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How Procter and Gamble Sniffed Out New Markets

Segmenting for Scent-Lovers Reaches 40% of Consumers

When Procter & Gamble first launched Febreze as an odor-eliminating product, it failed. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg relates the story of how Febreze came back. Consumer psychologists learned that consumers didn’t just want to eliminate odors—they craved a sense of accomplishment from making their environments smell nice. As one consumer explained her use of Febreze, “It’s a nice way to make everything smell good as a final touch.”

As a result, P&G added more perfume to the formula to give it a unique scent. The branding team changed the marketing approach to portray Febreze as “the nice smell that occurs at the end of a cleaning routine.” After the product relaunch, sales doubled in two months—and the brand created a new category of products that provide a “finishing touch” to consumers’ cleaning routines.

In fact, around 60% of people say they like to add fragrance to their home, using products like scented candles, fragrance spray or other scented products.  And, whether or not they want to add fragrance, 60% also feel that their home should smell good.

As you can see from the color-coded chart below, there are three segments of US consumers, representing around 40% of adults, who are household scent lovers (Segments A-C), i.e., they enjoy added scent in their home. (Green is significantly higher than total, blue is similar to total and red is significantly lower than total).


About Scent Lovers


P&G further reached out to this “scent-lover” segment through a recent product innovation. Downy Unstopables In Wash Scent Booster achieved distinction as a Nielsen Breakthrough award-winner in the category for 2-year revenue between $145-155 million. As reported:

“Downy Unstopables dramatically expanded the laundry detergent additives category… by drawing in a neglected pool of consumers seeking long-lasting fragrance.”

Downy Unstopables “keeps laundry fresh for 12 weeks” and is offered in five highly aspirational scents such as, “Spring – A lasting boost of the fresh, sun-kissed scent of early spring.” A review from customer Brandy states:

“I love it! It makes my whole downstairs smell great and the clothes, too. I just want to bury my nose in them and keep smelling it.”

Certain categories, like candles, perfume and air fresheners have focused on scent, as it is central to their business. But scent can play an important role in other categories where the role is less obvious, such as automotive leather. Additionally, when opening a food product package, scent can form an immediate impression.

Have you considered the importance scent segmentation could play in your business?