Sweet smell

By Published on .

When Febreze tried the air-freshener category in 2004, another good-smelling product wasn't much of a point of difference. The futuristic, easy-to-grip trigger sprayer was.

The result was a Febreze Air Effects line that started so strong P&G has put it on temporary allocation with retailers. With factories at full throttle, the line captured a 7.3% market share in the third quarter from such entrenched players as SC Johnson and Reckitt Benckiser. Now, P&G is readying a second assault on the category in early 2006 with Febreze Noticeables, which alternate between two scents so consumers keep noticing the difference.

While design might ordinarily seem the province of iPods, cars and fashion, P&G is finding success applying it in categories where it hasn't been such a priority, transforming them. A design overhaul that led to Tampax Pearl reversed a years-long decline for the brand. The new focus on design also has brought in top awards in the beauty industry that once eluded the company.

But Claudia Kotchka, the VP-design innovation and strategy who has led the charge, says the best is yet to come. When she studied other companies that have looked to raise their design profile, she noted it takes about 10 years to fully build a design capability. "We've been doing it four years now," she says, "so we've still got a way to go."

To that end, P&G and its design agencies have been on a hiring binge, with P&G taking the unusual step of turning outside for senior designers.

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