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Science fiction writer Mitchell Graham—author of The Fifth Ring and The Emerald Cavern, among others—has trained and worked as an attorney and as a neuropsychologist, and is also an accomplished fencer. He told a reporter in 2003 that “fencing is like a physical game of chess played at lightning speed. Not only do you have to be able to put a point on your opponent’s chest at 150 mph, you’ve got to outthink them first.” Drawing a comparison between fencing and his first career he said, “Law is actually a little bit like fencing. Being a successful trial lawyer involves planning, strategy and execution.”
Procter & Gamble’s Martin Hettich knows a thing or two about fencing, too, in business settings and out. “I like the balance of elegance and the explosion of energy—you control yourself for a long time then have almost laser-like intensity for the attack,” Hettich said about the sport that took hold of his imagination at five or six years of age and has held him in its thrall ever since. While he no longer wields the foil or sabre competitively, he does still fence, and he makes a connection between his sport and his current work. “Air care needs to strike a balance. The power aspect is important: the gadget has to work but must balance with elegance—it has to look nice. Febreze Air Effects have actually been seen out in homes. Design is equally important to technology.”
Hettich joined P&G right out of college, working in brand management, comfortable in the knowledge that the company sought only the best people and excited by the promise that he would be his own boss very quickly. Surprisingly, he was not trained or educated in marketing. In fact, much of his education was in economics and business administration.
Febreze Fabric Refresher was introduced to the world in 1998, a household product employing odor removal technology to clean away odors from fabrics, creating an entirely new category in fabric care. While history was being made in fabric care, Hettich was in Brussels, Belgium, working as marketing manager for automatic dishwashing products for P&G in Western Europe. Overseeing the turnaround of the struggling Auto Dish brand through the innovation of “Tab-in-Tab” dispensing packaging was among his achievements there. Between March and July 2000, he led a crossfunctional North American and European team out of Brussels charged with designing and implementing a new P&G Home Care organization.
By August of that year, he was in Cincinnati as the newly named marketing director, global strategic planning, Febreze & Cascade—a title that included marketing director Febreze North America and worldwide strategic and communications planning responsibility for both brands. It is important to note that when he joined the Febreze business, the vision for the brand was as a fabric refresher unit, focused on eliminating odors on fabric and clearly informed by the vision of cleaning. There was no hint of “freshener” language or air care in the vision. But with Hettich on board, change was soon in the air.