Atkinson came to Energizer 15 years ago, priding herself on being “a true brand lover at heart.” She held a series of jobs within the company, such as marketing, sales, brand development, licensing and in-store visibility. She then became the CCO and continues to dedicate her efforts to making Energizer the No. 1 brand in batteries and portable lights and successfully expanding the brand into innovative, related categories via licensing.
While it was not always named Energizer, the company created the battery category more than 100 years ago when W.H. Lawrence invented the first dry cell battery for consumer use. In 1905, he teamed up with Conrad Hubert, who used Lawrence’s batteries to power his electrical hand torch – the first-ever flashlight – to form what was then known as the American Ever Ready Company. This strong foundation would lead the way to Eveready and Energizer, an Energizer Holdings Inc. partnership that continues to innovate today. From a brand perspective, the company has been behind the majority of world’s firsts in the battery category, such as the first miniature hearing aid batteries, the first 9-volt battery and the first alkaline battery. It was also the first to bring zero mercury to battery construction.
“Any first that’s been done has been led by us and that’s what sets us apart,” Atkinson explains. “We’re focused on bringing innovation to the category. We’re continuing to bring innovation to market that meets consumers’ needs and creates value for the business.” She says this goes beyond the core. “Licensing offers us a fantastic opportunity to strategically expand our brands into innovative product categories that make sense for the brands and consumers.”
Beyond Long Lasting
This year Energizer launched its latest innovation, Energizer® EcoAdvanced® batteries, the world’s first AA battery made with 4 percent recycled batteries. While the product’s environmental impact is important, the most impressive fact about the EcoAdvanced® battery is that it is also Energizer’s highest-performing alkaline battery to date, powering consumers’ devices while having less impact on the planet compared to Energizer’s other alkaline batteries which contain no recycled content.
“Industry experts long believed it was impossible to create a battery made with recycled batteries while maintaining performance,” Atkinson says. “Our scientists welcomed the challenge and spent the past seven years creating just that.”
Energizer’s vision is for the EcoAdvanced® battery to be made with 40 percent recycled batteries by 2025. Energizer scientists created proprietary partnerships and an innovative approach that refined and transformed recycled battery material into a high-performance active ingredient. This ingredient, used in conjunction with energy rings, results in a long-lasting battery that has less impact on the environment than Energizer’s other alkaline batteries because it requires less mining of pure material and reduces the amount of batteries consumers need overall.
The company has been a leader in shaping the collection and recycling of batteries for several years. Energizer founded The Corporation for Battery Recycling to ensure recycling of batteries is done in an environmentally positive way. Thankfully, recycling technologies have advanced to be able to recover a higher quantity and quality of battery materials through proper processing techniques.
The push for performance plus responsibility applies to the licensing program, as well.
“The more our licensed partners are aligned with our innovation strategy, the better it is for both the brands and consumers,” Atkinson adds.
Energizer works hard to put its products in front of consumers in the best retail locations. To do this, the company gets inside the mind of a shopper. For example, Energizer did a tagging study where it placed different products throughout different sections of a store. The company found that customers were purchasing more Ultimate Lithium™ batteries, Energizer’s longest-lasting battery, in the book department. With this knowledge, the company figured these shoppers are likely shopping slowly and meticulously, perhaps even picking up each product to read the description and benefits.
“We can understand those shoppers and their mindset throughout the location of the retailers,” Atkinson explains. “And what’s the most compelling message that we have? To meet their needs, drive multiple purchases and find the right battery for their devices.”
But the world has changed drastically since the first battery was created more than 100 years ago. How can Energizer drive more customers to its product? Atkinson explains that it’s a three-fold process with devices, demographics and disasters.
Devices have been the greatest change in the last 10 years with more consumers recharging their power sources via wall and USB chargers. Many people do not own devices that are solely battery powered. Digital cameras used to be a top contender for batteries, but most people take photos on their phones now. However, Atkinson is seeing changes with new technologies and devices that are smarter and can communicate with each other. “These devices have most recently utilized battery-on-board systems – rechargeable lithium-ion-type batteries,” Atkinson explains. “Now, we’re seeing some of these devices move toward the use of primary batteries, which could help drive growth.”
Energizer sees that older consumers are driving its battery business more than younger demographics, given their focus and engagement with health devices. Most of those are battery powered, which could change in the future, but for now the company can market to consumers engaged with healthcare.
Lastly, batteries can have a major, sometimes life-saving impact during disasters. Without a battery-powered fire alarm, a fire could destroy a home and lives. When the power goes out, a battery-powered flashlight can help people navigate when their phones die. If someone’s heart stops, EMTs use a battery-powered defibrillator to restart it.
Batteries may be less necessary in our device- driven world, but they still have great value that Energizer will continue to emphasize. And Energizer will continue to seek out partners that align and strengthen its licensing and brand in an increasingly evolving market.
Internally, the Energizer company operates a lot like its brand. Everyone on the Energizer team is always working to bring about more innovation and to make things better and different in ways that are relevant both internally and externally with consumers. “We’re just really making sure we continue to stay innovative, focus on important things and move with a level of urgency given how fast things in the world change today,” Atkinson says.
In July, Energizer’s household products and personal care divisions became two separate, independent companies under parent company Energizer Holdings Inc. The personal care products, such as Schick, Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat, are under the Edgewell umbrella, while household products remain with Energizer.
A global company like Energizer separating its processes, IT services, brands and more can be overwhelming, especially when the company still has a business to run while launching new products around the world.
“We got through the separation successfully, grew our marketshare and launched the EcoAdvanced® battery,” Atkinson says. “We just focused on the most important things we needed to do during so much change and transition and got through it.”
One of the challenges the Energizer team faced during the launch of EcoAdvanced® involved winning the confidence of consumers in the breakthrough technology. Being transparent with retailers and consumers by providing the data and analytics to back up EcoAdvanced® batteries helped launch the product and it’s a proven example of how to tell the whole story for any future innovations or in any part of the business going forward. That includes the rapidly growing licensing component – a strategic focus for Energizer.
“We’ve been really clear about our strategies and how to bring innovation to market,” Atkinson says. “The unified Energizer team is a strong example of why I like working here. One of the driving factors of that is because of our one, unified team that is focused in one direction. And they do it better than anyone I’ve ever seen do it.”
The company applies the strength of its Energizer and Eveready brands to its marketing strategies, including licensing. The company currently has 24 licensed partners around the world in categories such as mobile power and accessories, gaming, photographic accessories, generators and power inverters.
The program is growing rapidly. This past year, License! Global Magazine recognized Energizer as one of the world’s top 150 licensors with nearly $250 million in global retail sales.
Every two years, Energizer holds a licensing summit to share the company’s plans for the brands and collaborate with their partners. “They understand the value of the brands and what we’re bringing,” Atkinson explains. “This is a seamless partnership and they’re part of the Energizer family.”
Energizer’s licensing program is certainly successful, thanks in large part to support from the company’s leadership. “Of course,” Atkinson says, “it really comes down to our partners. Their passion for product innovation and quality, as well as their passion for our brands drives the program’s success.”
One of its recent licensing successes was a 10-pack of solar landscape path lights in three different colors by licensee Alpan Lighting, Inc. The product was released on QVC in April. Multiple installments showcasing the product were planned throughout the day, but it sold out completely within the first eight hours and the copper color sold out in the first hour during the midnight airing. In the end, Alpan and Energizer sold 6,000 10-packs in just eight hours.
“The product was a really strong proposition in terms of what the product looked like and the Energizer® brand just strengthened it,” Atkinson explains.
The iconic Energizer Bunny also strengthens the brand. The mascot has been around since its television commercial debut in 1989. Since then, the Energizer Bunny has become known throughout households nationwide, establishing an emotional connection to the Energizer brand.
“We can really strengthen our relationship and innovation with our brand lovers through the Energizer Bunny,” Atkinson says. “He makes all the difference because Energizer really is about being innovative and bringing world’s firsts to market. We have more innovation coming next year, so stay tuned. But we’re always focusing on making sure we are providing long-lasting products to our brand lovers.”
Energizer, Energizer Bunny design, and certain graphic designs are trademarks of Energizer Brands, LLC and related subsidiaries.