How Pura sells the sense of smell, even across digital platforms

May 13, 2024
Emmy Liederman
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Brands that sell fully sensory products, especially senses that don’t translate well in a digital setting—taste and smell—have a unique marketing challenge. 

After all, how do you successfully sell the sense of smell or taste when customers can’t…well…actually taste or smell your product?

It’s not an easy task, but some brands, like Pura, are still somehow knocking their eCommerce sales out of the park.

I wanted to get a better idea of how Pura accomplishes this challenging endeavor, so I interviewed Gabby Wahlin, PR & brand communications manager at Pura to learn more.

BANKNOTES: How do you go about selling fragrances online?

Wahlin: It's been one of our most interesting challenges as a brand—to sell fragrance through a screen, and it's actually a little bit crazy how well it has worked.

I would say that it all comes down to smell being one of our strongest senses, if not the strongest. Smell provides such deep connection and memory in all human beings. 

As a brand, we try really hard to tell the scent stories in ways that relate to familiar experiences so that they might spark memories and familiarity.  

Detailed descriptions and copy go a long way, and if you can bring up familiar notes or scenarios that people relate to, it piques interest and leads to a comforting, personalized moment that people want and need.

BANKNOTES: Do you have an example of how Pura tells scent stories in ways that relate to familiar experiences to spark memories and familiarity?

Wahlin: One thing that we love is interacting with and talking to our customers about their experiences and memories with scent. We ask for their stories and learn how the scent of pine reminds them of their cabin during Christmastime, or how a floral scent reminds them of the perfume their mother wears. 

It’s amazing to hear about these core memories and relationships that people have with certain notes, and how they find fragrances in our marketplace that take them back or really connect with them from their past experiences. We can then use these stories to share the importance and love for fragrance, as well as using familiar notes and ideas to describe our scents in a better way. 

Video and imagery are also key here, and by using visuals we are able to more fully tell all the parts of a story. We have created videos describing the scent creation and showing how molecules are extracted directly from plants (in a safe and sustainable way), and how ideas are formulated, while also capturing the perfumer and how they tested and fully developed each scent. 

Showing these parts of the creation make a fragrance feel so much more real and important, and people realize how much goes into creating a fragrance, which plants a much deeper connection. It’s cool to see how people get to know the perfumer and their background and then see the entire process, and how that makes them more excited about smelling things themselves. 

BANKNOTES: Why do you think telling scent stories works, even when the consumer can’t smell the product?

Wahlin: I think it works because it connects you to something. It makes you excited and say, “Oh I’ve totally experienced that,” and you want to share your own story after hearing someone else’s. It makes people feel like a part of a group. It’s very inclusive because anyone and everyone can understand what it’s like and can relate in some way. 

It also makes the fragrance feel much more real and you want it to be part of your home. At Pura, we really want people to be able to create a customized, personalized, environment and give them all the tools and products they need to create their space. We hope that by telling stories and letting scent take on a fuller meaning to people they will be able to create those memories and tell those stories in their own homes, making those moments memorable and intimate for them. 

In this world right now, there is so little that people get to control. But we can control our space and how it feels, and scent is the key to making your space somewhere that you want to be and creating the mood and feeling that feels like home. 

Pura hopes to give people some of that control and create deeper stories in their own lives, and once you start, you realize how important it is and you never want to be without it again.

BANKNOTES: Do you have an example of using detailed descriptions and copy to communicate how something might smell? 

Wahlin: We like to try to paint a strong picture for people that they can easily visualize and hopefully have experienced before. When we describe a fresh scent like Ocean Tide and Sea Salt, we might talk about walking along the beach next to ocean waves with a salty breeze, and people can imagine that moment knowing exactly how it feels, what it looks like, and how it would smell. 

We’ve learned that individual notes can be both familiar and helpful to break down a scent and what it might smell like. 

People might not know what Jungle Bloom smells like, but if we describe it by talking about things they do know such as florals, mango wood, and palm leaf, that can definitely help to create at least an idea of what a fragrance might smell like. 

BANKNOTES: How have visuals helped you sell fragrances?

Wahlin: Visuals have been a vital part of the process for us, we put a lot of thought into our photography and video because that is the quickest way to help people understand how something might smell. 

Color and creativity are the first step, and then evoking a feeling or relatable mood is what makes people interested.  

We also show a lot of the scent notes or strong visuals in photography that help describe the scent in ways that are understandable. 

Some of our best content has come from creating a specific mood or showing how scent can make a space feel. 

We share these photos and videos on our website on product pages that go with descriptions and enhanced copy to give a fuller experience that only leaves out actually smelling the scent. 

We also use this content in email and on social media channels, and we have found people get really excited for the next launch to see the pictures, gifs, and read the descriptions about each new scent to help them visualize if they will like it or not. 

BANKNOTES: What role does word-of-mouth marketing play in Pura’s advertising strategy?

Wahlin: Word of mouth is a vital part of any brand, and at Pura it is at the forefront. We do have a really high word-of-mouth percentage because people love to talk about fragrance, comment on how a place smells, or share about this unique product that helps you experience it in a new way.  

Pura makes a great gift because it's easy, unique, and not crazy expensive, so a lot of people hear about it from friends and gifting.  

In-home experience is also huge, if someone goes into a home and loves how it smells, most times they will ask what it is, or the owner will gladly explain what the source is, and it's really great for people to experience it in person. 

We do a lot of influencer marketing. That has been a huge part of our marketing strategy, and Pura does amazing with influencers who describe the product and why they love it, and also talk about the scents they love, usually in a way that compares or relates them to something familiar which is super helpful. 

We work with influencers who have built a lot of trust with their followers, and genuinely love the products that they talk about. Once people understand what it does, Pura sells itself. 

BANKNOTES: How does Pura work with creators to boost sales and awareness? 

Wahlin: We want the people we work with to be able to communicate the brand authentically and personally with their audiences. 

We always make sure to let creators test out and choose the scents they like and ensure they do like the product and connect with it in some way. I think that has been a big part of awareness and sales, because the creator audience trusts them and can see that they genuinely enjoy Pura. 

We give influencers discount codes as well, and we will also do giveaways with new launches and other products that they can run through their own channels. 

We also love to do giveaways or collaborations with other brands we love who value similar things we do. That always helps to spread awareness and it’s great to join together with other brands and people we love.

BANKNOTES: Do you have a specific example of a time Pura worked with a creator who really communicated well what your brand is all about? 

Wahlin: We’ve definitely had a lot of really great examples of this, but the one that comes to mind first is the campaign that we ran for Mother’s Day this year. We called it “Fill Her Home With Flowers” and we wanted to show how Pura can make your space feel and smell amazing like a room full of flowers would. 

We needed the right person for this, so we decided to use Kelsi Fullmer and her mother for this. She’s an influencer who is amazing and does such a great job with her audience and authentically talking about things she loves. 

We went to her mom’s home and filled her entire living room full of real, beautiful flowers and surprised her when she came home. Kelsi helped us pull off this amazing surprise for someone who really deserved it, and the moment was incredibly sweet and tender. 

We created a video of the whole thing that showed what Pura does and how we want it to make people feel, while also communicating a sweet and memorable message we believe in. Kelsi did an amazing job of making everything feel really genuine and special, while also describing the product and what it does for you. You can find the full video on our Instagram.

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