Experiential Marketers

Sam and Dawn Goldworm

Written by Saul Taylor

Why is 12.29 more than a bespoke fragrance company? We investigate founders and twin sisters, Sam and Dawn Goldworm’s bold statement that the power of scent is the “new frontier of emotional communication”, why it’s not just about perfume and how olfactive branding translates into the world of events.

How did it all start?

Dawn: About 15 years ago I went back to graduate school in the evenings while I was working as the in-house nose at Coty in New York. I was fascinated about perfume, emotion and memory and wondering how they could all work together to create a deeper form of communication, identification and differentiation beyond just putting them on your skin for a pure personal consumer. But also how we could potentially apply them to brands as a marketing tool or branding communication. That idea is what formed the basis of our company.

You call it ‘olfactive branding’. What is it about smell that’s so powerful?

Dawn: 12.29 is an olfactory branding agency. We use a visceral language sense to transform brand building. The reason we’re able to do that is because the limbic system — the part of our brain that manages processes and smells — is also the same part of the brain that processes and manages emotion and stores it as a memory. So throughout the course of our life, specifically right up from when we’re born to about ten years old, we form these impenetrable bonds between smell and emotion and we store them, which in turn becomes the largest and most acute part of our memory.

Later in life, we’re able to access those sounds or smells that are combined within a larger formula. We are actually able to access the emotion again. So, we can make people feel excited. We can make them feel comfortable. We can make them feel warm. We can make them feel potentially loved and inspired through tapping into their own olfactory memories. We work with brands to help them and their emotional communication do this on a much deeper level through memories that are already ingrained with people at childhood.

How does the process work? If a big brand were to ask for more emotion in their storytelling, how do you approach it?

Dawn: I work with the brands initially. I sit with them for quite a few hours and go through an intense interview which is a branding questionnaire. I ask them all of the parts of their brand. It’s a 360-degree deep dive into who their brand is, how it’s made up, how it’s managed, how it’s communicated, when it’s communicated and who it’s communicated to. I need to know every single part of how the brand exists within the world today and that process has nothing to do with smell. It’s all just questions such as — what is the colour of your brand? What is the target market of your brand? What is the language that you use around the brand? What is the emotional territory that you’re trying to cover with the brand? After all these questions, I go and do a lot of research. They give me material that I have to continue to dive into. A few months later we give them a few different scent directions that are really just a translation of the information they gave us.

You work with a lot of brands that actually have their own fragrance houses. How does that crossover work?

Dawn: The brand Valentino, for instance, has their own fragrances. Olfactory branding and what 12.29 does has nothing to do with perfume.

The traditional idea of perfume is a beautiful accessory that you use as an independent, individual form of communication of who you are through smell. Olfactive branding is brand communication and the real point of it is emotional resonance. We’re just using smell as a vehicle. So Valentino, for instance, the smell is not something that a consumer would buy to put on their skin. But it’s something that you smell in every single Valentino boutique, showroom and show as part of the brand messaging. Just like the lights, the colours and the textiles and music, it is the scented part of the overall brand experience that you get with Valentino. With brands that already have their own perfume, it’s a completely different offering, delivery form and end goal.

How do these branding services manifest themselves when it comes to events?

Dawn: Events are where we began. When we started 12.29 it was a side business. Samantha was still doing consumer insights for American Express. I was still in-house nose at Coty and our community was in fashion and art. We started scenting art events and fashion shows. What was exciting about that is the art and fashion community immediately understood what we were trying to do because they know the power of smell.

They know the emotional power of just about every form, as ethereal or avant garde or as normal and commonplace as it can be. Art and fashion really play with those things. We went right into art fairs, and worked with Design Miami at Art Basel for seven years. We’ve been to the Armory Show, the Guggenheim, the Whitney and worked with many of the New York fashion designers. All of these really creative visionaries understood how smell could not only capture but also enrich the emotional experience they were trying to create at their show in that moment, either for 20 minutes or for a week-long event.

Can you tell us of a time when this has really worked?

Dawn: We scented the WWD Beauty Summit, which is outside of fashion and art, but still very important. You have everyone from TNG and Revlon and Lauder to Coty and L’Oreal and all of the fragrance houses. We partnered with WWD to create a scent for the summit this year, which was about transforming beauty. It was called Beauty Beyond Boundaries and how beauty can now be something that you don’t just apply to skin or use in your beauty routine, but can be a source of wellness and nutrition. It included anything that was beyond the traditional scope of beauty, including CBD and other interesting forms of what we now think of as wellness or beauty.

We created a scent based on the colours of the summit, which were soft pink and a little bit of brown with a pebbly texture because of the floral installation that was in the space. We created a scent with a soft, pebbly, beautiful floral and this bite to it. The bite took you into another dimension so you weren’t just in the traditionally beautiful fragranced environment. But this bite, this non-traditional ingredient was actually an outreach that brought you beyond where you thought beauty could go, into a place that you may not have understood and realising that if the idea of beauty is expanding, so can the idea of the fragrance associated with it.

What makes a great event?

Sam: I think what makes a great event is if you leave feeling a certain way. These events are all about taking you to an emotionally different place from when you walked in, especially during New York Fashion Week. During fashion week, there are so many events, there’s so much going on. You’re going from show to show to show to evaluate, maybe to write about it, maybe you’re a buyer, maybe you’re just a consumer. But you’re looking for something every time you walk into that show and if you can leave feeling different from how you walked in, if you can leave the show with a sense of wonder; with a different feeling about the brand or about how you’re going to experience the rest of your day, I think that’s what makes a really good event.