When I was a teenager, I’d borrow my mom’s clothes before going out. I loved not only her clothes, but her smell on them. (She was considerably less thrilled by the lingering smell of underground Belgrade clubs afterward.) I still remember that, although it’s been ages since I either went to a club or ventured into my mother’s closet.
Still, brands have yet to crack the code of scent craftsmanship in modern brand-building, known as olfactive branding. Sure, there are quite a few examples of scented stores, hotel lobbies and event spaces; but scenting a locale is different to introducing bespoke visceral experience as the critical pillar in building a modern brand: the former is the domain of marketing; the latter of the brand identity.
Building brand identities via the expanded sensory repertoire has become a necessity. Businesses migrate online en masse, often providing functionality but failing to emotionally connect with their customers. When they do invest in forging emotional bonds, they opt in for visual and verbal communication that fails to stand out in the oversaturated market and among overstimulated consumers.
Smell creates the most immediate and emotional of impressions – and is proven to influence purchase behaviour. Well-received ambient scents have the power to inspire consumers to stay in retail spaces longer and browse more. Pleasant scents also create perception of quality, positive associations and customer satisfaction.
Today’s affluents are increasingly striving for the pre-industrial experiences of comfort, simplicity and spiritual fulfillment. These are the new signs of affluence. A cursory search revels more than 31,000 Instagram posts tagged #slowmade, with all sorts of handcrafted objects, farm-to-table food, sustainably made clothing and transformational experiences on display. This consumer shift is also reflected in the impressive growth of the global wellness market as the new luxury category. In 2015, this market reached $3.7 trillion, and is considered to be one of the world’s fastest-growing, most resilient markets.
Confronted with the need to tell their stories to audiences who simultaneously want to unplug and be super-connected, brands have to rethink their narrative-building strategy.
In building intimacy with their customers, they need to realise that messaging is only one part of their brand story; their umbrella brand narratives needs to be consistently implemented across the entire non-linear, multi-touchpoint customer decision-making journey. Within this journey, physical spaces assume a new role as cultural and social hubs rather than transactional places. As such, they embody the brand identity and the story. Modern bespoke experiences are about signalling a lifestyle and creating an overall context that products and services are part of. In order to deliver these bespoke experiences, brands have to combine visual and visceral communication.
Enter 12.29. This modern luxury company transforms brand-building through the visceral language of scent. 12.29 uses scent craftsmanship to transform physical brand interactions (be it through the in-store experience, packaging, events or products) into emotional, bespoke moments for their clients, who include Valentino, Tiffany & Co, Citizen M, Prabal Gurung, Harrods and Cadillac, among others.
12.29 founders, Dawn and Samantha Goldworm, seized on the insight that craftsmanship, superior experiences and wellness are the symbols of modern luxury and that there is an urgent need to modernise brand-building in this category. With their “visceral storytelling” promise to their clients, they strive to capture the spirit of modern luxury and the critical shift in the contemporary brand-building.
“Scent is the most emotional and memorable language for brand communication. It has the potential to change perception and enrich every brand interaction, making it unique, differentiated and memorable”, notes Dawn Goldworm. She adds, “At 12.29, we engage the visceral language of scent to define, shape and communicate brand identity. Modern storytelling is not complete without emotional engagement, which is a natural and acute byproduct of a scented experience.”
This makes 12.29 unique. Instead of outsourcing their scent design, they do everything in-house, pulling in best-in-class partners to deliver on their vision and design. Their custom brand scents, scent services and scented products are considered, custom and handmade. They are the result of the work of Dawn’s hands, as much as her ingenuity and imagination.
Going forward, it’s not hard to see digital pure players with a couple of flagship locations jumping on the olfactive narrative-building bandwagon. They are going to be likely joined by members-only clubs, high-end car-sharing services, white-glove healthcare services, high-end fitness studios, movie screening rooms and modern offices – in addition to the festivals, events and bespoke dinners.
The attraction of visceral storytelling is how seamlessly it infuses the sense of artistry and alchemy into today’s luxury. It is the embodiment of the work of human hands, custom-making, human ingenuity and imagination, all the while being undeniably modern.
An experienced strategist with a passion for new things, Ana has earned her doctorate degree in sociology and worked at the world’s top advertising agencies. She’s also a frequently published author, public speaker and writer. She lives in New York City.