Taking P&G Febreze from home to car

When it comes to air fresheners, most people would like to experience them before seeing them. The air fresheners need to blend in, to create a subtle ambience. Procter & Gamble learned that with its popular Febreze air freshening products for the home. And the company wanted to apply that knowledge to a new environment: the car. P&G called on Design Central to find the best path to success. We dove into research to understand the consumers who would ultimately purchase the P&G Febreze Car Air Freshener as well as the vehicles the product would inhabit. Our learning led us to create multiple buyer personas, establishing a firm foundation for us to move on to design, preliminary engineering, testing—and, ultimately, a product that still flies off the shelves.

  • Procter & Gamble
  • Consumer
  • Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering
  • Prototyping

Objective: Design a Febreze car freshener that would harness the success and brand equity created by P&G’s thriving Febreze air freshening products for the home.

Designing a simple, intuitive experience

P&G had technology in place, from its Set & Refresh product, that was simple to use and designed specifically for small spaces. Our challenge was to apply that technology to the car. The company is committed to offering products that are intuitive, so we knew we had to create an easy experience for the consumer in terms of how they remove the air freshener from its packaging and activate it for use. Our team spent a lot of time developing the folding mechanism that “turns on” the scent of the freshener by activating the membrane, meaning no extra parts are needed. That set it apart from competitors, as most other products required the user to peel off a label or assemble multiple pieces together. Our simpler activation method made for a more sustainable product and, most notably, resulted in a patent for P&G.

“I wanted to work with Design Central because of their in-depth understanding of manufacturing and ability to deliver on a dynamic timeline. They were willing to go the extra mile and make compromises but still keep a great design intent.” –John Koenig, Associate Director of Design, P&G

Ensuring wide appeal and brand alignment

A typical car accessory would inevitably be displayed in the car parts aisle of a store. But P&G’s car freshener was to be sold in the air care aisle, marking a major shift in the consumers who might pick it up. Women were more likely to occupy that aisle, which housed P&G’s other Febreze products, though men would also use it. So we had to attract both sexes with the appearance of the car freshener. We were also familiar with P&G’s brand language for Febreze, which led us to the soft square shape with a contrast of light and dark on the cover and the signature Febreze whisp. The freshener had to be small enough to blend in the car setting, too. We created renderings and models, which we used in our multiple rounds of evaluative testing, to make sure we were on the right track with our target customers. This influenced our decision to make it obvious when the product needed to be replaced by offering a window that showed the levels of the liquid scent. All in all, our close and collaborative working relationship with P&G resulted in an iconic and in-demand product.