The Sweet Smell of Success: The New Luxury Branding

The event: Valentino’s 2016 Haute Couture Show, Paris
The clothing: Medieval, romantic, Shakespearean with a modern touch
The music: Selections from “Romeo & Juliet”
The scent: Notes of rose, geranium, leather and balsamic — all part of Valentino’s signature scent created by olfactory branding company 12.29 and diffused into Paris’ Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild

Those who were attending their first Valentino Haute Couture show may not have realized the all-encompassing sensory experience that awaited. But by the time the show climaxed in a swath of striking red, with a ruffled, floor-length, oversized cape designed for “La Traviata,” the complex, luxurious scent filling the air, the lengths that companies like Valentino will travel today for total brand penetration were evident.

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Samantha and Dawn Goldworm

“Valentino’s scent is multifaceted because the brand is multifaceted,” says Samantha Goldworm, the business director to twin sister Dawn Goldworm’s scent director for 12.29, the luxury olfactory branding company that scents all of the brand’s showrooms and flagship stores around the world, as well as their couture shows. “They have a long history, but a modernized brand. The scent adds to the feeling they’re trying to evoke.”

12.29, so named because it’s the birthdate of the sisters (as well as that of their younger brother and the anniversary of their parents), proves that when it comes to branding, the nose knows. The company takes traditional branding a step further — or, rather, a smell further — by “taking all the existing brand references and translating them into a scent,” says Samantha Goldworm.

It’s an idea that has taken root with luxury brands around the world, including 12.29 clients such as Rodarte, Thakoon, Zac Posen, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Art Basel, the Thompson Hotels, and Miami’s highly anticipated One Thousand Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects, for which the company created four distinct yet complementary scents.

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One Thousand Museum

We talked to Samantha Goldworm about the idea behind olfactive branding, the inspiration behind 12.29, and the process of creating signature scents for some of the biggest luxury brands in the world.

Previews Inside Out First…what is olfactive branding?

Samantha Goldworm It’s another tool for brands to use. They have their signs, logo, sound and now scent. It has the ability to connect with consumers on a very deep emotional level, elevating the brand image and creating loyalty.

Previews Inside Out What inspired you to start 12.29? Was it an event or a specific moment?

Samantha Goldworm My twin sister is a “nose” and has been in the fragrance industry for 15 years, for Avon and then Coty, as one of two in-house noses in New York and Paris. She was fascinated with the idea that you can create connectivity, longevity and loyalty with consumers through scent. She went to a longtime friend, Gabriele Moltedo, the son of the Bottega Venetta family. He was starting a new brand, Corto Moltedo, after Bottega Venetta was sold to Gucci. She told him about her idea and asked to try it out in his shop. He got amazing feedback, and she just knew there was something here.

Rodarte Fashion Show, Spring-Summer 2010

Rodarte Fashion Show, Spring-Summer 2010

A little later, she was having lunch in Paris with Alex de Betak from Bureau Betak, who was creative director of Rodarte, and he said, “Come scent the show.” She called me and asked me to join her, and that was the beginning.

My background is in consumer insights — 10 years with Unilever, Lancome, AMEX, helping them understand what their customer wanted and how to create loyalty. Working together made so much sense.

Previews Inside Out As luxury brands have been keen to create unique, signature experiences for their customers, have you seen more demand for what you do?

Samantha Goldworm Our business is very much about word of mouth, and we’ve found that, more and more, brands are looking to talk in a different way. People are overloaded with images and content. This is another way for them to speak to customers.

Previews Inside Out Why do you believe smell can elevate a luxury experience or make it even more impactful and authentic?

Samantha Goldworm We’re led around by our nose every day. If you can control the smell and the feeling it conveys by creating a scent that’s authentic to the brand, you can change the experience. You can raise the experience, make consumers feel sophisticated, excited or calm. Scent has the power to do all of that.

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The Knickerbocker Hotel

Previews Inside Out A lot of architects talk about the storytelling of design. Could olfactive branding also be a way to tell a building’s story through scent?

Samantha Goldworm It can definitely give you a feeling of how the building wants to communicate. It invigorates you when you come in. If it’s modern, you can feel it. When we were scenting the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, we looked back into the history of the building. We took into account that level of sophistication of old New York.

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The Knickerbocker Hotel

Previews Inside Out What would be the scent for Calle Isabella in San Clemente (if you can use your imagination)?

Samantha Goldworm I would enhance the comfortable/livable aesthetic with a combination of creamy and light wood notes, enhance the intimacy of the space with a clean musk accord, and maybe play with some crisp and transparent fruit and citrus notes for freshness and modernity.

We would need the homeowners to give us their idea of what they want, but if we were moving in….

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Casa Isabella

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