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THE POWER OF RENEWAL RAYOVAC SYSTEM SURGES AMONG RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES

By Published on .

A rechargeable battery system has renewed Rayovac Corp.'s commitment to advertising and the category's hopes for the rechargeable segment.

Rayovac Renewal, introduced a year ago, has spurred a 31% growth in rechargeable battery sales overall, according to Nielsen North America, and now commands more than half of all sales in that battery segment. At the same time, Renewal hasn't dented regular alkaline battery sales, which rose 11% last year.

Rayovac calls Renewal the most successful new-product introduction in the battery business in 30 years. Unlike most rechargeable batteries, made of nickel and cadmium, Renewal is an alkaline product-by far the most popular and longest-lasting battery form.

"It's a product that's caught on," said John Daggett, director of communications for Madison, Wis.-based Rayovac. "The time is right from a couple of standpoints: First, consumers are more environmentally conscious than in the past, and second, many states continue looking at legislation to ban the sale of nickel-cadmium batteries."

Rayovac, which spent more than $15 million in measured media to introduce Renewal last year, this month broke the first of six new print ads from FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York.

Unlike last year's educational introductory ads, the thrust of the product's second year of marketing will be a heavier cost-saving emphasis. One magazine ad featuring a popular children's toy is headlined "How to save $60 on a toy that costs $15."

Rayovac won't forget the environmental angle though; another ad is tagged "How to throw out 136 fewer batteries this year."

The ads will run in family-oriented magazines plus titles targeted to amateur scientists, outdoorsmen and handymen. TV spots, mail-in rebates and soon-to-be-announced joint holiday promotions with several marketers of electronic equipment will also support Renewal in its second year.

Rayovac said Renewal batteries are being bought most often for products including toys, games and portable electronics; Mr. Daggett said NiCad batteries are still preferred for devices like camcorders that require higher and faster power levels.

Battery industry executives are unconvinced that niche products, like rechargeables and the AA lithium battery Eveready Battery Co. has just begun advertising, will be able to overtake the popular and inexpensive single-use alkaline battery. But Rayovac said it's hoping Renewal can help the rechargeable segment double to 5% of the total $3 billion in U.S. battery sales.

Mr. Daggett said Rayovac's main alkaline and zinc-carbon battery lines have experienced a halo effect from the big Renewal push. Before Renewal, Rayovac had only been spending $3 million to $5 million annually to promote its brand name; last year, the company spent nearly $20 million on its battery products, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Rayovac still has 13% of the $1.7 billion in battery sales measured by Information Resources Inc.; Eveready Battery Co. and others maintain that IRI and Nielsen monitor only about half of total U.S. battery sales. According to IRI's figures, Rayovac remains a distant third in the market to Duracell USA's 43.1% share and Eveready's 35%.

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