Product are designed to be part of a routine activity
“What do you do about the cat smell?” a scientist asked the woman.
“It’s usually not a problem,” she said.
“How often do you notice a smell?"
“Oh, about once a month,” the woman replied.
The researchers looked at one another.
“Do you smell it now?’ a scientist asked.
“No,” she said.
The same pattern played out in dozens of other smelly home the researchers visited. People couldn’t detect most of the bad smells in their lives. If you live with nine cats, you become desensitized to their scent. If you smoke cigarettes, it damages your olfactory capacities so much that you can't smell smoke anymore. Scents are strange; even the strongest fade with constant exposure. That’s why no one was using Febreze, Stimson realized. The product’s cue—the thing that was supposed to trigger daily use—was hidden from the people who needed it most. Bad scents simply weren't noticed frequently enough to trigger a regular habit. As a result, Febreze ended up in the hack of a closet.
The people with the greatest proclivity to use the spray never smelled the odors that should have reminded them the living room needed a spritz. (…) He put on another clip. A younger, brunette woman spread out a colorful bedspread, straightened a pillow, and then smiled at her handiwork. “There it is again!” the researcher said. The next clip showed a woman in workout clothes tidying her kitchen and wiping the counter before easing into a relaxing stretch.
The researcher looked at his colleagues. “Do you see it?" he asked.
“Each of them is doing something relaxing or happy when they finish cleaning,” he said. "We can build off that! what if Febreze was something that happened at the end of the cleaning routine, rather than the beginning? “What if it was the fun part of making something cleaner?” Stimson’s team ran one more test. Previously, the product's advertising had focused on eliminating had smells. The company printed up new labels that showed open windows and gusts of fresh air. More perfume was added to the recipe, so that instead of merely neutralizing odors, Febreze had its own distinct scent.
Television commercials were filmed of women spraying freshly made beds and spritzing just-laundered clothing. The tagline had been “Gets had smells out of fabrics.” It was rewritten as “Cleans life's smells." Each change was designed to appeal to a specific, daily cue: Cleaning a room. Making a bed. Vacuuming a rug. In each one, Febreze was positioned as the reward: the nice smell that occurs at the end of a cleaning routine.
Most important, each ad was calibrated to elicit a craving: that things will smell as nice as they look when the cleaning ritual is done. The irony is that a product manufactured to destroy odors was transformed into the opposite. Instead of eliminating scents on dirty fabrics, it became an air freshener used as the finishing touch, once things are already clean. When the researchers went back into consumers’ homes after the new ads aired and the redesigned bottles were given away, they found that some housewives in the test market had started expecting—craving—the Febreze scent. One woman said that when her bottle ran dry, she squirted diluted perfume on her laundry. “If I don’t smell something nice at the end, it doesn’t really seem clean now,” she told them. “The park ranger with the skunk problem sent us in the wrong direction,” Stimson told me. “She made us think that Febreze would succeed by providing a solution to a problem. But who wants to admit their house smells?
“We were looking at it all wrong. No one craves scentlessness.
On the other hand, lots of people crave a nice smell after they’ve spent thirty minutes cleaning."
Happiness consists in frequent repetition of pleasure.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
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