Modern Thymes
By Kate Bertrand

A bath and body launch and a corporate-brand restaging are putting a new bloom on Minneapolis-based Thymes’ fragrant products.
Creating a brand that is timeless yet modern is something of a contradiction—not only at the level of product development but also in terms of package design. One brand that has conquered the quandary, with exceptionally satisfying creative and commercial results, is Kimono Rose from Minneapolis-based Thymes.
A line of bath-and-body products, Kimono Rose wasn’t just another launch when it was introduced in January 2006. The line represented an important turning point for Thymes: It was the first new bath-and-body sub-brand the company introduced after completing a corporate-brand restaging in June 2005.
Thymes, known as The Thymes prior to the brand refresh, is a purveyor of scented personal care and home products, with bath-and-body items as its core product lines. That’s why it was important for Kimono Rose and its packaging to resonate with the company’s refreshed brand image—the launch would bring increased focus on the company’s most important product categories and it would throw the entire brand squarely in the spotlight.
“We knew there was a tremendous opportunity here to articulate what the future of the Thymes brand would be,” says Christiana Kippels, vice president of strategic business development at Thymes.
Among Thymes’ core brand attributes are a love of nature and the pairing of “modern” with “timeless.”
The Kimono Rose product line clearly reflects the natural world with notes of rose, peony, cassis, sweet clementine, jasmine, musk, and vanilla. The combination was designed to differentiate the brand from traditional floral fragrances.
“Florals sometimes are perceived as ‘old-lady’ fragrances,” Kippels says. “The challenge with florals is to present something in a modern way. Kimono Rose is a really modern, complex floral fragrance. It’s fun, flirty, wearable—a fragrance that would appeal to a younger demographic.”
To communicate the young, modern positioning, Thymes supported the product’s non-traditional “floriental” formulation with striking, Asian-inspired packaging.
“We wanted the packaging not only to appeal to our long-standing consumers but also to invite people into the brand,” Kippels explains. “A younger consumer is attractive to us, because she grows up using the products. Those are the consumers we want to build awareness with, along with retaining the loyal consumers we’ve had with us for the past 25 years.”
Origami meets kimono
To do that, Thymes focused on fashion, femininity, and the ingredients used to formulate the Kimono Rose fragrance. Japanese culture and artistry were highly inspirational in the design process.
“Early on, we started working off the idea of a kimono—which is a very geometric fashion—and the idea of origami,” recalls Joe Duffy, chairman and CEO of Minneapolis’ Duffy & Partners, which designed the Kimono Rose packaging.
Those ideas were cleverly integrated in secondary paperboard packaging that folds over itself in diagonal layers.
“That, coupled with the soft color palette and the Japanese-influenced floral patterns, gave us the feel we were looking for. It all had an Asian, specifically a Japanese, feel to it,” Duffy says. In addition, he says, “It’s very feminine without being too over-the-edge that way.”
Beyond fragrance, the Kimono Rose product line is comprised of 12 products, including triple-milled soap, bath salts, home fragrance mist, and liquid foaming bath. Primary package structures include a glass atomizer, a metal aerosol canister, and glass and plastic bottles with pumps.
Secondary packaging includes various paperboard structures suited to the contents. The “unicarton,” which is the secondary packaging for Kimono Rose body wash, eau de parfum, body crème and aromatic candle, was designed with flaps, tabs and a slot (no glue or tape) to secure it.
The unicarton’s intricate design creates a sturdy carton that the consumer can peek into at the point of purchase without damaging the paperboard. Structurally, the carton reflects another of Thymes’ core values, a passion for art.
“We want to make sure that package feels like an original piece of art,” Kippels says. The package printing also works toward that end, with the unicarton interior printed in a pastel coral hue. The exterior folds connote the lines of a kimono, and the interior printing suggests the garment’s delicate lining.
Additional secondary packaging structures are a box and sleeve, for the Kimono Rose gift set and triple-milled soap set, with kimono folds on the sleeves and coral or cream on the inside of the sleeves and boxes.
For Kimono Rose bath salts, the primary package is an envelope, and the secondary package is folded paperboard.
‘Hand-touched details’
Graphics on all of the package structures emulate the subtle imperfections inherent to art and craft. The graphics were deliberately designed with irregularities to make the packaging look hand-printed.
In fact, actual hand-crafting is used to take the paperboard packaging from a flat state to a three-dimensional carton. Thymes’ hand-packing team, a key part of the company since its founding in 1982, manually erects each carton and box.
The craftspeople make the many origami-like folds on the packages, hand label the plastic bottles and metal canisters, and fill the products into the secondary packaging.
“Small specialty stores are our primarily sales channel, and we use those hand-touched details to differentiate ourselves and compete with other bath-and-body brands and other types of gifts,” Kippels says.
The strategy seems to be working. Kippels says Kimono Rose is “absolutely flying off the shelves”. “Right now it is showing itself to be the most successful launch in our history,” she says. “It is one of our top-selling fragrances.”
Thymes’ marketing strategy for Kimono Rose included another tactic to drive awareness: product placement at key celebrity events. The products were included in the Oscar Awards gift bags in 2005 and at an Emmy Awards gift lounge event this summer.
As a result, actresses such as Mariska Hargitay, Rosario Dawson, Heather Graham, Ashanti, Brittany Snow, Arielle Kebbel and Sarah Wynter have embraced the brand. “They’re trend setters, and as people find out they’re using it, the brand becomes a bigger hit,” Duffy says.
The celebrity connection is helping gain the attention of younger consumers, which was a key objective for the product and packaging.
“You have to get the young people involved in the brand and grow it into their portfolio of brands. That spells success for the brand for some time into the future,” says Duffy. Happily, “Kimono Rose has really skewed younger. We’re getting a huge response from teens.”
Restaging the corporate brand
The goal of attracting younger consumers has been central to Thymes’ overall portfolio of products and to its corporate-brand restaging.
“In many respects, Thymes started the giftable bath-and-body category, but so many had come into the category in the past 20 years or so that Thymes was almost looked upon as your mother’s line of bath-and-body products,” says Duffy.
“Forty and up is where Thymes’ core audience was. So one of the challenges, which is often the case with a brand that’s been around a long time, was how to bring new people into the franchise as the audience ages.”
To give the Thymes brand a younger, more vital feel, Duffy & Partners redesigned the company’s logotype. The letter “T” (adorned with a vine climbing the vertical portion of the letterform) is now placed above a leafy depiction of the Thymes name.
The “T” component, enclosed in a rectangle with rounded corners, appears on all package structures. It’s printed on the upper left of the primary packaging’s front facing and on the top or side facing of secondary packaging. As with the other package graphics, the logo is distressed, suggesting a hand-printed chop mark.
Duffy & Partners also designed a new brand language for Thymes that leverages the brand’s nature, art, and beauty attributes across the company’s many product lines. Imagery of leaves, vines, fruit, and herbs is a recurring theme, and the package structures include many special touches, such as hand-tied ribbons at the necks of bottles.
The result is a rejuvenated brand image, and one calculated to attract the younger consumer. “We mixed up the imagery to create visual interest, but it all hangs together. It’s a fresh, young look,” Duffy says.
Indeed, consumers of all ages are responding to the Thymes brand restaging as much as they responded to the Kimono Rose launch. According to Kippels, Thymes’ sales were 20 percent higher by summer 2006, the one-year anniversary of the corporate restage. BP
The author, Kate Bertrand, is a San Francisco-based writer specializing in packaging, business and technology. Contact her at
Where to go for more information...
• Package design and brand strategy. At Duffy & Partners, call 612.548.2333 or visit

The Brand Collage
Duffy & Partners streamlined the development of the Kimono Rose brand with a method grounded in collaboration…and collage.
At the outset of the project, key players from Thymes and the design firm poured through selected illustrations, photos, typefaces, colors, patterns, and other visual elements representative of the highly feminine, fashion-oriented, Asian brand concept.
“We selected images based on the product’s ingredients, the target audience, the competitive set and, perhaps most importantly, what’s going on in popular culture,” says Joe Duffy, the design firm’s CEO.
The team then sorted through the images that had been brought to the equation and they put together a collage.
“It’s a good way to collaborate with clients so they are really part of the creative process,” advises Duffy.
And, he says, the conversation and editing that goes into the selection of images for the collage makes it more straightforward to reach the final design solution.
“If you do this upfront, there isn’t the second guessing that often goes on if you haven’t started from the right place,” he explains.