In the ‘90s, Eveready’s giant red truck and Duracell’s sprinting bunnies were regular fixtures during ad breaks on television. Those were the days when cameras and torches — the highest consuming categories for batteries — were in vogue, and transistors — also battery guzzlers — were not yet obsolete. But as the years passed, marketing campaigns for battery brands became subdued. Smartphones came with built-in cameras and flashlights. Today, remote controls are the biggest consumers of batteries in India, followed by torches.
“The category is still robust as the number of remote controls being used is increasing. However, we are not seeing a huge growth in the category,” says Anil Bajaj, senior vice president, marketing and sales, Eveready. In the last seven-eight years, batteries as a category has been growing at a CAGR of 2-3% (volume), he adds.
Slow but steady
With the slowing growth rate, advertising spends too have gone down for batteries. However, Bajaj of Eveready attributes lack of advertising to the fact that the need to advertise is not as strong as it used to be. “Eveready, today, is a much stronger brand compared to the ‘90s; therefore, we do not need to advertise as much,” he says. The company spends 3-4% of its turnover on marketing — 70% of the budget to advertise on television, 15% on print and 6% on digital.
Eveready has hung onto its Give Me Red tagline for 25 years, which is “no mean feat” says Bajaj. “There were so many suggestions to change it. Every brand manager wanted to change it; every time we got a new agency on board, the creative director wanted to change it. The fact that we did not is an achievement and that has made Eveready and Give Me Red synonymous with batteries.”
Give Me Red…and more
Bajaj agrees that topline is a challenge for the category in general and for Eveready too. That is why the brand diversified into lighting and appliances four years back. “It is a logical move,” says Samit Sinha, founder and managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting. “Eveready is a strong brand. Its name immediately brings to mind two categories: batteries and torches. Therefore, if you connect the dots you will see some residual equity in a category that has to do with illumination,” he adds.
Lighting and appliances are both cluttered categories in India with over 20 brands jostling to claim the plug points in households. Eveready is a late entrant here and has mightier, well-established brands to take on, but Bajaj is not worried. “If I ask people to name a few lighting or electrical brands, Eveready comes at number three or four,” he says. “When it comes to top-of-mind recall or mindshare, we are already in the top five. That has happened despite spending a fraction of what competitors are dishing out, because of the brand’s over 100-year legacy and the strength of Give Me Red.”
All of the brand’s future communication will be around its lighting and appliances range, with Give Me Red as the tagline. Bajaj says the new offerings are doing reasonably well in the South and West, and it is the North and East where the brand needs to fortify its distribution. Eveready also plans to further expand in the lighting category. “We are now focussing on professional luminaries, including small and medium enterprises and street lighting,” says Bajaj.
Diversification is the only way ahead for the category says Sinha, as the primary devices that batteries were made for either no longer exist or don’t command sufficient numbers. He suggests that companies either get into battery technology for mobile phones, laptops and other power hungry devices, or into other products where there is scope to naturally extend the brand’s equity. “Lighting is a good example,” he points out.