Beck: Hi Ernie. Thanks for spending a little time with me today.
Petrus: Hi Doug. Glad to be here, thanks for the invitation.
Beck: How long have you been with Energizer?
Petrus: 23 years with Energizer and the last five years Ive been with the Miniature Battery Division.
Beck: What percentage of the total battery business is the miniature battery business?
Petrus: About 8 percent or so of our total sales are miniature batteries. The household batteries, like sizes AA, AAA, C and D, are the majority of our business.
Beck: I noticed that Energizer is working with H.E.A.R. to help promote hearing protection for musicians and music fans. Can you please tell me about that?
Petrus: Sure Doug. What youre referring to is our Energizer EZ Change Its Hip to Hear program, for which weve engaged rock star Pat Benatar as our national spokesperson. The goal of this national cause-related program is to educate baby boomers and others about the importance of hearing health awareness, prevention and treatment. We are trying to remove the barriers related to getting hearing healthcare by educating baby boomers about the importance of managing their hearing health. Energizer recently conducted a survey of boomers which found that only one percent rank hearing loss as a health concern and almost half say they are not at all worried about hearing loss. This is a troubling since 16 million baby boomers currently suffer from hearing damage and there are more baby boomers with hearing loss than people over the age of 65.
Another big focus of the Energizer EZ Change Its Hip to H.E.A.R. program is to eliminate the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. You know the numbers, only about 1 out of every 5 people that could benefit from hearing aids is using them, and we really should be able to do better than that both within the hearing health industry, and as a society!
Beck: What can you tell me about Pat Benatar and her relationship with the program?
Petrus: Well, shes a multi-Grammy Award winner, and a great spokesperson for the Energizer EZ Change Its Hip to H.E.A.R. program because she knows firsthand the risks of hearing loss. Many of Pats friends in the industry have suffered permanent hearing damage, and she has taken proactive steps throughout her 25 year career to prevent hearing loss. Baby boomers are the first generation to really grow up with rock and roll, and Pat wants to help educate them about the importance of protecting their hearing health to maintain their quality of life.
Beck: Does Ms. Benatar have hearing loss?
Petrus: No. Pat has been very smart because both she and her husband have taken proactive steps throughout their 25-year careers to protect their hearing health
Beck: Let me change topics to a related issue -- Can you please tell me how Energizer got involved with H.E.A.R.?
Petrus: Sure, H.E.A.R. actually is an acronym, that stands for Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers. I urge the readers to visit their website, www.hearnet.com. , It really is lots of fun, and they have tons of great information on music, audiologist referrals and hearing loss prevention.
H.E.A.R. is a grassroots organization that pounds out the protect your hearing message to the entire music industry and the fans. The non-profit organization was the perfect partner for our national cause program because they share our mission to educate people about the importance of hearing health awareness and treatment. By combining our resources, we are creating a loud voice that we feel will be very successful in delivering our message.
Beck: And if I recall, H.E.A.R. was actually launched with a donation by Peter Townshend of the WHO.
Petrus: H.E.A.R. receives the support of many musicians in the music industry, as well as audiologists, physicians, hearing health organizations and health manufacturers.
Beck: Ernie, for audiologists and dispensers that would like to get involved with the Its Hip to Hear program, what do they do?
Petrus: The Energizer EZ Change Its Hip to Hear program offers a really exciting opportunity for audiologists . To become involved, all the audiologist has to do is sign up to be part of the H.E.A.R. Partners program, a national network of hearing professionals and other concerned individuals who support the H.E.A.R. mission. For a discounted fee of $99 during the month of May, audiologists will receive a special one-year membership that includes online business listings on the referral section of the H.E.A.R. Web site which receives more than 7 million hits a year and an Energizer EZ Change display for their offices. It is a wonderful program and certainly does generate referrals. In fact, at the recent AAA in Salt Lake City, one audiologist from New Hampshire told me she got 8 referrals last year from the H.E.A.R. partnership.
Beck: Very good, sounds pretty easy. Before I let you run, what can you tell me about the EZ Change battery?
Petrus: EZ Change is doing exceptionally well in retail outlets. We recently ran a focus group of audiologists and dispensers, and although they had heard of the product, and some of them had it in their office, none of them were actually promoting it in their offices.
Beck: That mustve been a surprise!
Petrus: Yes it was. The professionals perceive that EZ Change was too difficult, too expensive and that their older, or perhaps more frail patients wouldnt be able to use it. But in reality, it was designed to be, and is easier to use than spin packs!
Beck: So as the Director of Sales and Marketing, that mustve been a rather disheartening message to hear!
Petrus: Yes, it was initially, but then when the professionals tried it, they were shocked. It really was so easy and simple to use, it definitely is the most convenient way to change your hearing aid battery. The cost of EZ Change is just a small premium over spin packs for consumers, yet it provides an significant solution,. Every one of the professionals in the focus group admitted they hadnt previously opened the package and had never actually used the product themselves, but once they realized the ease of use and the utility of the EZ Change, they each decided it was something they would promote to their patients.
Beck: What did you learn from that experience?
Petrus: We learned that the professionals really need to try it, they need to touch it and see what its like. We also learned that some folks dont really read instructions!
But now that we know that, weve got a large scale demonstration tool that were looking to provide to help the professionals teach the patients how easy it is to use the EZ Change dispenser. In fact, the patients never have to touch (or drop) a battery or tab again.
Beck: Im not gonna touch that comment about not reading instructions but I will admit to being a male, and in general, our gender is not well known for reading instructions! I must admit, if I had to explain to you how to tie a shoe, or make a proper knot in a tie, and if I had to write it down, it would take pages and pages, and it would look so complicated, but of course, as soon as you actually do it, its a snap.
Petrus: Thats what we found too. EZ Change is a very visual product and needs to be demonstrated in order for people to understand its value. Interestingly, in the retail segment, the big national retail stores that offer the EZ Change and spin packs, as well as other brands, about 1 in 5 consumers choose the EZ Change. Many patients prefer it to the spin packs, even though they are not dexterity challenged, they use it because it is convenient and they dont have loose batteries in their pocket or purse*. Since its introduction two years ago, AC Nielsen figures show that EZ Change has driven some 93 percent of the growth in the retail market, and EZ Change alone has a market share greater than some of our major competitors.
Beck: So youre saying that consumers, without professional guidance or intervention are picking the EZ Change in the big box retail centers?
Petrus: Absolutely - and thats why it is so important to offer EZ Change in the office. Consumers are going to buy it somewhere, why not from their hearing professional?
Beck: Ernie what does your research tell you about the reasons people shop for, and purchase particular batteries?
Petrus: Our independent research (Grapentine Co. Inc.) indicates there are five reasons people shop around for hearing aid batteries. The first is people who need a solution to changing batteries due to challenges related to dexterity. The second is convenience, meaning the physical location of the office or store, as well as the ease with which one can change the battery. The 3rd group are those loyal to long lasting brands, or perceived performance of batteries. The 4th issue is price, those who choose only on price and then you have the 5th group that buys based on loyalty to their hearing healthcare professional.
Beck: So the bottom line is the professionals ought to offer more and broader choices in the office?
Petrus: Thats right. They like choices, they like brand names, and items that provide convenience or solutions. If youre not offering what they want , theyll just buy it somewhere else. The consumers vote with their dollars, and thats why the retail market is growing, by offering choices.
Beck: Thanks for your time Ernie. You guys have done a great job with the Its Hip to H.E.A.R. program, and thanks to you and Energizer for supporting these outreach programs.
Petrus: Thank you too Doug. I appreciate the opportunity to tell the Audiology Online readers about our exciting program and product.
For more information about H.E.A.R., visit Hip-To-Hear.
Beck: Hi Ernie. Thanks for spending a little time with me today.