Brand scent has even come up in conversation here at Siegel+Gale: recently, a colleague suggested including a perfumed sachet with a client’s product during shipment. When the box is opened, smells of leather and tobacco would drift into the air as the consumer laid eyes on the product for the first time, heightening the customer experience and hopefully securing a spot in their memory.

Maybe olfactive branding is not as crazy as it sounds.

Where have you seen scent branding used? Was it successful? What product or brand smells are now iconic? What scents would you give to top brands today?

Anneliese Atwell is an associate strategist in Siegel+Gale’s New York office. You can follow her on Twitter at @annelieseatwell.


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