Duracell’s CMO on the 7Ps that are redefining the brand

The battery brand’s sale to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2016 gave it the opportunity to rethink how it approaches marketing from a mono-brand perspective.

Batteries are admittedly not the most exciting product category. Consumers buy them to power other products, so the buying decision is often largely based on price and value. Standing out in such a commoditised market is therefore crucial, and one of the reasons Duracell places such huge importance on the power of its marketing.

Being part of the Procter & Gamble stable helped the brand build a solid grounding in marketing. But its sale to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway at the beginning of 2016 brought with it an opportunity for the business to redefine the brand around seven key values, or the ‘7Ps’, as Tatiana Jouanneau, Duracell’s international CMO, refers to them.

Firstly, she talks about purpose – why the brand exists. “You should really define your brand in very simple terms and for Duracell it’s about unstoppable power.”

Passion, profit, politics, planet, people and point of difference follow.

“What’s your brand passion,” she asks. “What’s your point of view on profit – this is very important when you’re going through a transition. Do you get involved in politics? What’s your point of view on the planet? What’s your standard on people, because people drive the business. And what’s your point of difference? I made sure these things were clearly defined as we moved,” she adds.

At P&G we were all lucky because we had an expert for every single enquiry. Now, it’s much more about self-sourcing and learning.

Tatiana Jouanneau, Duracell

Jouanneau describes P&G as “a lovely home” and talks fondly of her 17 years at the FMCG giant and the “cushion” it provides. But she admits that in any home, about 30% is clutter, or “things that don’t represent emotional value, that don’t represent functional value and that don’t represent monetary value,” she says.

“When we moved away from P&G, we also moved from being a multi-brand company to a mono-brand company. It was a great opportunity to declutter so we could really focus on the core Duracell industry and brand drivers, which are different versus family care, nappies and detergents.”

For everything else, the brand took the “ruthless decision” to let it go, which has had both short- and long-term implications.

“You cannot just assume that because you let 30% go that the business will stay exactly like it was because top-line shrinkage will lead to secondary shrinkage,” she warns.

“But what’s important is that you proactively rethink the entire brand cost structure and you understand that you need to transform things from a multi-brand company way of thinking into a mono-brand company way of thinking.”

In order to do this, she started with a “clean sheet of paper”.

“For a large company, marketing is never going to be as big an expense as capital expenditure or the production lines. So, it might not be something that would come immediately for a bigger company but as a marketing leader you need to take a proactive approach to it because you need to make sure that as you transfer to your new home that the furniture fits,” she says.

The move means the business now only invests in areas that are of real value to the Duracell brand, rather than the wider house of brands at P&G.

“There was a big investment in paid search [at P&G], because that was company standard,” she recalls. “But when we looked at our business drivers, one of the first things we decided not to pursue was paid search, because if you look statistically, people don’t really search for batteries.

“In contrast, the whole ecommerce piece is a real driver for us because when people buy a device they usually want to buy a battery in conjunction with it. So those were the kind of choices we had to make.”

The evolution of the Duracell Bunny

It’s impossible to talk about Duracell without mentioning the Duracell Bunny, an iconic figure in advertising and one which has helped carve out a distinct character for the brand over the past 45 years.

One of the first marketing moves Jouanneau made after P&G sold the business in 2016 was to bring back the bunny, which hadn’t been seen in its advertising since 2002.

“You can always buy media, you can always push more distribution, you can even buy data and technology, but the thing you cannot buy is the brand character,” she says.

The Duracell Bunny has continued to feature in its marketing activity and most recently had a starring role in its campaign to support the launch of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Duracell has been partnering with Disney since 2015, and there continues to be a “strong link” between the brands, says Jouanneau.

“Batteries don’t exist without the devices they power and toys account for the main bulk of battery consumption,” she says.

“The second reason I honestly enjoy working so much with Disney is that they have very high standards when it comes to protecting their assets, as do we. I protect my assets because the way the bunny looks in UK, Mexico, Australia, Korea is exactly the same so I have a great respect for our partners that take a firm stand on protecting their assets. It’s so important.”

Jouanneau heads up marketing in 81 markets, everywhere apart from North America and Canada, which is significant as the Duracell bunny is not present in those two markets as rival battery brand Energizer uses a bunny in its marketing there “and we’re very respectful of that” she says.

Having a view over such a breadth of countries allows her to see certain common needs among consumers, namely the desire for a long-lasting battery. But not all markets are the same when it comes to media spend or activity.

“We typically organise the markets by market prototypes. The big markets will get the design leads and the markets that have similar characteristics will follow. This way, on one hand you really stay true to the consumer needs and the brand but you also balance very wisely the point of skill versus local relevance,” she says.

“One size doesn’t fit all but typically you will find – depending on the size of the business – three to eight market archetypes that others can follow, which makes my life a bit easier.”

Redrawing the line

Jouanneau describes marketing as “the leading internal thought leadership function” at P&G but as Berkshire Hathaway is primarily a financial institution she says she has had to “redraw the line” when it comes to marketing expertise as the brand no longer has the luxury of a large, company-wide marketing infrastructure.

“At P&G we were all lucky and cushioned because we had an expert for every single enquiry. Now, it’s much more about self-sourcing and learning as well as calling on external experts, be it agencies or thought leadership.”

She believes this is fuelled by the fact marketers today need to master 360 things to be an expert, compared to the 40 marketing disciplines she was urged to master when she started her career.

“At P&G there would be marketing and other business functions like sales or general management [on one side of the line] and on the other side there would be agency partners. The line was very clearly drawn between internal versus external. That line could be called compensation,” she explains.

“I realised I couldn’t draw the line in the same place any more as no one has the knowledge of all 360 disciplines, so I have redrawn the line. Now on one side there is finance, sales and other business functions, while marketing, which is my brand people and agency, is on the other side. It’s no longer about compensation, because it’s just a different way of paying your brand team versus paying your agency. But the line has changed from compensation into expertise because we collectively serve the company.”

READ MORE: How marketing is changing and why agencies are not keeping pace

As part of Jouanneau’s decision to declutter the business she has cut the number of agencies and services the brand uses by around 40%, which she believes has had a positive impact.

“Discontinuing this 40% has actually made my relationship stronger with the remaining partners,” she says. “This hasn’t affected our relationship with Grey London but it has changed with some other agencies.

“A practical example would be that in the past I would be given an account team or creative team, and I would just accept it because it was the service you were given. The way I see it now, I will always request to interview the person [we’re expected to work with]. Maybe not a formal interview but at least connecting to see if they fit with my business or not. Because again by redrawing the line there is no difference to me whether you are on my payroll or retainer at the end of the day.”

Areas for growth

Jouanneau claims that batteries as a category is the second most penetrated category after toilet paper. If you then look at key consumption drivers, such as the toy market, which grows at about 3% each year, “by default battery consumption follows”, she says.

Another key area for growth within the category is the internet of things. “In order to operate smart homes, you need to have devices equipped with sensors,” she says. “The average device has seven sensors so every product coming to market will need at least seven batteries. It’s a different type of battery – it’s a button rather than a standard disposable battery, but that’s an enormous market and it’s really growing exponentially.”

Currently, 80% of the Duracell business is focused on traditional batteries, with 20% dedicated to newer types of battery.

Another area of focus is sustainability, which comes back to the brand’s view on the planet – one of Jouanneau’s 7Ps.

In addition to getting consumers to recycle old batteries, she says Duracell is dedicated to minimising waste in the first place by increasing battery life and ensuring consumers get the most from the product, which is where its PowerCheck feature comes in.

“On average, about one in three batteries gets thrown away with power still inside. PowerCheck makes sure you use battery to the full, which is part of the business model and overall recycling initiative in the UK,” she concludes.

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