Bee pirate

The honey pirates

How do you sell a product that people do not think is real? Building brand trust is crucial to making sales. Pirates of your brand can put all that in jeopardy.

When manufacturers create something great, there are always people who want to copy it.

This week I want to talk about how a brand can deal with pirates.

I have worked on all sorts of brands and tackled all sorts of problems, but this was a new one for me. Pirates in the high street.

The dark side of honey

I was recently asked to rewrite a website for Mānuka honey. What I found out was the honey industry is a murky world, there are a lot of honey pirates out there, selling knock-off honey. And that sends brand trust through the floor.

You have probably heard of knock-off Gucci bags and fake Rolexes; well honey has the same problems.

Mānuka honey is rare because the honey can only be made from the nectar of the Mānuka tree and only blossoms for 3 months in the year.

The company I was working for had 250g jars of Mānuka honey that sell for $250. This is liquid gold. It is not the honey that I put on my toast.

Hives are raided and stolen. And there is so much money to be made, unscrupulous pirates produce fake products. That confuses customers because they do not know who to trust.

4 out of 5 jars are fake

Mānuka trees are only found in New Zealand and each year, New Zealand produces about 1,700 tons of manuka honey, yet 10,000 tons of it are sold annually worldwide.

If you do the math, that means 4 out of 5 jars sold must be counterfeit.

Of course, not many people can afford a $250 jar of honey for their toast in the morning, so what happens is that some of the pure stuff is blended with other kinds of honey to make that limited supply stretch further.

And then there are those people who just add sugar syrup to the jar and label it Mānuka. They are the real pirates.

Building brand trust

For a copywriter that is a problem. People are automatically distrustful of what you have to say.

These are expensive, and exclusive luxury items.

You are asking people to pay a premium for honey, so one of the tasks will be to educate your audience about the benefits of Mānuka over normal honey. Why is it worth paying this huge price tag?

At the same time, you have to sell the benefit of the brand. Pure honey has nothing added to it, which means it should be almost identical to any other jar of Mānuka honey no matter what label it has.

This is where brand trust becomes so important.

Customers buy into your brand

The value of the product and the value of the brand are not the same thing.

A Seiko watch might keep just as good time as a Rolex, be just as durable and reliable but people will never pay the same price.

Then you have to persuade them that they are buying the real McCoy, not some knock-off.

Some people will buy knockoffs because they can’t afford the real thing but they know they are not getting the same value.

Expensive Mānuka honey has medicinal qualities, so it is pointless buying it to show off to your friends. It has to be the real thing, or you may as well just buy cheaper honey.

A trademark is a symbol of trust

What Mānuka honey has in its favour is a trademark that indicates that the product has been independently tested by the New Zealand government to guarantee its quality – the trademark does most of the work for you.

The customer puts the brand and logo together in their mind and knows they can trust what they are buying.

A trademark is a government guarantee, it is getting a big thumbs up to say you can trust this product to do what it says. People might not have heard of the brand but they have heard of the country.

For Mānuka honey that trademark is called a UMF rating. The higher the rating the better the honey.

Building up to a sale

The trademark shows the product is genuine; first job done, you’ve got brand trust. Now you have to answer the question, “Why your brand?” You’ve made the shortlist in the customer’s eyes, now it is the brand personality that will tempt your customer into making the purchase.

Your brand might be more scientific, you might care for bees more than any other brand. You could be nature’s husband, protecting and rejuvenating native forests. By creating a unique voice for your brand you separate it from an identical product.

Now your brand logo will mean something to your customer. They know the value of the honey, they know they can buy a trustworthy product and they can resonate with your brand values and actions.


The customer’s first wish is to buy a genuine product. They have to be able to trust your brand.

Then they will decide which brand resonates with their values and thirdly, does the value of the product to the customer match the cost? Is it worth paying for?

If the customer nods to all three, you have a good chance that they will put it in their basket.

So, if you come across piracy, use the big guns to deal with it.