MN Formula: pivoting amidst crisis and establishing a brand online

10 min read
Ler Ka Leng

MN Formula was born out of an immediate need to pivot and survive the pandemic.

Before Bangkok-based MN Formula was established, co-founder Thaniya Janeturakit is the owner of Thaniya 1988. Thaniya 1988 is a brand known for its luxury hand painted ceramic and natural scented candles. She created Thaniya 1988 after taking over her family business.

Business at Thaniya 1988 was brisk until the pandemic hit. The pandemic adversely affected sales, as the business is an export-orientated one that operated predominantly offline.

Still, as the saying goes, in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity. Together with her co-founder Chakard Chalayut, they created MN Formula. MN Formula is a brand focusing on aroma products for customers in Thailand. With their focus on building an online reputation and presence, it is now an up-and-coming lifestyle brand, retailing both online and in stores.

Read on to learn about the inspirational journey of MN Formula and its humble beginnings!

Continuing the legacy of a family business

MN Formula co-founder Thaniya Janeturakit

For Thaniya, her interest in scents started at a young age. She was inspired by her mother, whose journey in making beauty and spa products started in 1988. Thaniya first worked as an engineer for a German company after graduating with a Master's Degree. However, as the only child and fuelled by interest, she left her job to run her family business.

When Thaniya first took over her family's business, her parents were only in the business of producing OEM scent products to be exported overseas. Hence, there was no brand to speak of. She dedicated herself to establishing a stronger brand identity for the beautiful products created by her parents. Hence, 'Thaniya 1988' was born out of the desire to offer aromatic products embracing the fusion between traditions and modernity. The hand painted ceramic used to contain the candles also feature beautiful designs of nature and Thai traditional art.

Besides selling locally in Thailand, where they have 42 branches across the country, Thaniya 1988 also exports to countries like Germany, Austria, and Japan.

All that changed when the pandemic hit in 2020.

The birth of MN Formula

Pivoting a business in the midst of crisis

As the pandemic struck, Thaniya 1988 retail stores were closed, and their distributors around the world also had to close their stores. With both their local and exports business affected, Thaniya needed solutions to tide through this challenging period.

"When COVID hit Thailand, a lot of department stores and five-star hotels had to close. This shrank the domestic market significantly as people were unable to view and purchase our products in physical spaces. In this case, we had to quickly pivot our business and explore selling them online."

At this juncture, Thaniya sought help and advice from Chakkard Chalayut, who eventually became the co-founder of MN Formula.

Chakkard runs a digital marketing consultancy, and has extensive experience in strategy planning and marketing. He saw an opportunity to pivot Thaniya 1988's business from an export orientated one to a business focusing on the domestic market.

Coincidentally, Chakkard was also looking to start a products-based business. Thaniya's business proposal came at a perfect moment.

MN Formula: A brand for the young, discerning creative spirit

Chakkard put his consultancy experience into action, conducting market research to understand consumer behaviour and preferences in Thailand. Through this process, they were able to identify the right audiences who will appreciate aroma products.

"With MN Formula, our target audience is mostly young people, such as students or first jobbers. We're looking specifically at the young and creative crowd who can afford small luxuries in life.

However, it was at this point where Thaniya and Chakkard realised they needed a different brand and product offering for the Thai domestic market.

With Thaniya's expertise in scents and Chakkard's expertise in marketing, MN Formula was born.

MN Formula offers very different aroma products from Thaniya 1988. In a country where aroma products are aplenty, MN Formula steers away from offerings such as floral (lemongrass, jasmine) or spa scents.

"When you think about candles in Thailand, you might think that you have to buy lemongrass or spa scents. With MN Formula, we utilize sensory marketing, creating an emotional appeal for each of the scent we create. Imagine yourself walking in a garden where you can smell the mud, moss, green grass etc. We want our customers to engage with their senses, to help them imagine themselves in a different space through scents," said Thaniya.

For MN Formula, Chakkard and Thaniya aim to create unique scents which people would never find anywhere else. Scrolling through MN Formula's website, their products are named after places and emotions rather than ingredients. From "Night at the Library" to "Escape the Ordinary", these concoctions are meant to bring their users into a different dimension.

Finding a balance between online selling and offline retailing

For Chakkard, setting up a strong online presence for MN Formula was a natural step to take. As a digital marketing consultant, he has helped many clients embark on the same journey.

However, being an owner of a brand new business came with its own set of challenges. As a consultant for other companies, he did not have a direct responsibility in terms of outcomes. However, now that he was establishing an online presence for his own business, he has to solve all the problems that came along the way. It was a humbling experience for him to go through and truly understand the challenges faced by small business owners.

With MN Formula, building a brand online proved to be tough. After all, it is challenging to explain scent in a digital space.

"In Thailand, most marketing gurus will always advice business owners to sell online and do digital marketing. But if you have had retail experience, you will know that selling online is very hard if your customers need to see, touch, smell and sense your product. Products like these are difficult to sell on digital. Hence, you need to come up with solutions to help people understand your products."

For Chakkard and Thaniya, launching MN Formula during the pandemic came with the same challenge faced by Thaniya 1988. With most department stores and retail outlets closed, they needed to find a new partner to be a shopfront for their products.

Establishing MN Formula's online presence with GoDaddy

They collaborated with cafes in Thailand. From their understanding, many of their young target audiences enjoy visiting cafes that align with their lifestyle preferences. With that, Chakkard and Thaniya wanted them to see MN Formula's products in the cafes. In their interactions with potential customers, they always invite interested buyers to try out MN Formula's products at these cafes. Occasionally, they will also send samples to their customers.

However, Chakkard and Thaniya knew that MN Formula's business cannot depend solely on physical stores. They knew they had to build a sales channel that will not be affected by all the ongoing restrictions.

Since MN Formula sells experience-based scent products, they needed to continue building their brand online, turning it into a key channel for customers. Their strategy in establishing an online presence leans heavily on effective content marketing and storytelling. With a website, MN Formula took efforts to ensure that each scent is explained thoroughly. For them, each scent represented specific elements of their customer's lifestyle. Customers would also complete a questionnaire to figure out their scent preference and personality.

"For MN Formula, our website is our headquarters online, accessible across the globe. With a website, we are able to connect and interact with our customers easily. On top of that, we can tell MN Formula's story and products the way we want to tell it."

After assessing their needs, Chakkard eventually went ahead with GoDaddy's Managed Wordpress Hosting for MN Formula's website. In his opinion, GoDaddy's Managed Wordpress hosting is easy to use and serves MN Formula's needs very well. GoDaddy's guides also supported him during the onboarding process, which has helped us understand its features very well.

Looking into the future for MN Formula: from scent to lifestyle brand

Combining effective social media marketing and an SEO optimised website, MN Formula has successfully built a brand online. Many of MN Formula's customers visit their retail outlets these days to try out products, but more and more purchases are taking place online.

In the midst of challenges, Thaniya and Chakkard built a new brand with products that resonated well with Thai customers. While MN Formula's reputation as an eclectic scent maker continue to grow, they have bigger plans for the business.

"For MN Formula, we don’t just focus on scents. We want to sell a lifestyle. Therefore, we hope to expand our product range in the future. Products like clothing or even furniture that exemplifies the Scandinavian aesthetics or lifestyle that our target audiences aspire to have. We also hope to expand our presence to other countries."

Do they have advice for anybody who wants to start a business in Bangkok? Thaniya's response is short and energetic - just try! Chakkard, on the other hand, advices all aspiring entrepreneurs to do their homework thoroughly before venturing into a business. "Before you start, you need to do your homework – what is your target, how to you find a way to sell your solution to this target audience."

As you can tell, the power duo complements each other extremely well with their different strengths. Both Chakkard and Thaniya found their place, running MN Formula together as a united team focused on driving success.

Feeling inspired and want to get started on your website?

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