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Tugging on the heartstrings is a common marketing tactic around the holidays. For some, the sappier the ad, the better. But not all categories chase those sentimental highs.
Duracell has typically leaned into the product side of messaging for the occasion. The brand is, after all, positioned around utility. Batteries are more often used to power decorations and presents left under the Christmas tree than serve as gifts themselves.
But the marketer switched up its approach this year with a campaign centered on nostalgia and the bonds shared between parents and children. The creative, which includes videos stitched together from real home movies, was developed with Wieden + Kennedy New York. The agency won the Duracell business back in 2016 and sees the latest execution as a break from its past work for the battery marketer.
“The ask was specific where they wanted to be a little bit more emotional and speak to the consumers a little bit differently,” said Randy Diaz, art director at Wieden + Kennedy NY.
A blessing and a curse
The independent shop received the brief back in April, giving the project a long gestation period. With help from sourcing firm Stalkr, Diaz and his team began combing through platforms like YouTube to find relevant videos, eventually accruing hundreds of clips. Actually editing that raw material into a coherent narrative was a challenge but proved illuminating.
“Because it's original content, you can cut it any which way,” said Diaz. “It's a gift and a curse.”
The time-intensive process reinforced Duracell’s established legacy with the holidays. The brand would crop up in grainy camcorder footage from back in the day along with modern vertical videos. That throughline served as the basis of the campaign’s core emotive pillar around parents and how traditions are passed down between generations.
“We started realizing a lot of these videos have Duracell in them. This brand has been around for Christmas for a long time,” said Diaz. “When we were going into the editing, it was more like we needed to bring an emotional story to that historical place. That's where we started focusing on the parents.”
Switching up strategy
The “Duracell Memories” spot, which went live in November, has 30-second versions running on broadcast and digital, 15-second versions for cinemas and digital and 6-second versions for digital and social. Just as the emotional bent of the ads differs from past Duracell campaigns, the brand is also changing its approach to social for the holidays.
The media blitz this year includes a March Madness-style Twitter bracket where people can vote on their favorite battery-powered toys, with picks inspired by throwback products like the original Nintendo Game Boy, Bop It and Furby. The goal is to stoke a friendly sense of competition as people reminisce about their preferred gifts growing up.
Bodega, a division of Wieden + Kennedy that helps brands with organic social strategy and tapping into cultural trends, brought the concept to life with Duracell.
“[The bracket] is coming from a desire to not just be running a TV commercial on social and calling it a day, but creating something that can live in a more bespoke way to the platform that it's on,” said Mike Vitiello, head of content at Bodega.
The rollout of the bracket happened to coincide with Twitter transitioning to new ownership under Elon Musk, a change that’s led many brands to jump ship over brand safety concerns. Duracell decided to stay the course while monitoring the situation closely, according to Vitiello, who noted that polls act as a low-lift engagement driver.
“People love to shout their opinion into the void,” said Vitiello. “If they can do it by just clicking one button also, it's even easier.”
Taking things to the lab
While the Twitter element caters to millennial tastes through throwback toys from decades past, Duracell is targeting Gen Z on TikTok to “live more in the present,” per Vitiello. The marketer is a relatively new entrant on the teen-favorite app. In September, it opened a Duracell Labs creator program that brings in tech enthusiasts to work on DIY and life-hack content involving batteries.
Duracell Labs’ role around the holidays is twofold: The group is working to create moments of awe, bringing kids into its working space and asking them to describe their ideal battery-powered toy. Engineers will then bring their pitches to life and capture their reactions as their dream gift is realized in time for Christmas.
Another program is more “campaign-agnostic,” according to Vitiello, with creators souping up holiday decor and trying other tech experiments. This portion seeks to be evergreen, aligning with Bodega’s larger mandate around enabling brands to carve out a niche in internet culture for the long haul.
“Part of that is also giving yourself legs to get out of nostalgia land,” said Vitiello of the TikTok component. “When you think of batteries, it's quite easy for your mind to go to Game Boy and Lite Brite and all the toys that are bringing so much joy to this campaign idea. But we want to ensure that the brand’s not only living in the past.”