Battery manufacturer Varta wanted to draw attention to itself and has proclaimed an “Independence Day”

The announcements were pithy: “Today is Independence Day”, announced the battery manufacturer Varta in the social networks. Then came the explanation: “Freedom and independence are key demands of the 21st century. Technological progress knows no boundaries. And finally the link to the manufacturer: “Empowering independence – Varta”.

So, thought the observer, and now comes something great. Battery technology is one of the technological drivers of the transport shift towards e-mobility, the topic is present and progress announced by one of the leading companies in the field in particular is indeed news. But the clip ended after only eight seconds with a date announcement for April. What was left behind were perplexed consumers.

Jumped as a tiger, but…:

This impression took root, and anyone who has studied the basics of marketing understands why. Marketing should first and foremost create trust, provide orientation and offer a perspective, which then leads to the desired effects on the next level – in the areas of customer loyalty and acquisition, increased sales and improved image.

The creators of the campaign have almost textbooked how to generate interest and attention. Independence Day plays with echoes of the science fiction classic, one looks forward to “great cinema”, so to speak. Interest is also quickly aroused: When a company like Varta announces a day like this, it also plays on primal fears of suddenly being without electricity in one’s electric car. Probably no e-car driver feels really independent…

But then the chain breaks. Where are advertising impact and interest directed? That remains a mystery. And the only action at the end of the big announcement is: “Save the date!”

If one relates the announcement to the overriding goals of a campaign according to Edward K. Strong, Jr. The Psychology of Selling and Advertising, the spot is completely unmasked: instead of creating trust, uncertainty is produced, instead of orientation, perplexity remains (“What do they want?”), and instead of a valid perspective through innovation, a bubble is created (“That’s it?”).

The reactions on the net were devastating: “What a load of crap. Huge expectations were raised. And? … nothing,” was a typical comment. Another: “It’s really pathetic to start such a hype, and then such an air act.” Varta itself had to face the storm of indignation to communicate what it was all about: “Our new brand identity is something special for us that we wanted to share with you.” Instead, the share price fell.

What went wrong? One can assume that Varta’s success, which is currently based primarily on the production of rechargeable batteries for the booming wireless headphones, actually led to a vision in the company’s boardrooms of being a driver of “independence” – and in a sense, a rather missionary statement was to be produced past the practical needs of marketing.

But so far it has been filled with nothing. Especially against the backdrop of Corona, however, it is clear that a fundamental rethink is needed in brand management.

Brands must succeed in putting the “big picture” above their own size. It is no longer about self-dramatisation and self-heroisation in order to impress target groups by demonstrating one’s own greatness. Rather, it is necessary to see oneself as part of a larger whole and to contribute to the development of people in the sense of motivation or empowerment. This positioning on purpose is especially crucial in Corona times (cf. “Global Viral Change” (2020) Rochus Winkler, Dirk Ziems and Thomas Ebenfeld).

Here, the “charging” of independence with the help of Varta may still fit into the picture. But there is a hitch in the fulfilment of the promise. In future, brands will be challenged to establish a qualitative understanding of growth that is not geared towards short-term profit, but towards a sustainable increase in brand value. The decisive factor is that a coherent development of the brand personality is indispensable for success.

And coherence is what the Varta declaration of independence lacks so far. It is an announcement whose meaning and purpose remain hidden from the observer. It is doubtful whether it will be possible to keep up the tension until 9 April, the announced “Explorer Day”. It looks more as if the campaign will run out of juice before then. It seems more important for the company to enter into the long-awaited cooperation with an electric car manufacturer in order to provide the battery know-how for the production of electric cars. Only then would the promise of Indepedence be fulfilled.

More information on advertising impact tests in Corona times: Rochus.Winkler@conceptm.eu

For further questions please contact:

Thomas Ebenfeld
Managing Partner

Rochus Winkler
Managing Partner

Dirk Ziems
Managing Partner