Can you smell the money? The Secret Little Agency produce DBS Bank’s new fragrance for Chinese New Year

In a bid to immerse its customers in digitally gifting money, the bank commissioned The Secret Little Agency who worked on a scent and accompanying film that ensures the smell of legal tender is never lost.

8 February 2024


Singapore-based creative agency, The Secret Little Agency, has created a perfume and supporting campaign for Asia’s leading bank, DBS Bank. Huat Eau De Parfum, a limited edition fragrance currently being given away at the bank’s branches, takes its name from exclamations of prosperity and monetary gain throughout Chinese culture and is designed to reflect the air of good fortune attached to the Chinese New Year and its festivities.

As many flock to ATMs every Chinese New Year to withdraw tender notes to be placed in red envelopes (a long standing tradition in China), the team wanted to use fragrance as a tool for storytelling. Though it wasn’t originally a part of the commission; DBS simply wanted to reimagine tradition and guide customers towards using QR red envelopes as opposed to the customary physical ones. “We studied the entire user journey of filling, giving and receiving red packets and realised quickly that part of the allure of filling traditional red packets was the experience of withdrawing minted legal tender notes,” Nicholas Ye, Co-Chief Creative Officer at the agency tells us. The team also uncovered that the distinctive smell of new notes was a widely-loved feature of the tradition, and so they began working with fragrance designers to achieve a distinctive smell – the smell of money.

The Secret Little Agency knew that its first task was creating a fragrance that balanced the smell of legal tender bills with a sweet smelling perfume often associated with the red packets and greeting cards gifted around the Lunar New Year. “We worked with a master perfumer to recreate this exact olfactory experience,” Nicholas tells us. But the team found that creating this smell from scratch in under two months was a challenging feat. “We were working with our noses, smelling close to 50-60 samples daily, until we found the one that smelt the most like money. We learned that no two people feel the same about smell. It’s highly subjective.”


The Secret Little Agency: Huat Eau de Parfum, (Copyright © The Secret Little Agency and film production by Abundant Productions, 2024)

The team have also created a short film for the release of Huat Eau De Parfum. “Gold cloth everywhere. Flying gold cloth. Lying in gold cloth. We had fun trying to employ some of the more ridiculous tropes in perfume advertising,” Nicolas tells us. The main talent in the film has previously featured in three different DBS Bank commercials during Chinese New Year making him familiar to the audience, only this time in a very different way. “Robing and disrobing him as he attempts to hint that Huat makes the world go round or that Huat doesn’t grow on trees was a not-so-subtle way of hinting what our perfume is all about, without having to say the word ‘money,” Nicholas says.

Alongside the perfume, The Secret Little Agency want the campaign to expand the way the Chinese New Year festivities are represented. “Almost all campaigns and creative efforts during the new year are audio-visual in nature, telling familiar stories with in film, with the visual formula of red and plenty of gold,” Nicolas ends, “but, Huat Eau de Parfum represents the first time a brand has tried to capture a scent as an expression of Chinese New Year.”

GalleryThe Secret Little Agency: Huat Eau de Parfum, (Copyright © The Secret Little Agency and film production by Abundant Productions, 2024)

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The Secret Little Agency: Huat Eau de Parfum, (Copyright © The Secret Little Agency and film production by Abundant Productions, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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