Superbrands case studies: Duracell

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume V', March 2003. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.


Originally batteries were simply considered as things that powered electrical gadgets. They were kept under the counter at shops and only those fortunate enough to have such wonderful electrical items that required battery power, would ask to buy them.

The modern world now depends on batteries to power a wide range of items from personal stereos and remote controls, to toys, games and torches. Furthermore, batteries are no longer only of the zinc carbon variety, there is a vast choice of long lasting batteries including alkaline, lithium, lithium ion and nickel metal hydride. In short, batteries are now far superior to their predecessors.

The average household has over twenty battery-operated appliances including remote controls, alarm clocks, radios, smoke alarms, cameras and CD players. However, one third of all appliances lie idle for want of a battery, even though batteries are one of the most widely distributed products. Batteries are available in a vast array of retail outlets from newsagents to chemists and electrical shops to petrol stations.


Since its arrival in the UK, Duracell has made many significant accomplishments.

In the 1970s when Duracell made its UK debut, many people thought that alkaline batteries wouldn't catch on. Now around 80% of all batteries sold are alkaline, while zinc batteries continue to decline.

By the late 1980s Duracell had achieved the successful elimination of virtually all mercury from its batteries and in the same and subsequent periods made dramatic improvements to performance. In the three decades of Duracell history, the life expectancy of an AA cell has increased by nearly 100% while remaining much the same in terms of size and design.

In 1992, Duracell gained the British Standards Kitemark for product excellence and 1995 saw the introduction of titanium dioxide to its batteries, which acted as a catalyst to make the other ingredients work harder and give more power.

In 1996 the company resolved the previously unanswerable question -- 'When is the battery going to run out?' by introducing its Powercheck battery tester -- firstly on-pack then on the battery itself. Duracell made a further development in monitoring the lifespan of a battery by printing 'best before' dates on all packs and batteries.

At the turn of the new millennium, Duracell earned the prestigious Gold Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2002. The award for Best Event was presented to Duracell for its spectacular use of the London landmark, Battersea Power Station, when it launched its new range of Duracell Ultra M3 batteries. The former power station, which overlooks the River Thames, was transformed into four giant replica Duracell Ultra M3 batteries to celebrate the occasion.


The twenty first century marked the 200th birthday of the battery, which was invented in 1800 by Alessandro Volta who described it as a construction of an apparatus of unfailing charge, of perpetual power.

Early batteries were hardly the neat cylinders we know today. The Voltaic Pile battery, based on Volta's design, constructed in 1813 by Sir Humphrey Davy in the cellars of the Royal Institution in London, covered 889 square feet.

The first portable batteries were seen at the turn of the last century where they were used in conjunction with flashlights -- so called because the battery power could only sustain an intermittent light. By World War I, batteries were being used extensively in communication equipment and from there technology moved fast, simultaneously reducing the cell size and increasing its capacity.

The story of Duracell began in the early 1920s with an inventive scientist named Samuel Ruben and an eager manufacturer of tungsten filament wire named Philip Rogers Mallory. Ruben and Mallory united inventive genius with manufacturing muscle, which was the bedrock of Duracell International, revolutionising battery technology.

In the 1950s, Samuel Ruben went on to improve the alkaline manganese battery, making it more compact, durable, and longer lasting than anything before it. At about the same time, Eastman Kodak introduced cameras with a built-in flash unit that required more power than zinc carbon cells could provide. The cameras needed alkaline manganese cells but in a new size, the AAA -- this put alkaline cells on the map -- and the Duracell brand was introduced in 1964. Soon, the consumer market for Duracell batteries rocketed.


Duracell is well established as the world's number one battery brand. When it arrived in the UK 30 years ago, it created the first element of competition within the battery market. Consumers began switching to Duracell's alkaline batteries, due to the genuine longer lasting qualities.

Duracell batteries achieved a meteoric growth, which ran hand-in-hand with the development of more complex appliances that ran better on alkaline power than zinc. The personal stereo alone saw the demand for AA alkaline batteries escalate beyond anyones wildest marketing plans. Without alkaline batteries such as Duracell, it is questionable whether personal stereos would have caught on, as they required longer battery life to work well.

Duracell does not just manufacture alkaline batteries. The brand was at the forefront of lithium technology used primarily for photographic applications which allowed the surges of instant power required to operate several features simultaneously. Today, well over half of all new battery operated cameras use lithium power.

Recent developments

In 2001 Duracell launched Duracell UltraM3 and Duracell Plus.

The Duracell Ultra M3 range -- designed specifically for power hungry, 'high-drain devices offers more energy, more efficiency and more power versus standard Duracell batteries in high-drain devices.

The Duracell Plus range complements Duracell Ultra M3, providing long lasting, dependable power and quality across a wide range of everyday appliances.

Both Duracell Plus and Duracell Ultra M3 are available in sizes AA, AAA, C, D and 9V.

2003 sees the re-launch of Duracell Ultra M3 and Duracell Plus with improved technology. In addition, Duracell will be introducing a Colour Coding system to help consumers select battery sizes more easily. A fully co-ordinated launch with new packaging, point-of-sale material, promotions and advertising ensures selecting Duracell will be easier than ever before.


Duracell has consistently promoted itself as a long lasting battery brand. The line No ordinary battery looks like it or lasts like it was used in a long running statement in which consumers had great confidence. Now Duracell simply states Duracell Power. More Life. However, the overall message remains constant and it is this single-minded proposition used across all advertising, which despite the varied treatments of its campaigns has remained unchanged. Research by Millward Brown has shown that 79% of people consider Duracell to be the longest lasting battery and 70% said it is in a class of its own.

To mark the launch of Duracell Ultra M3 in July 2001, Duracell converted the chimneys of Battersea Power Station into four giant replica batteries. Using one of the UK's most famous power landmarks, the scale of the event was such that approximately two million people would have seen it over three days -- 4,500m2 of vinyl was used in the manufacture of the chimney covers, equivalent to an entire football pitch. The Battersea chimneys measured 40 meters high and four cranes were required to position the covers onto them.

Planning for the event did not go exactly according to schedule. The first attempt was halted after a pair of rare peregrine falcons was discovered nesting in one of the towers. Then, after later being given the go-ahead by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the project was threatened with a further delay by freak winds. However, the team worked around the clock to ensure the spectacular event went ahead. The campaign went on to win the prestigious 2001 Cannes Gold Lion award. Duracell sponsored the 2002 Fifa World Cup by offering new merchandising material, PR promotions and an on-pack promotion with Duracell Plus. Consumers could buy two packs of Duracell Plus AA size batteries and pick up a free Duracell Roaring Mini Football, which created the noise of a crowd each time it was thrown.

In the UK and Europe during autumn, Duracell announces results of an annual survey of the top ten toys. Voted for by children aged 7-11, it is the only pan-European toy survey of its kind that asks the users of toys -- children -- to nominate their favourite new toys. This gives the Duracell brand a valuable association with toys and gadgets, approaching the important Christmas selling period for batteries. This is the years single biggest battery sales opportunity as by value, over one third of all batteries are sold in the last three months of the year.

Once again Duracell pledged its support to the Governments on-going fire safety initiative, Fire Action Plan. During September and October 2002, Duracell worked with brigades and Kidde smoke alarms, to support the important issue of maintaining smoke alarms and checking and changing their (9V) batteries.

To conjure up associations with the brand other than that of a practical item, Duracell adopted, over 30 years ago, the endearing Duracell Bunny. The Bunny has prompted 85% recall among consumers, who immediately link the character to Duracell batteries.

He has been seen drumming, then boxing, canoeing, jetting into space, playing football (in celebration of Duracell's involvement with the 1998 and 2002 World Cups) and globetrotting complete with rucksack, heavy duty walking boots and protective peaked cap.

Brand values

Duracell is the number one alkaline battery brand in the world. The brand is a pioneer of new battery technology and has many groundbreaking technology launches to its name. The brand strives to ensure that consumers associate it with providing reliable, longer lasting batteries.

Things you didn't know

  • The smallest Duracell battery is the 317 watch battery weighing in at 0.19 grams and measuring just 5.5mm x 1.6mm.

  • One of the biggest Duracell batteries ever seen is 25 feet long -- and has travelled the length and breadth of the country on several occasions firstly promoting Powercheck and then Duracell Ultra.

  • Despite all the hundreds of battery sizes available, just five account for 95% of all batteries sold -- AA, AAA, C, D and 9V.

  • The Duracell Bunny has been seen playing football on Waterloo station waiting for the Eurostar to arrive to take fans to the 1998 World Cup.

  • 2003 sees the anniversary of the iconic Duracell Bunny as it celebrates its 30th birthday.

  • To celebrate the entry to the new millennium, the Duracell Ultra Bunny went on sale to the public for the first time.

    © 2003 Superbrands Ltd