Panasonic touts digital edge for its batteries

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Panasonic Industrial Co. is launching its first major ad push for batteries with a print campaign breaking next month in consumer magazines. The effort, from Grey Advertising, New York, supports its new Panasonic Alkaline for Digital battery line, designed to be longer-lasting for electronic devices such as CD players and pagers.

Those high-drain, portable devices are driving the market for alkaline batteries, said Farah Saeed, a research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, which monitors the battery industry.


The new Panasonic battery will compete with Gillette Co.'s Duracell Ultra and Ralston Purina Co.'s Energizer, launching new e2, a titanium-based battery, this summer. But Panasonic, better known for its consumer electronics than its batteries, can't compete with the ad budgets of these market leaders. Panasonic is the No. 4 battery maker behind Duracell, Energizer and Rayovac Corp., respectively, but has spent virtually nothing on battery advertising until now.

In the first nine months of 1999, Gillette spent $25 million on market leader Duracell, and Ralston Purina spent $14 million on Energizer, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Rayovac devoted $4 million to media during the period.

The stakes will quickly go higher, however. With the launch of the e2, Energizer is planning an unprecedented $100 million global marketing effort from DDB Worldwide, Chicago.

Although Panasonic would not disclose spending for the new campaign, its parent company, Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, tripled its ad budget in 2000, demonstrating the company's increased commitment to marketing, said Suzanne Haines, senior marketing manager at Panasonic.


"A lot of people don't realize that Panasonic is in the battery business," said Penelope Fields, VP-management supervisor at Grey. "It's important to capitalize on Panasonic's heritage as a consumer electronics company," she said.

The first print ad, which debuts in the March 13 issue of Time, uses Panasonic's company tagline, "just slightly ahead of our time." It focuses on how changes in technology demand changes in batteries.

The ad shows a b&w photo of an old-fashioned phonograph in the background and a brand new Panasonic CD player in the foreground with the copy: "Times have changed. So have batteries." Under a photo of the new battery the copy reads: "Presenting batteries for the digital age. If you don't have them, you're still in the dark."

The ad will also run in other weeklies including Newsweek and People, and in April women's magazines such as Good Housekeeping.

Analyst Ms. Saeed said consumers are "lazy" when buying batteries. "What is actually driving decisions about what brand [to buy] is advertising," she said. "If Panasonic contributes to such a promotion campaign, they might be able to get through, but they have to work a lot on how they position the product for consumers to understand."

Consumer education is a critical component of Panasonic's push. Through Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, New York, it hopes to "demystify the usage of batteries" through "grassroots PR" efforts aiming to explain the differences among battery features and applications, Ms. Haines said.

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