Febreze to hit $1B mark

Febreze to hit $1B mark

Febreze to hit $1B mark

It took some new uses to turn Procter & Gamble Co.'s Febreze into a brand now within whiffing distance of the billion-dollar annual sales milestone.

After its first few years on the market, people weren't using the original fabric odor spray all that often, and sales were flattening. But researchers then realized people were already trying out the spray in other ways in their homes.

That led to new Febreze products air fresheners, plug-in scents, candles and team-ups with P&G detergents and household cleaners. Marking its 10th anniversary, Febreze has more changes ahead this summer, backed by stepped-up marketing.

Its story is an example of how household products companies first build an image, then a brand.

"You get a connection with the consumer, in terms of understanding what the brand is and more importantly, what it stands for," said Bruce Cohen, a strategist for the retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates. "It needs to stand for something distinctive and authentic in the consumer's mind."

Example: People connect V8, the vegetable juice, with something healthy and nutritious. So, Cohen said, Campbell Soup Co.'s subsequent line of V8 soup doesn't need much explanation or introduction.

Same with the Clorox Co.'s namesake bleach, immediately associated in many consumers' minds with clean and disinfecting, leading to products such as household wipes and toilet bowl cleaners.

"That connection allows them to develop new products ... the consumer gives you permission," Cohen said. "That's the secret sauce."

In Febreze's case, he said, the brand reminds people of "a fresh-smelling, clean home."

Martin Hettich, P&G's air care market director for North America, recently previewed for The Associated Press Febreze plans that include a combined fabric/air freshener in a more-stylish bottle, with an easier-to-use pump that sprays a finer mist than previous models.

And he recounted that, after a fast start in 1998 that saw Febreze quickly top $100 million in sales, then slowed, researchers decided the next move by visiting consumers in their homes, sitting on their sofas, and watching.

"They were using their fabric refresher in a way it was not designed for at that point," Hettich said. "They were using it for a little spritz in the air; using it in a surround way."

Entry into the air freshener market followed in 2004, with a campaign touting Febreze as "a breath of fresh air." The brand saw a 27 percent sales increase, and it's maintained 20-plus percent annual growth rates as its product line has expanded.

P&G says Febreze now leads both the fabric spray and the aerosol spray categories and is the second-leading air care brand behind Glade. Spokeswoman Pashen Black of Racine, Wis.-based SC Johnson, maker of Glade, said the privately held company wouldn't discuss competitive rankings.

Febreze, with more than $800 million in annual sales, has been added to other P&G products, including Tide detergent and Swiffer dusters. Those brands count the additional sales in their own revenue figures; otherwise, Hettich said, Febreze would already top $1 billion, joining 23 other P&G brands including Tide and Pampers diapers and becoming one of the fastest to reach the mark.

Febreze also has begun licensing products outside P&G.

E-Z DO Inc., an Edison, N.J.-based closet innovation company, and Brandscape LLC, an Atlanta-based product development and marketing firm, have a joint venture through Febreze. They are rolling out Febreze Closet Renewable freshening products through retailers that include Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and Target Corp., said Brandscape head Nick McKay.

The reach into additional households will enhance Febreze recognition, along with what Hettich says will be the biggest advertising campaign in brand history this summer.

He said the current economic slowdown isn't hurting sales:

"What we're finding is that people are cutting down on their trips to the mall, they're eating out less; by virtue of spending more time in their home, they actually want to make sure their homes smell nicer."

Boutique executive search services with best in class global network, contacts and market mastery.

Deeply connected and engaged personal service approach, long-term investment in client community and 25 year history of strong relations with both Multi-National leaders and Private Equity partners.