Procter & Gamble's Febreze air freshener has a new campaign, Breathe Happy, that promotes the idea that aromatherapy isn't just something that comes in a jar you buy at the crystal store next to the Mannheim Steamroller CDs and endless loops of water trickling in streams.
The company says its own research showed that consumers are "strongly influenced by smell," including the smell of freshness. The company did a national "Scentsus" survey, which found that scent and smell are the first things most Americans notice when they visit someone's home for the first time.
The campaign centers on a live scent experiment. The TV ads show Febreze being used in such public environments as hotels and restaurants to get real reactions to odors, and reveal how Febreze fixes the olfactory environment.
The campaign, which includes activation at events around the country that feature live freshness experiments, user-generated rewards and product giveaways, began with a "scent oasis" at a Summer Solstice yoga event on June 21 in Times Square, which brought in some 8,000 participants.
Social elements include "Breathe Happy Moments" on the Febreze Facebook page, via Twitter (@Febreze_Fresh) and at events such as the Gilroy Garlic Festival and BlogHer 2011.
While Febreze leads the segment, the market is under pressure from private-label products and also from a general shrinkage of market opportunity, according to a November study from Chicago-based market firm Mintel.
The firm said new air fresheners and deodorizers saw a 40% drop in the U.S. from 2009 to 2010, driven by slowing sales. "At the same time, decreased innovation may result in lower sales still, creating a cyclical problem where major manufacturers end up losing share to less established companies that see new potential in a tired market, and release new products for it," warns Mintel, which reports that the release of new private-label products increased by 9% last year. A move toward offering such refill-based products as those offered by Dollar General with DG Home Lavender Automatic Spray Refill that fits the Air Wick Freshmatic offers a low-cost alternative.
Still, Procter & Gamble and Henkel have managed to gain sales. Those two companies, along with SC Johnson & Son and Reckitt Benckiser, have 89% of retail sales -- but SC Johnson sales slid by 11.5% last year, and 37% since 2005.
In a Mintel segment study, Febreze and SC Johnson's Glade were the products of choice among consumers who used any type of air freshener or room deodorizer, and more than half of respondents indicating usage of each of the brands.
Procter & Gamble marketed Febreze heavily in the first quarter last year -- putting the brand in 37 new product releases, per Mintel, from candles and laundry detergents to the Sponges, Mops, Dusters & Dry Cloths segment and beyond, notes Mintel.
Febreze was the most reported potpourri and spray last year, while Glade was the most often reported candle, liquid/oil and plug-in/ electric product.
"The prominence of these two brands may have to do with the marketing dollars," says Mintel, noting that P&G's ad spend on Febreze Fabric Refresher Deodorizers and SC Johnson's on Glade PlugIns Air Fresheners and Glade Sense & Spray Air Fresheners came in #1, #2, and #3, respectively, in 2009.