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Why Holland & Barrett is moving away from promotion-led marketing

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By Hannah Bowler | Senior Reporter

January 25, 2024 | 7 min read

In a cost of living crisis when retailers are competing to be the best value on the high street, the retailer is instead asserting itself as a leader in the health and wellness sector.

Holland & Barrett staff member stood outside the store

Holland & Barrett January campaign to spotlight gut health remedies

The last time Holland & Barratt advertised on TV it was plugging its penny sale, the promotion its head of marketing and communications Sarah Moores admits it has become synonymous with.

Now though, with a £350m transformation investment behind it and burgeoning health and wellness market to capitalize on, Holland & Barrett has a newfound confidence to market itself beyond price.

“It’s safe to say Holland & Barrett has been fairly promotionally and transactionally driven for a number of years prior to this,” says Moores. “People knew us, and still know us, for the penny sale, but that isn't necessarily the way in which we are positioning ourselves now.”

Holland & Barrett wants to cement itself as a brand that can help to make health and wellness a way of life for everybody and to add quality to years of life, says Moores.

This business proposition will be articulated through a “mission focused” marketing strategy. This means segmenting up the “unmet” health needs of the British public and showing that Holland & Barrett has the solutions to them.

Gut, immunity, sleep, women’s health and movement are currently the key “missions” it will be marketing around in its switch away from value-led communications. For example, in July, Holland & Barrett invested £2m in the 'Every Menopause Matters' campaign.

Its strategy shift contrasts with many retailers that have kicked off the New Year with price-led campaigns, especially in the grocery sector with the likes of Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all touting their value credentials. Recent IPA Bellwether reports have also warned about retailers’ overreliance on sales and promotions during the economic downturn and the potential long-term risk to this type of messaging.

While Moores affirms that value is still an important message to land, she wants consumers to know what Holland & Barrett stands for and what its core offering is. Price can be communicated after. “When wellness is so top of mind for the individual, we want to be the first brand to mind,” she adds.

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The brand repositioning is part of a bigger £350m transformation plan for the health and wellness retailer. The investment includes a revamp of its high street stores, improvements to its e-commerce offering and its recently launched fresh food range.

On the push into food, Moores says the move has helped to “re-engage lapsed customers.” Holland & Barrett’s core products are vitamins and supplements that often cover customers for multiple months, making for infrequent visits to stores. Now though, she says: ”There has been a significant increase in those people shopping more frequently for food and coming back into our stores.” While she doesn’t disclose figures, she teases there have been strong sales since the September launch.

A new year, a new gut

Gut health is the focus of Holland & Barrett’s January campaign, with the retailer investing £4m in above-the-line activity that is centred on a 60-second ad.

The TV spot weaves together different moments in one woman’s day where she can help her gut with different Holland & Barrett products. The ad is supported by 30-second cut downs running on VOD as well as radio ads, social and online advertising.

The campaign was inspired by an increase in Google and social media search data about gut health and a Holland & Barrett survey that found 55% of people are now more actively aware of their gut health than last year. “Gut health is the shiny thing people are talking about right now,” says Moores.

Holland & Barrett also struck a content deal with The Guardian for an educational series on gut health. “There is a big education gap on gut health. Working with The Guardian helps to provide that credibility and also that reach of audience to provide education around how you can get good gut health and how Holland & Barrett can help support that as well.”

Following this gut-focused campaign, Moores’s always-on marketing plan will then move to spotlight the other key wellness areas, including immunity, sleep and women’s health.

“Covid has democratized wellness at a scale we as a business wouldn’t be able to do. Now, people have got more of an increased focus on their own self-care and wellness, so it’s a really important time for a brand like ours to support consumers.”

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