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Kiwi-owned wellness and skincare brand me|today may have a quirky name, but its export marketing strategy is rock solid, thanks to the international experience of its three directors.

Officially launched on the New Zealand market in October 2018, wellness and skincare brand me|today wasted no time in researching the potential of offshore markets for its portfolio of products.

This is largely due to the trio behind the brand – Grant Baker, Michael Kerr and Stephen Sinclair – who are all heavyweights in the wellness industry, and have experience with other well-known international brands, some of which had originated out of New Zealand – the likes of 42Below and Trilogy.

So how did this mix of a new health and wellness brand and some of the best business brains out there come about? NZBusiness went to Michael Kerr for an explanation. He had worked for several great multinationals who made good products, such as Swisse, but not a lot of them were coming out of New Zealand.

“This frustrated me, especially since New Zealand is so well known to be clean and green and has, in my opinion, some of the best natural resources available in the world,” says Michael. “Why wouldn’t you want more of what we have to offer?”

Creating a health and wellness brand from New Zealand made sense and could ultimately be the platform to do this from, he says. Then when his wife’s battle with breast cancer gave him the incentive to take action, he thought, “why don’t we just do this as life is short”? 

The ‘we’ refers to himself, along with Steve and Grant – two people with whom he’d worked with previously and who felt the same way.

So Steve, Grant and Michael formed a company and the me|today range was developed.

The philosophy behind me|today is about providing products that work, whilst being as natural as possible, Michael explains.

“We also believe in keeping the environment in mind in everything we do, and we want to make as much product in New Zealand as possible.

“We want people to have a clean, modern option to purchase; one that they trust and believe in. “me|today is about looking after you so you can be here to look after others,” he says.

The range, which includes multivitamins and natural skincare products, was formulated in conjunction with qualified naturopaths, bioscience specialists and the required input from external regulatory consultants. New Zealand’s top contract manufacturers helped the company refine and produce the formulations.

Michael explains that me|today products are targeted at the so-called ‘skintellectual” consumer worldwide. “Skintellectuals are always looking for more,” says Michael. “And they will undoubtedly continue to change [in their needs].

“We absolutely know we have to change with them.”

 

Export lessons and strategies

Although the me|today directors have previously enjoyed solid success in bringing brands to life in other countries, they are conscious of how tough exporting can be. It requires good advice and plenty of investment, says Michael.

“Although we are lucky in New Zealand with access to advice through organisations such as NZTE. Outside of this sometimes good, reliable offshore advice is hard to come by, or is really expensive.”

He says me|today already have strong partners in a number of countries. They’re also very happy with the amount of interest in their products from overseas retailers and organisations. Interest has been shown from countries such as Australia, China, the US and UK.

“We hope to bring this great brand to life in one of these markets very soon.”

On China specifically, while cross-border e-commerce has allowed many foreign brands to access this market, Michael knows that what works today, may not work tomorrow.

“Our strategy, therefore, has to be really simple and involves ensuring that we remain true to our brand values.

“Ultimately the Chinese consumer wants products that work, and me|today provides that.”

Getting their products best represented in China’s crowded e-commerce environment is all about using established channels and taking on board plenty of informed advice.

“If we look back at how China’s e-commerce environment was grown from a New Zealand brand’s perspective it was through the phenomenon of the ‘daigou’ or local Chinese shopper who buys on behalf of individuals, who then sell the products on platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao.

“Although it’s different times for daigou now, these people are still here in New Zealand and some are still very active in the China e-commerce space,” says Michael.

“Organisations such as Alibaba also have representatives in New Zealand and are happy to work with brands on their China strategy.

“I suppose, therefore, it is really just exporting and comes back to good, reliable advice.

“These people and organisations hold the knowledge and are experts in what they do,” says Michael. “We just need to work with them, listen to them, and use the strength of the brand we have and the relationships, to help pave the way to success through China’s e-commerce platforms.”

 

How to succeed in exporting

It generally takes time to succeed in overseas markets, says Michael.

“If you think you can do it in 12 months, double it. Make it 24 as there will almost always be stumbling blocks; hurdles that you hadn’t expected.

“We are also a small country in the scheme of things and often you will be taking your brand or product into much bigger markets.

“Therefore to succeed you will probably need a much bigger budget than in New Zealand.

With all this said, however, often your concerns don’t eventuate, he explains.

“As long as you have the right partner or backing in the country you are looking at exporting to.”

 

Story by Glenn Baker, editor of NZBusiness and exportertoday.wpenginepowered.com This story also appears in the February 2020 issue of NZBusiness.

Glenn Baker

Professional writer/editor with 35-plus years experience - including radio copywriting, various television writing/production roles, and writing for business magazines. I have also co-owned a wholesale food distribution business.

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