BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- It's been years since Santa had much besides lumps of coal in his bag for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Duracell, but the brand could have a surprise hit on its hands this holiday season with a charging pad getting surprising buzz in its second year on the market.
Duracell MyGrid ranked No. 7 among all consumer-electronics searches among fastest risers in the category in the annual Google Zeitgeist report released last week. That put the brand in some heady company led, not surprisingly, by Apple's iPad and iPhone and just behind "Blackberry apps."
It's all the more remarkable in that MyGrid isn't even a new product. It was first launched last year on the premise of providing a single pad that can charge up to four devices such as smart phones and tablet computers without requiring the tangle of cords that are the inevitable complaint of a highly wired family.
While MyGrid launched last year in time for the holidays, it's gotten a much bigger push this year, with TV, print and outdoor ads, the latter situated during the season in areas heavy with retailers, from Acme Idea Co., Norwalk, Conn. It's also gotten a substantial PR, digital and social media push from PainePR and Publicis Groupe's Digitas, both New York, including substantial and well-received distribution to tech bloggers, said Duracell spokesman Kurt Iverson.
Data from SymphonyIRI show only $131,000 in sales for MyGrid for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, but most of its sales appear likely to be coming from big box stores and e-tailers not tracked by that syndicated data. Compete.com shows monthly unique visitors to Duracell.com more than tripled in November to 329,000 from a year ago, a spike that appears driven largely by the interest in MyGrid.
It's been a while, in fact, since anything drove much interest in Duracell's core business of alkaline batteries. The category did see its first volume gain in many years in the fourth quarter of 2009, driven apparently by the popularity of battery-operated Zhu Zhu pets and aggressive promotions.
But it didn't last. Dollar and unit sales for alkaline batteries were both down 6% for the full year ended Nov. 28, according to SymphonyIRI. And the biggest news in the category this year has been a price cut through bigger package sizes led by Duracell and followed by Energizer Holdings' eponymous brand, which, while it did result in share gains for both vs. private label, came at the expense of lower sales and earnings for both. Duracell remains the category leader with a 45% share, followed by Energizer with 32%.
The holidays began passing the alkaline battery category by years ago as more toys and consumer electronics took rechargeable batteries not made by the big branded players. With MyGrid, Duracell is looking to tap into the rising popularity of those non-alkaline devices.