The current US battery market is estimated to be worth more than US$ 10 billion, with the largest shares of the market controlled by Duracell and Energizer. The battle is about as fierce as can be found in the branding world. And with retail demand for batteries in the US forecasted to grow around five percent through 2007, it’s a battle worth fighting.
Both Energizer and Duracell have long histories. Energizer got its start as Eveready, which dates back to the early 1900s. Duracell is quite a bit younger, officially born in the 1960s, but it is no less of a force in the marketplace. Duracell controls nearly 40 percent of the market, with Energizer behind but gaining.
In an attempt to differentiate themselves from each other, both Energizer and Duracell boast iconic brand designs, coloration, slogans, and mascots. Also, Duracell's sonic branding "Ding, dung, deng" chime creates a very strong level of brand recognition with consumers—a success that many other sonic branders fail to achieve despite creating memorable jingles.
An enormous amount of battery marketing focuses on individual and consumer-level branding, even though most battery companies market to a more diversified set of demographics. Both Energizer and Duracell focus on branding for important image and perception-related reasons. In fact, batteries may be the perfect product to illustrate how a brand is valuable to product recognition and consumer purchasing. As a standard commodity product, a particular battery’s sales success essentially depends on the sense of familiarity and trust that branding can create with customers.
How many consumers actually read the results of battery performance tests? Even holding the packages of similarly-sized Energizer and Duracell batteries side-by-side reveals very little in terms of measurable performance difference. What consumers know is that Duracell and Energizer make quality, trustworthy batteries and that the generic AAs hanging below them, a brand they’re not familiar with, are not going to be as reliable. All of that consumer knowledge is the result of branding and being exposed to information about the product.
Notably, Duracell and Energizer’s success has come in an environment of extreme standardization, which often spells death for a brand. AA, D, AAA, 9V—any product fitting these specifications could theoretically have a chance in the battery market. There is almost no exclusivity to speak of; if a customer buys an Energizer brand smoke alarm, flashlight, or toy with a pre-packaged Energizer battery, there’s nothing to stop the customer from replacing the battery with a Duracell in the future. Or, for that matter, a Black Cat. Interestingly, both Duracall and Energizer have siblings in the razor business—Gillette and Schick, respectively—which bank on the fact that there is practically zero product standardization. Purchase a Gillette Mach brand razor and you're locked into buying the replacement blades. This is brand loyalty by force.
It's also noteworthy from a brand strategy perspective that, in many ways, both brands benefit from their mutual competition. Their commercials and marketing efforts, whether plugging Duracell or Energizer, also reinforce in consumers the need for higher-level batteries in their products. This creation of consumer expectation and the sustained emphasis on the “need” for quality batteries effectively keeps the cheaper competition at bay.
This shared branding paradigm for Energizer and Duracell has worked in the past, and continues to be effective today, but what about the future? Should they be concerned that consumer electronics are increasingly bundled with batteries and chargers? And though the sheer proliferation of electronic devices assures market growth, some electronics are becoming so inexpensive that we’ve entered the very real economic possibility of scrapping a device for a replacement instead of buying a new battery. Just what does the future hold for Energizer and Duracell?
Theoretically, the battery market could become soda-like. Both Energizer and Duracell, for instance, might go beyond just communicating the benefits and superiority of their respective brand’s products, and form exclusivity agreements with retailers. With rechargeable use growing, many battery purchasers are likely to consider other factors such as time constraints in their purchasing decisions. Exclusivity agreements—such as Coke-only ball fields or Pepsi-only restaurants and flights—may be a way for the brands to compete with each other on a different, more controlled, level.
In that case, when inquiring about AA batteries for their electronic purchases, consumers may simply rely on the clerk to reach for a set of either Energizer of Duracell batteries prominently displayed behind the counter. Wanting a different brand of battery may require shopping at a different brand of store.