Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Batteries Not Included

That's a familiar saying. But look at the positioning statement made by Ray-o-vac in this story from Skip at Maple Creative:

The Rayovac Sticker: Straightforward or Sad?

Any of you with kids will understand that parents are forever purchasing batteries for toys. Recently, my wife picked up a package of D cell (flashlight) batteries for our kids' Smartcycle. (A great toy, by the way, which combines an exercise bike with video games.) When she handed me the package, I was taken aback by a bright yellow sticker (shown at right - sorry about the blurry photo). The sticker offered the following message:
Rayovac Lasts as Long as Energizer.

My first thought was, How sad for Rayovac! They've had to resort to a direct comparison with another leading brand of batteries to get consumers to buy the Rayovac brand. In essence, they are advertising for Energizer on their package. Even worse, Rayovac is not offering a benefit that exceeds Energizer; they're simply saying that the Rayovac battery is equal. [Well then, why not buy Energizer? Right?]

As a brief aside, I racked my brain for associations and mental reference points about batteries. Number one - I think of the Energizer bunny, which tells me that the Energizer battery just keeps on going ... and going ... and going. So, Energizer = long lasting. That's good. Second, I think of Duracell ... "the coppertop." And I am reminded of some of the great advertising that Duracell has done in recent years. So Duracell = functional superiority that equates to trust and peace of mind. As for Rayovac, I've got nothing. I guess I would perceive Rayovac to be a third-place brand in the battery marketplace. (That's just my perception, right or wrong.)

Conversely, I can understand Rayovac's approach. They don't have much to lose. Why not go with the straightforward message: our batteries last just as long as the other brand? To their credit, it is direct and easy to understand (whether you believe it, or not). And the bright yellow sticker with the black lettering (taking from the warning sign design schema) is impossible to miss!

Probing a bit deeper into all of this, I made my first (ever) visit to the Rayovac Web site. And I found, again to their credit, that the "Lasts Just As Long As" marketing them is integrated into the Rayovac home page. And on its Web site, Rayovac adds another phrase to the message ... an important one: "And Costs Less." So let's give credit where credit is due.

In my mind, the jury is still out on this campaign. My take on the campaign is tending toward "Sad" in recognition of the desperation feel of this marketing angle. But in the end, market share will be the real determinant of the success of this campaign. We'll keep watching ... and watching ....

Let's hear from you! What do you, fellow marketing geniuses, think about this new Rayovac strategy? Is it simply sad--or smartly straightforward?

PS - Mapleonian Erin Deegan reported a very clever marketing tactic for batteries. Duracell has packaged a free set of ear bud headphones with its 8-pack of AA batteries. Now that will influence some consumer decisions, especially those younger consumers who own mp3 players.

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