Dawn Goldworm is an internationally recognized olfactive expert and the “nose” behind successful fragrances and scented experiences for celebrities and brands like Lady Gaga, Nike, American Express, Valentino, Cadillac, Ritz-Carlton and Harrods. Dawn’s expertise in perfumery is the result of years of training and work at Avon’s global headquarters and Coty Beauty. She has the rare ability of synesthesia (blending sense of sight, touch, sound and smell), which has built her scent branding company, 12.29, into a go-to resource for hotels, fashion houses, automotive brands and more. With her extensive knowledge around scent memory, Dawn wrote a unique children’s book called The Smell of a Rainbow. During Art Basel, State of Kid was honored to host Dawn for a special reading.
What made you create a scented children’s board book?
I wouldn’t have imagined being an expert on children, but to truly understand adults and their olfactive experience, you must start with childhood. When we’re born, and even before we’re born, our sense of smell is 100 percent. Emotions and smell live in the same part of the brain. For the first 10 years of life, smell is the dominant sense. And all smells are new. Kids lead their lives through their nose. They will tell you if something smells good or bad. And something that smells bad in America may not smell bad to a kid in China. So, smell becomes the largest part of memory. The eyes catch up at 10 years old and therefore people use their eyes for understanding the world later. However, people fall in love because of the smell of their partner, their shampoo, body spray, cologne, etc.
In my work, I collaborate with celebrities and brands who want their scents to be successful globally. Does a person in Rio de Janeiro have the same olfactory experience as someone in Shanghai? Since there isn’t any language that goes along with scent, how do you create a global scent when you can’t talk to people about it? I found that color is the universal language for smell. With 97% accuracy, the entire world—regardless of culture, living environment or generation—smells the same colors. If you give people crayons, paint or color boards, they all pick the same colors for smell. I found this research to be super interesting and thought it could be fun for children.
I met with the President of Random House Kids about doing a book on my research. The result is The Smell of a Rainbow, a board book with seven fragrances about rainbows. Each color of the rainbow has a scent associated with it. For example, the green page smells like grass. And unlike the old days of scratch and sniff, we utilized microcapsule technology to release the scent, so each time you turn the pages of the book, the smell becomes more powerful.
What has been the reaction to the book?
It’s been amazing! Kids love rainbows. And seeing what each color smells like has been a joyful experience for them. My niece, who is three, loved it so much, she broke the book in half, so I had to get her a new one. This has been fulfilling for me in a different way because the kids are so enthusiastic. They tell me that a color smells like candy or cupcakes. I thought kids would like it, but I didn’t expect this reaction. However, creating fragrance projects for kids is challenging. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) regulates the entire industry and there are special rules for kids and toys. For example, most natural ingredients are banned for children because they have high allergens. Rose is a good example. When you take 10,000 roses and extract them into rose oil, it’s no longer safe for skin. We used new microcapsule technology for the book, which is cool because there’s never been a scented board book for children. The book is available on Amazon and at Target, Barnes & Noble and, of course, State of Kid.
Will you do a follow-up children’s book?
Yes, I would like to do books based on different countries and travel. What does each country smell like, their food, culture and experiences? To expose kids to different parts of the world through smell.
Obviously, writing children’s books isn’t your core business. Tell us about your scenting company 12.29.
12.29 helps brands communicate through smell. I’ve worked with brands like Cadillac, Bentley, Ritz-Carlton, Art Basel, Thompson Hotels, Virgin Hyperloop 1 and Nike. Olfactive branding is the new frontier of emotional communication. A brand’s storytelling is not complete without emotional engagement, which is a natural and acute byproduct of a scented experience. At 12.29, we engage the visceral language of scent to define, shape and communicate brand identity. Smell is a powerful brand language that communicates identity and differentiation. The scent creates an emotional space around a brand’s audience, building and nurturing a brand community around shared feelings and powerful bonds. During the pandemic, my sister Samantha and I also created Scent for Good, which brings scents to medical spaces, hospitals and cancer centers to help impact the culture of healthcare in a positive way. Scent for Good transforms feelings of anxiety, fear and discomfort into moments of safety, comfort and wellness.
State of Kid’s Miss Nancy took inspiration from Dawn’s book and planned a special class using scent as its theme. After the book reading, the kids created their own scented rainbows and cookies. It was an amazing sensory experience for everyone. Make sure to follow us on social media for upcoming activations and events, @stateofkid.