A Breath of Scented Fresh Air for Stale Household Cleaner Brand
Aug 23, 2020

Led by the second generation, Farcent Enterprise Co. Ltd., the 40-year-old family business making household cleaning products, is reinventing itself, targeting new customer segments and exploring new distribution channels.

“When someone mentioned Farcent in the past, people would immediately think of products used by housewives,” notes Farcent Chief Executive Officer Annie Wang (王佳郁), who took the helm of the family business five years ago.

Farcent produces a wide range of cleaning products whose Chinese-language brand names aptly reveal their purpose: there is “humidity-eliminating magical spirit” dehumidifiers, “Mr. dust expeller” mops and wipes, “cleaning foam” bathroom and toilet cleaners, and “odor removal master” air fresheners and scent diffusers.

These household name brands belong to the top three brands in their category in Taiwan. Farcent’s odor control products hold a market share above 50 percent in the nation.

Founded 37 years ago, Farcent posted a historic high annual revenue of NT$3.39 billion last year. From 2017 to 2019, compound annual revenue growth stood at 29.4 percent, which translated into rank 38 among the top 100 fastest-growing companies in Taiwan.

Instrumental for Farcent’s ability to shed its staid, old-fashioned image was the transformation that Wang launched when taking over.

“No matter how I looked at it, I just didn’t feel I belonged here,” says Wang, who previously worked for high-profile foreign companies such as Ogilvy and Estee Lauder. Originally, she joined Farcent as a marketing manager, just to “give it a try.”

Quite unexpectedly, her father Allen Wang was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and passed away within a year. At the time, Wang’s mother Tsai Hsin-hsin, who is Farcent’s chairperson, toyed with the idea of selling the business.

That’s when Wang took a leap of faith, shouldering the heavy task of steering the company. The prospects were not rosy. The company’s brands were mature and competing in a low-price segment. Attracting new customers groups proved difficult, and, with many products selling at below NT$100, company growth was stagnant.

Expansion into Scent Diffusers

Against this backdrop, Wang put her marketing skills to good use, targeting millennial consumers with scent diffusers (a kind of air freshener consisting of a bottle with a blend of essential oils and wooden sticks or reeds that allow the scent to travel from the bottle into the room).

Wang personally led a team to develop the new product. They spent a whole year looking for the best materials, securing patents and talking with distribution and sales channels before the first “bamboo charcoal scent” diffuser hit the market, under the “odor removal master” brand.

Thanks to close cooperation with distributors and sales channels, Farcent was able to reach new target groups, which led to a rejuvenation of the brand. After this first successful novel product, the company followed up with a new product line of perfume-based scent diffusers, called Les Parfums de Farcent, that created marketing buzz.

How can a traditional home-grown brand achieve fast growth? In this case, the integration of sales channels proved crucial.

Farcent produces a line of flower-scented body washes, including freesia, daisy, sage, and, in a pink bottle, jasmine, which was exclusively developed for Poya, one of Taiwan’s major drugstore chains.

In recent years, Farcent has branched out from cleaning products into the toiletries or personal care sector. But in terms of marketing resources and budget, the family business cannot compete with multinational industry giants such as P&G or Unilever, who can spend millions on a single celebrity endorsement campaign.

As a result, focusing on the sales channels was more likely to yield a breakthrough.

“When we evaluate whether to go ahead with a project, we might reach a decision within one or two days, and then product development immediately comes in. This flexibility is very important,” explains Chang Shu-ling, brand marketing manager at Farcent.

Farcent holds weekly new product meetings where sales personnel report sales figures from the various channels to serve as reference for product developers. The product department then develops new products that are tailored to the needs of particular distributors.

It takes at last three months for a new product from conception to market. Aside from finding products that might be popular, cooperation with contract manufacturers needs to be discussed, ingredients need to be researched. and scents need to feature a harmonious mix of head notes, middle notes and base notes.

Expanding Channels, Distributing Kitchenware via PX Mart

Cooperating with channels can benefit both sides. In 2007, Farcent began to act as distributor for kitchenware. In the second half of 2018, the company successfully landed a loyalty point campaign with Taiwan’s leading supermarket chain PX Mart. Consumers were able to exchange their points for discounted Swiss Diamond pots and pans. More than 1.25 million pots were sold in that campaign, more than the Swiss cookware maker sells worldwide in a year.

The Swiss Diamond campaign alone allowed Farcent to rack up NT$950 million in kitchenware sales in 2018, more than six times the sales volume of the previous year.

Aside from cooperating with channels, Farcent is also expanding its e-commerce activities. In China, live broadcasts are used in a bid to reach more young consumers overseas.

Farcent shows that old brands can rejuvenate themselves by venturing into new business. In the future, the company plans to accelerate its expansion into Southeast Asia. “We are always thinking about how to expand our existing presence,” says Wang.