When a product’s main appeal lies in its scent, taste or texture, it’s not an easy thing to fully communicate through Instagram or a website. It’s a challenge New York scented candle brands Keep and Otherland have been grappling with since they launched in 2015 and 2018, respectively. Here, they share five bits of advice for anyone smelling – sorry, selling – products online, scented or otherwise.

Make it look good

‘To win in the digital space, we have to be visual first,’ says Abigail Stone, founder of Otherland. Her company works with artists to create bold designs for the candles, boxes and matchbooks, switching them up seasonally to encourage repeat custom. ‘Overall, our strategy is to use expressive colour, pattern and design to inspire [customers] to purchase.’ 

Work with an expert

Before launching Keap, founders Henry Doull and Stephen Tracy studied perfumery not only to learn the mechanics of scent, but to get access to experts that could give their brand some extra kudos and credibility. They now work with independent perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, the nose behind Abercrombie & Fitch’s iconic store scent.

Send samples

In 2016, Keap introduced samples to its range. For $12, customers get a set of four mini-candles and credit towards future orders. The miniatures need to be as convincing as possible. ‘The tiny candle is not physically able to give off as much scent as a full-sized product, so we overscent it to give it a boost,’ Tracy explains, admitting ‘it’s expensive for us to do’. By selling rather than giving away samples, Keap limits losses while also lowering the barrier to entry.

Make words work

Luxury candle brands often utilise obscure descriptions and mythical names for their products. Keap and Otherland, however, both say relatable language is a must when selling online. ‘We use familiar, accessible ideas,’ Tracy explains. ‘Walking in the woods or being at the beach. Maybe baked bread.’ Stone points to Otherland’s Matchpoint candle. ‘Tennis ball is the primary note,’ she says. ‘We love tapping into nostalgia with our descriptions to inspire that emotional connection.’

Connect with a movement

Connect with a movBoth companies do more than explain how their candles smell – they are creating emotional connections too. ‘The candles we’re making are a route into broader topics of conversation,’ Tracy explains, saying that candles provide a way for people to detach from technology. 

Stone, meanwhile, is fascinated by the rituals associated with candles. ‘Picking up a matchbox, the audible scratch-strike of lighting a flame, the warm, flickering glow of light and scent,’ she says. ‘Lighting a candle is a feel-good thing.’

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