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Inside Fragrance: Evolution of an Air Care Giant

Posted: December 21, 2007

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Febreze Fabric Refresher was introduced to the world in 1998, a household product employing odor removal technology to clean away odors from fabrics, creating an entirely new category in fabric care. While history was being made in fabric care, Hettich was in Brussels, Belgium, working as marketing manager for automatic dishwashing products for P&G in Western Europe. Overseeing the turnaround of the struggling Auto Dish brand through the innovation of “Tab-in-Tab” dispensing packaging was among his achievements there. Between March and July 2000, he led a crossfunctional North American and European team out of Brussels charged with designing and implementing a new P&G Home Care organization.

By August of that year, he was in Cincinnati as the newly named marketing director, global strategic planning, Febreze & Cascade—a title that included marketing director Febreze North America and worldwide strategic and communications planning responsibility for both brands. It is important to note that when he joined the Febreze business, the vision for the brand was as a fabric refresher unit, focused on eliminating odors on fabric and clearly informed by the vision of cleaning. There was no hint of “freshener” language or air care in the vision. But with Hettich on board, change was soon in the air.

“I took all of my cues from the consumers,” he says. “When I joined, it was not a foregone conclusion that Febreze was going to be a success. We went back to the consumers to see what the future of the brand was; we were blown away by how much consumers loved the product.”

For Hettich, the passion consumers displayed for the product coupled with what they said about how they were using the product were cues that there was something much bigger going on. In his words, “We just had to unlock it. The only thing that took guts was to articulate it and say this is where we want to go.”

He led the brand into the $2.4 billion air care market in June 2004, with the launch of Febreze Scentstories and Febreze Air Effects. Like Febreze Fabric Refresher before it, Febreze Scentstories represented a new segment within its category—the air care category. Scentstories’ themed discs contain complementary scents and a specially designed disc player. While in the player, each disc spins its way through five scents, with a new scent “playing” every 30 minutes.