Celebrity Fragrances, Rebranded for the Digital Era
Brands focus on offering a different kind of experiential product ahead of more upcoming time indoors
As we prepare for hygge season stateside, brands looking to capitalize on all that inside time have fixated on the ultimate consumable good for cozy days and nights: candles. While high-end candles have existed for decades (French brand Diptyque has been making them since 1968), the public appetite for luxurious scents has grown with social media.
Candles are an ideal branded accessory to feature in, say, an Instagram post of a bedside table. Like an eye-catching hardcover book or an artful flower arrangement, branded candles add visual appeal to a post, and better yet, give viewers something tangible to purchase or aspire to purchase. For a while, prop-styled images peppered with brands like Diptyque acted as a kind of lifestyle flex. (Empty Diptyque bottles are a frequent sight on many a Top Shelf.) But in the past few years, as the line between branded products and branded personalities has grown fuzzier, influencers, creators and A-Listers have taken to concocting their own status candles.
Even before the pandemic, 2020 was a notable year for celebrity candles. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop kicked things off in January with a nether region-scented candle, a move perfectly timed to coincide with the premiere of the brand’s series on Netflix. In February, Kacey Musgraves collaborated with noted Status Candle brand Boy Smells on “Slow Burn,” a candle named for a track off her Grammy-winning album Golden Hour. In March, Tyler, the Creator collaborated with Tokyo brand reTaw on a “fragrance candle for body and soul.” Just last week, Byredo dropped (and promptly sold out of) its candle/perfume collab with Travis Scott. This week, Drake’s much anticipated self-scented candle was briefly available through ecommerce site Revolve. (It, too, quickly disappeared, along with other offerings from his Better World Fragrance House label.) But not all personality-oriented olfactory brands are meant to be a flash in the digital pan. Former YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen recently announced that she’s launching a scent company. For consumers, there’s something appealing about products that are so removed from the digital world. For creators whose brands were born on social media, scents offer something completely different.
Of course, celebrities and scents have been closely tied together for decades. Iconic fragrances like Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds launched in 1991, and Glow by JLo, which first appeared in 2002, have long relied on star power to sell perfume. But today, by selling a fragrance meant to zhuzh up a room instead of an individual, celebrities open up their customer base. While it may seem contradictory to buy such an inherently sensory object online, when it comes to candles that rely on personality rather than complex scent notes, that element of surprise likely helps drive sales. People purchase candles that are associated with people they like because they’re curious and eager to engage with a personal brand in a novel way. Candles offer something more personal than a t-shirt, and less expensive than a concert ticket. And with a few experiential things to spend money on these days, candles offer a safe escape.