Kickstarting: A Branding Agency Reinvents The Perfume Business

Commodity, an online scent boutique, is aiming to change the industry.

The fragrance industry–a realm of cheesy commercials and tenuous celeb endorsements–has been fairly untouched by the Internet age, unless you count the flourishing knockoff economy. “The biggest challenge is that you can’t smell what you see online,” says Yo Santosa, the creative director of the L.A. agency Ferroconcrete and co-founder of new online scent company Commodity. “Currently the fragrance market is saturated with shirtless male models and lofty slogans. We wanted to create something modern that felt accessible even if you’re not into fragrances.”


Last year, a Ferroconcrete art director named Owen Gee came to Santosa with an idea for an online service that would allow customers to test scents in their own homes. Santosa, who had branched into starting companies with the haute cookie site last year, saw the market gap. “Right now, finding a great fragrance is a complex process,” the group explains on Kickstarter. “The choices are overwhelming and the in-store experience is confusing. The problem is, after sampling a few fragrances our nose gets tired and can no longer distinguish what we’re smelling, it’s a guessing game.”

Gee and Santosa call their company Commodity, and the service it provides “scent tailoring.” On the homepage, you choose from 20 original scents, unpretentiously named things like “cloth” and “gin.” Then Commodity sends you a pack of 5-day tryout kits, which let you discover how a scent will change over time as it interacts with your body chemistry. A $50 price tag for a 30ml bottle (which ships for free) comes thanks to the company’s streamlined structure, which spends a fraction of what a big brand would on advertising.

“We also put a lot of thought and detail into every aspect of the packaging,” Santosa tells Co.Design. “For example, we wanted something that is sequential for the tailoring kit. This way it’s clear that each scent should be discovered one day at a time. So the packaging comes with perforation in sets of 5 or 10, with numbers on them.” The glass viles slip easily into a small leather sheath, which has the dimensions and weight of a nice pen.

Santosa sees Fruute and Commodity as field tests for future ventures, a business model pioneered by product designers like Yves Béhar that’s quickly spreading through other creative industries. “We’ve learned a lot, seeing both sides (the client’s point of view as well as ours),” she adds. “I’ve always encouraged our team at Ferroconcrete to pitch their ideas if they have a great concept for a company.”

Check it out on Kickstarter here.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.