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How Manuka Health is rewriting its honey brand’s playbook

Could life be sweet with Manuka Health’s honey post-pandemic?

The Drum finds out how Manuka Health, a leading New Zealand natural health company, plans to make its eponymous honey stand out as the appetite for immunity-building food items sees a huge surge.

Creating a powerful brand in a busy and largely commoditized category like honey is a challenging task for any marketer. After all, most honey looks the same color and tastes the same, barring the odd dash of flavor added, making it a challenging task for a honey brand to stand out amongst a sea of seemingly similar offerings.

Manuka Health, a premium natural bee products company founded in 2006 in New Zealand, has plans to make a big play in this tough category. It recently launched its first global campaign to beef up its global footprint and raise awareness for the many natural benefits of its rare Manuka honey line, especially in a post-pandemic world where people are looking at new ways to boost their immunity. “Our job was to present ourselves in a way that makes it clear to the consumer what this product could do for them, and why this is no regular honey”, shares Anya Saikkonen, global marketing manager, Manuka Health NZ in an exclusive chat with The Drum.

The campaign

To ‘bee’ or not to be

While the brand has been around for almost 15 years, what makes this the right time to launch its global campaign? Anya Saikkonen, global marketing manager, Manuka Health NZ, shares: “Our insights with consumers across our key markets show us that increasingly people are looking for natural solutions to protect their immunity, a trend that has been amplified during the pandemic.”

The product brings the best of both worlds – a naturally potent product that also happens to be a food, and one that tastes great and can be integrated easily into daily routines, she adds. Due to the pandemic, people are actively seeking natural health products that can protect and enhance their wellbeing – a trend that is being seen across the globe.

What makes Manuka honey different

“It certainly isn’t your simple table honey,” says Saikkonen, but one that has been scientifically researched for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties as well as its natural health properties. These special properties come from the bee sourcing the nectar from the Manuka tree flower, she adds.

The Manuka tree, native to New Zealand, flowers for only about six weeks in a year in remote terrain, often only accessible by helicopter and 4WD vehicles. All these make it a premium product compared to table honey, says Saikkonen.

The tough part of marketing this sweet category

The product has to navigate the journey of a premium brand sitting in the honey aisle next to regular table honey. “Awareness of Manuka honey is still low in many of our markets,” admits Saikkonen, which also provides a huge opportunity to unlock the brand’s potential. There is a big opportunity here and with increased awareness and education, the brand hopes to show its value in people’s daily health and wellbeing regimes.

Show me the honey

It was important to establish a distinctive look and feel for the campaign that would capture consumer attention in the cluttered health and wellness category, shares Saikkonen. “In addition, it was also key to have a flexible system that would be appealing to and easily localized for the different global markets.”

Manuka Health onboarded VSA Partners, a US-based brand strategy and design agency, to conceptualize the integrated global campaign. The campaign was created keeping in mind the need to educate and tell a functional product story given the low awareness that the category faces, in a way that also emotionally connects with consumers, says Saikkonen. Also, because Manuka honey is a food product, the regulatory environment makes the storytelling restrictive, which also had to be taken into account.

For now, the campaign has been also rolled out in China and the USA, along with the home market of New Zealand, and there are plans to launch in other focus markets as well. Manuka Health operates in 45 countries around the world with North America, Europe, China and Japan being key markets for the brand.