Procter & Gamble’s Febreze air fresheners just joined the billion-dollar brand club. It’s the 24th P&G brand to reach $1 billion in annual sales, an elite club that includes Pampers, Tide and Pantene — the mainstays of 70% of the company’s sales yielding $79 billion last year.
Febreze’s success may come as something of a surprise (especially if you go by the somewhat geeky campaign above) in a cash-challenged consumer environment where purchases of more expensive detergent, shampoo and even toilet paper are generally down — unless you're paying attention to moms who blog and exchange tips on social media.
As Brooke Burke demonstrates above, the brand's home collection — particularly the scented diffusers that come in no-spill containers — have been a huge hit with women looking to recreate spa and hotel experiences at home.
It makes sense — people are spending more time, and entertaining more, at home. "That probably helped as people are eating out less, and centered more around their homes. Febreze plays a big role in that," said David Taylor, group president of P&G's global home-care business, to the Wall Street Journal.
P&G research indicates that key life events like moving, getting a pet, marriage and having children result in buying more air fresheners.
Febreze’s growth is due in part to a broader consumer base with varying scent-appetites: "Some consumers just want to eliminate a problem, while another group is looking to create ambiance," says Taylor.
The Febreze Home Collection also offers an inexpensive way to bring luxe accents into the home, from the bathroom to the kitchen, to foyers, living rooms and bedrooms, as illustrated in the video below.
Women have been snapping up decorative candles and flameless scented luminaries, while the Air Effects line of candles, sprays and plug-ins have scents evocative of "tropical getaways and international travels" such as Moroccan Bazaar, Thai Dragon Fruit and Brazilian Carnaval.
Since its launch in 1998 as a fabric treatment to cover what items Tide couldn’t wash, Febreze has broadened the line to include not only home fragrances, but specific sprays for cars, sportswear, pets, carpets and allergens.
P&G’s 2009 acquisition of Sara Lee Corp.'s Ambi Pur brand for $470 million expanded its air-freshener reach from 17 to 84 countries, and air-freshener sales are rising in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe, countering weaker performance in Western Europe and North America.
The success of the brand is rare in consumer categories not usually effected by price or advertising.
"These are largely fixed-consumption categories. No matter how much a laundry-detergent price is discounted, people won't wash their clothes more," comments former P&G exec, Burt Flickinger III, now managing director at consultancy Strategic Resource Group, to the Wall Street Journal.
It sounds like even P&G has been surprised by the success of a line for our times — but never underestimate the power of consumers with Diptyque tastes and dollar-store budgets!