SINGAPORE: Brands should be willing to admit they were wrong and go back to the drawing board when products aren't successful, a former senior executive at Procter & Gamble has said.

Deb Henretta, the former Group President of Global e-Business at Procter and Gamble (P&G), revealed at a General Assembly event in Singapore recently that the company's bestselling household odour eliminator brand, Febreze, had required a strategic rethink after a less-than-stellar launch.

(For more on P&G's digital transformation, read Warc's exclusive report: Future-proofing for the digital age – 10 lessons from P&G’s former president of e-business.)

According to Henretta, when Febreze faced challenges at its launch, the P&G team reconsidered every detail of the product's business model and brand proposition. For instance, the initial placement of the product did not make sense from a consumer viewpoint.

"When we took Febreze out, we thought we would have the best shot in the laundry aisle where we were category captains," explained Henretta. But consumers saw it differently.

"The problem was, Febreze – for many people – was an air freshener. It should have been in the air freshener aisle. We did it because we wanted to give it its best chance and put it at the eye level," she said.

"But the consumer wasn't looking for our brand in the laundry aisle, she was looking for our brand in the air freshener aisle. We probably should have asked for dual placement. That was my learning: we needed to be in both places," she continued.

"In hindsight – after spending unbelievable hours with the consumers, with the customers – we basically had everything wrong. We, point by point, went back in and really fixed the proposition. Today I'm proud to say Febreze is one of our billion-dollar brands."

Having to go back to the drawing board taught P&G valuable lessons. "We had to go through that failure in order to make it better, and then it became really good," Henretta said.

"You have to be willing to admit you are wrong, and then be open to listening to people who can help you make it more right. Then you have to have the courage and energy to go fix it again," she said.

Data sourced from Warc