Experts Don’t Sell Products, They Tell Stories|How Scented Candle Otherland Uses Design to Promote Brand Narrative

Oct. 23, 2023
Scents are a person’s strongest memory. No matter how long it takes or where you are, a special scent in your memory will always wake you up. Abigail Cook Stone, founder of candle brand Otherland, is inspired by her personal memory and dream. Each Otherland series tells a story.
But how to sell scents online?

01 Nostalgia of design

Stone, an art history and architecture graduate who worked as an art buyer for Ralph Lauren, believes selling perfume online is about art, and storytelling.
For example, Otherland’s beach collection has an 80s beach club vibe. One of the scents in the collection is Stone Fruit, made with notes of plum, peach peel and brown sugar. “It was inspired by a trip to Nantucket with my family when I was younger,” said founder Stone. “My mom would always buy two jars of Beach Plum Jam – one for today and the other would be lit in January when she needed a little bit of summer to get through the winter. ”
This story shows how powerful it can be to our experience. For Stone, stone fruit is more than just a plum candle. It’s about the nostalgia of childhood.
Another scent inspired by memory is Matchpoint. It consists of a tennis ball, grass and cucumbers (weird, but people love it). Even just thinking about these smells triggers memories for many people.

02 Invest in art

When she founded Otherland, Stone, an art buyer, wanted to invest in custom packaging. This is a risky investment, especially when a business is just getting started.

Otherland’s product packaging and the several different surfaces on the packages serve as canvases for the artwork. This can be used to display candle artwork and stories. When Otherland designers and illustrators communicate, they focused on creating expressive packaging and beautiful, functional products. This made consumers to tell their personal stories on social media by sharing how they are inspired by using Otherland products.

This is an expensive decision in the early stage of business. But in order to create a better connection with their customers, they thought it was necessary – the brand’s narrative – that it was all in the details: matchboxes, lids, labels, glass jars. These details play an important role in building a DTC brand.

This is how Otherland continues to evolve and tell stories.

03 Improve AOV(Average Order Value)

From the beginning, Otherland has incorporated bundles with full savings into its sales strategy, and many customers do enjoy creating their own bundles. They can save 19 dollars by each pack of three candles. People love to mix and match different candle scents at a time to find the scent that suits them, or even try a new one.

04 Expand other product areas

As a DTC brand, Otherland has always adopted an omni-channel approach. In 2020, Otherland launched this product in Nordstrom. With the outbreak of Covid-19, people were spending more and more time at home, and Otherland had switched from offline stores to online sales.

In 2021, Otherland expanded into Sephora, becoming this retailer’s first DTC candle brand. With the recovery of offline consumption, Otherland finally opened a store in Soho Center at the end of June 2022. Who says that candle brand marketing must focus on scent? This avant-garde candle brand has finally taken user experience to new heights.

Otherland’s candle products straddle the lines between homeware, beauty, self-care and wellness. Candles are Otherland’s flagship products, but Stone is always thinking about new ideas and considering potential areas for expansion, such as:
· soap
· diffuser
· functional spray
· body wash
· perfume

For the brand itself, the new product development will continue to consolidate customer group relationships – consumers who are interested in Otherland and their stories will probably keep paying attention to their new products.

05 Entrepreneur dialogue

During the quarantine, brand founder Stone came to Instagram Live to share her brand story and communicated with fans. Her fans said: “We actually learned about the story from Instagram.”

Stories, polls and other engagement channels help Otherland directly communicate with customers. The great thing is that if you send a message to Otherland on Instagram, the reply will always be from the team, even from Stone herself.

We can take a look at Otherland’s development on social media:
Otherland’s First Flames is a community of about 100 of its most active customers that started with Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature.

Today, First Flames has evolved into a Slack channel where brands can test ideas and get feedback from members. Turning to Slack allows consumers to connect around shared interests or locations, Stone said. “It’s interesting to see the relationship evolve beyond a one-way brand-customer relationship.”

06 The influence of scents

Influencer marketing is an important part of Otherland’s brand strategy. An interesting thing is that we can’t find any marketing cases that this candle brand cooperates with stars, celebrities, or top influencers. When you are browsing on Youtube, you can hardly see related videos. They had tried some social media posts, but they were nowhere near as effective as users personally sharing their product experiences. Authentic and credible “grass planting” micro communication marketing is more suitable for this brand.
Marketing methods normally base on the brand itself. Instagram and TikTok creator stories are perfect for this storytelling piece of art. Otherland builds its community by sharing authentic opinions with fans. With their help, Instagram has become Otherland’s top sales channel.
Otherland bring art into people’s homes by candles. When people buy their products, they usually do it online and can’t smell the scents. So statement artwork and visuals play a critical role in attracting customers to buy: packaging, candle design, website and social media channels. Otherland attempts to convey the brand story in every aspect of the brand – from browsing the candle online to lighting it for the first time.


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