How To Translate A Brand Into A Smell

Smell, maybe along with sound, is among the most powerful instigators of emotion. Baxter of California President J.P. Mastey talks about the scents and sensibilities of collaborating with retail brands.

Do people actually bake cookies when they show their homes for sale? Maybe not, but the idea has gotten so much traction because there’s truth in its intention. Smells evoke memories and associations like nothing else, and perhaps none more positive than fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

Jean-Pierre Mastey © Fast Company

So how does that sense memory translate for retailers? Once a store has refined its playlist and analyzed customers’ in-store traffic patterns, the next frontier is scent. “You may not remember what song was playing, but when you come back to that scent again, it will be reminiscent of the experience,” says Jean-Pierre Mastey, president of Baxter of California, a growing brand of men’s cosmetics, which was acquired by L’Oreal just over a year ago. “It’s something that evokes more memory than anything.”

After developing the scents for his men’s grooming products and defining the boundaries for those scents (Baxter’s deodorant has a musky citrus smell, while its oil-free moisturizer is scent-free), Los Angeles native Mastey branched out and started a line of candles. But he was careful to separate them from the grooming products: the candle division is called Flammable by Baxter of California. “My idea with our candles is always to remove the grooming aspect behind the brand. I want the candles to be a brand on its own.” After all, do you want your hair to smell the same as your living room?

The new products were so successful (“You’d be surprised how many guys want to buy candles,” Mastey says) that retailers came calling for his services. Colette, Unionmade, and Stussy are three of the boutique stores that have enlisted Mastey for candle collaborations; Hong Kong restaurateurs Ronin, sought out Baxter to make a candle and an exclusive hand wash for its restaurant Yardbird; even Tokyo fragrance brand retaW teamed up with Baxter for a too-cool-for-cabbies hanging car air freshener. “Retailers have this new point of view of, ‘I want to brand something of my own. I’m not just a store, I’m also a brand,” says Mastey.

Here’s how Mastey works with a company to come up with a smell that expresses its brand–both as in-store ambience and as products for sale.

Baxter x Saturdays NYC © Fast Company

 

SNIFF AND DISMISS

When it comes to a sense of scent, some of it’s innate. “I’m one of those people who can smell 20 things and I can tell you that I love three of them, and that’s it,” says Mastey. “I know what I like and what I don’t like so it’s been very easy for us as a brand to use that attribute and sniff and dismiss right away. Or I can smell something and say that’s exactly what I want, with a small modification. I think that’s a personality thing. We blend scents together just like food. Certain things blend together really nicely. You’d never be able to know what’s in it, but a great nose knows how to take a scent and complement it really well.”

And some of it’s learned: “What I learned was the articulation. My vocabulary for scent is getting better and better and I’m able to work with fragrance houses and experts a lot better now than I was at the start. I’m a lot more realistic as to what can be achieved in a scent as before. At first I thought the sky’s the limit, ‘I can make you whatever you want.’ Now I’ve started to get more realistic. I’m able to educate our collaborative partners a lot better so that when they come at me with so many different scent notes, I can say, ‘Oh, oh, you’re making a fruit salad that’s not going to taste good, so let’s narrow that down.’”

PUTTING WORDS TO SCENTS

The process of creating a bespoke scent that speaks for a brand is truly collaborative. “I speak with the brand owner and I ask them questions like, ‘What do you like in the market right now? What personal fragrances do you like?” he says. “I love to ask people what they wore when they were a teenager.” [For the record, Mastey was a CK One guy; he credits that unisex fragrance with his love of the clean, citrusy, neutral scents that dominate the Baxter of California product line.]

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[All text and images are taken from an article of the same title by Ariel Karpel (@AriKarpel on Twitter) published on Fast Company. All text and images belong to the author and publisher and do not belong to ZAMarketingInsider.]

 

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