Marketing Is More Important Than Innovation: Febreze

Image source: 

Marketing is synonymous with leading the business:
  • Marketers exist to create customers (American Marketing Association). 
  • Businesses exist to create customers (Peter Drucker). 
  • Therefore the role of a marketer is to establish, lead, and manage businesses so that customers can be won and kept.
Marketing is more important than innovation. Drucker was bold but misguided when he made them equal: "Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs." (quoted in Forbes)

Febreze is a great example.

Writing in The New York Times, Charles Duhigg, author of the forthcoming The Power of Habit, explains that Proctor & Gamble's innovative odor-killer wouldn't move off the shelves, because the marketers had it wrong.
"A week passed. Then two. A month. Two months. Sales started small and got smaller. Febreze was a dud."
The marketers had assumed that people would welcome a product designed to neutralize bad smells. What they didn't realize was that even "neat freaks" didn't care when those bad odors were their very own.

Duhigg recalls a visit by the "panicked marketing team" to the home of a consumer who had agreed to participate in P&G's marketing research:
"The house was clean and organized....But when P.& G.’s scientists walked into her living room,where her nine cats spent most of their time, the scent was so overpowering that one of them gagged....a researcher asked the woman, “What do you do about the cat smell?” “It’s usually not a problem,” she said. “Do you smell it now?” “No,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful? They hardly smell at all!”
The "breakthrough" moment came through when the marketing team found a woman who was a regular Febreze customer.  She loved the product and it had nothing to do with eradicating odor:
“I don’t really use it for specific smells,”the woman said. “I use it for normal cleaning — a couple of sprays when I’m done in a room.”
What turned Febreze from an innovative failure to a market-smashing success, in fact, had little or nothing to do with innovation. What it had to do with, primarily, was one simple marketing insight: People are willing to pay to reward themselves for doing unpleasant chores.

In the end the marketing was what moved the merchandise. According to the article, within two months of the "Febreze revamp" based on this insight, the results were astounding:
  • Sales doubled.
  • $230 million in sales one year later
  • $1 billion in sales of "dozens" of spinoffs including air fresheners, candles, and laundry detergents
  • "Today it’s one of the top-selling products inthe world."
When you really stop and think about the impact of marketing, it's sort of amazing that we sit anywhere below the very top of the corporate food chain - no?

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

This is an expanded version of an answer I originally posted this to Quora in response to the question, "What's The Role of Marketing?"

Popular posts from this blog

Examining Claims That Are Hard To Hear: Sarah Ruth Ashcraft

An Open Letter To Chairman Grassley Regarding the Confirmation to the Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Updated With Correction)