What saved Febreze??

Febreze, P & G’s best selling product had bombed in the beginning, it was a sinking ship until it was saved.

One day, a P & G scientist, a heavy smoker, came home and his surprised wife asked, “have you quit smoking, you do not smell of smoke anymore”!

Had he? NO!

Next day, back in his lab, he realized that he had serendipitously discovered a novel chemical called HPBCD that had worked wonders and taken off the ages old smell of smoke off him!


P&G sensing a big opportunity, spent millions perfecting the formula, and producing colorless, odorless liquid that could make any stinky couch or jacket scentless.

They created two television commercials to position Febreze as something that would allow people to rid themselves of embarrassing smells:

The first showed a woman talking about how her jacket smells of cigarettes when she eats in the smoking section of a restaurant, and the other, had a woman speak about her furniture smelling like her dog.
In both cases Febreze eliminated the bad smells.

But Febreze failed badly and sales were minimal.

P&G hired behavioral experts to help them figure out the problem. When they visited a woman’s home, they observed that though her house was clean and organized, it stunk of her nine cats.
The smell was overpowering but the woman could not notice any smell. They figured that even the strongest scent fades with constant exposure.
People who needed Febreze the most simply couldn’t detect bad smells in the first place!

It was almost 2 years and the Febreze sales were not up, P & G had faced huge losses with the product, and the marketing manager Stimson wondered if he could not sell the product to a woman with nine cats, who he could sell it to? He was about to lose his job!

Then during one of the market research campaigns, they visited a home of a lady who loved to use Febreze. Her home was generally devoid of any smells! She used to spray Febreze whenever she would finish cleaning a room, like in the bedroom, she vacuumed, made the bed, plumped the pillows, tightened the bed sheet’s corners, smiled with a sense of accomplishment and then took a Febreze bottle and sprayed it as a final touch.

They saw the same pattern across thousands of hours of videotapes of people cleaning their homes – A smile and sense of accomplishment after the cleaning ritual!

That was it. The team decided to make Febreze a fun part of cleaning. They added more perfume, so that instead of merely neutralizing odors, Febreze had its own distinct smell.

Febreze was repositioned as the nice smell that occurs at the end of the cleaning routine. Instead of eliminating scents, it became an air freshener, used as the finishing touch. Within two months, sales doubled, and have crossed the $1 billion mark per year!

Febreze is a great example of a perfect product that needed the right story to reach its potential!

So, how are you positioning your product/ service? Have you identified your audience and understood their needs? Time to introspect and explore..



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