Febreze Uname

Febreze is a Category King. €1 Billion in annual sales. Here’s how they did it

Febreze was product technology insight in search of market insight.

Discovered from the existing fragrance product portfolio.

The market insight search began.


The air freshener category has two large players Air Wick and Glade. Both established incumbents and were ready for a fight.

P&G realised this category would be an expensive route to market.

Focus groups pointed to a spray-on fabric neutralising product. Eliminating household smells, cigarette smoke, pets or general pungent bad odours.

Febreze was born. Marketing described the problem and solution.



No spike in sales, loss year on year, consideration to bin the product circled. It frustrated the P&G team, excited focus groups did not lead to sales.

The error that P&G made was a qualitative confirmation bias that reeks in focus groups. Pet odours and cigarette smoke is a problem but they did not buy. Why?

If you had pets or smoked, it’s not offensive and here is a product targeting them. P&G realised the bias, the focus groups saw it as a problem experienced in other people’s houses.

Even if stinky households wanted to remove the smells, Airwick and Glade did that job to a degree.

Alarms bells were now ringing for this oversight. How could they claw back on the product point of view?

This is where category design kicked in.

They did have loyal customers albeit a small group. P&G need to discover what’s the problem it was solving for them.

Another way to describe these customers is Superconsumers. They love and are loyal to the product. Understanding how they use it opens the doors to creating a new category.

BTW – Check out the book Superconsumers by Eddie Yoon.


Superconsumers did not have a stinky house. They used it as part of their regular cleaning habits. Finish cleaning, spraying a dash of Febreze. A feel-good that tells you the cleaning is finished.

It was a problem/solution the majority of the public did not know they had. Delivered by the Supercomsumers.

Now the market insight was to capitalise on the finishing ritual for people who had clean homes.

Not for stinky people!

And not in competition with the Glade and AirWick category.

Plug that insight into marketing and boom!

New category leader and uncontested market space.

Sales soared to €1 Billion a year.

The Febreze success led to competitors, but all failed. 

New category leaders control market share. It thwarts fast followers.

It stops them from even getting off the ground.


If you have a product that suffered like Febreze, seek out your Superconsumers.

Find out what problem they actually use the product to solve.

It’s not going to be what you think.

Translate that insight and the following results can happen.

– Exponential business and product growth 

– New lens for marketing

– Uncontested market category

Get in touch to learn more about Category Design Workshops.