I was born March 14, 1985 in Cape town, South Africa. As a kid, the only thing I ever wanted to be, is a scientist. For my 10th birthday, I got a microscope, and I spent an alarming amount of hours dissecting and analyzing the world. I also had a love affair with arts, music, cloud-nine thinking and an ongoing desire to learn more about the meaning of life. Little did I know at the time, that I was born to be a marketer.
At the age of 11, I discovered Tazos. A game enjoyed by kids across the world, whereby you stack character-based disks on top of each other and then try to knock down the stack using a Tazo token. Whatever you knocked over; you got to keep. A Tazo is a poker-like disk found in Frito’s corn chip packets, and I believe this marketing activity is still used worldwide.
It’s the type of thing that any kid was dying to have at the time. All the ‘cool’ kids had Tazos. Obviously, peer pressure hooked me into joining the craze as well – and so I did. Before I knew it, I became a Tazo addict.
I lived very close to a Superette which sold Tazo packaged chips. I succumbed to the craze and eventually I traded in my arcade game money to buy packets of chips – lots of them. I purchased as many packets as my money would allow – and I didn’t have much at the time! Every time I got a new Tazo I would rejoice. Every time I got a duplicate, I would bag the Tazo and eat the chips, but not without being accompanied by an air of disgust in myself for choosing the wrong packet.
I put all the Tazos in grocery bags. I became OCD about collecting as many as I could as soon as I could. One day in the play yard some of the lads huddled together, and they exchanged Tazos. A buzz surrounded this one kid. His name was Herman.
Herman had a few limited-edition Tazos and I saw another kid (can’t remember his name) handing him R20 (ZAR) in exchange for one! In 1996, 20 bucks were a lot of money for such an item. What blew my mind is that I had the same limited edition Tazos at home – I had at least 3 of them! It’s at that moment that I realised that I sat on gold. God knows what other Tazos I had in my bag that other kids would pay for.
The next day I took my grocery bag to school. During break, I approached the guys and told them I’ve got limited-edition Tazos to sell. One thing led to another, and I ended up making R50 that day! I sold 3 Tazos. I was ecstatic but also coupled with a drop of agitation. Why? Well, while I owned many limited-edition Tazos, I had several limited-edition duplicates. The moment the kids saw the collection, they must have felt that there wasn’t much ‘limited edition’ quality in their purchase seeing that five other kids could buy the same one. They dropped their offers. Some lost interest completely. At a young age, I learned that scarcity is the key to extracting the highest bidder.
The craze didn’t last long, and soon Tazos passed by as I got older. I spent all my money on meaningless crap. Those were the good old days.
Fast-forward to 18.
In my senior year in school, I had no idea what I wanted to go study after I matriculated. Heck I didn’t know what I wanted to become. Some people had it figured out. I sure as hell didn’t. The little rebel in me tried to stick to freedom, for as long as he could. Everyone recommended I go study the one thing that was going to pay big bucks – Finance. It made sense at the time.
The idea of pursuing my studies in finance was firmly planted in the back of my mind. Until one day. On one hot summer’s day arriving home from class, I picked up the mail post on my way in. I don’t know why. I always got just a tad bit excited when going through the mail – as if I was going to discover a letter from a long lost relative giving away his castle. Not that day. What I found was far from that. It was a direct-marketing letter. Not nearly as exciting, or so I thought.
If you found one of those letters in the post today, you’d like spit on it and blaspheme its existence. Alas, I digress.
The opening headline of the letter read “Learn how to make money with your own website.” For some bizarre reason, I just stared at this headline, dazed in what felt like a twilight moment. I looked at the rest of the letter. It was very unappealing and didn’t feel trustworthy. It was that headline that left me thinking. I knew websites were a big thing, but I never thought that it was possible for a normal person like myself to get involved in something like BUILDING a site let alone making money off it!
I had to make sure this wasn’t bullshit. I had to go research this stuff asap!
Before I knew it, I found myself at an Internet cafe later that week searching Yahoo and Google. As you can imagine I ended up like Alice in Wonderland – going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. The ‘hole’ being the world of online business. I was hooked.
Fast forward 6 months…
I went to college to go study my Bachelors in Chartered Accounting. I was juggling college studies with my desire to become a BILLIONAIRE online (you remember those dreams?). Six-month post matriculation I already learned about building a website using Frontpage (a terrible looking one), Search Engine Optimization. Website’s stats. I learned about Amazon’s Associates program and discovered Affiliate networks like Commission Junction. I learned about building a list and giving away free stuff to get a subscriber. I also spent loads of time pissing away money on Google Adwords testing. Come to think of it, I fucking drowned myself in information. It was worth it though
After finishing my 2nd year of studies I was exhausted. I had zero passion for finance studies. I never did like it. I loved numbers, but not the finance type. I loved the idea of working with money, but not the idea of doing the paperwork for someone else’s money.
For 2 years while studying I was making solid progress in the web space. I had several web properties up and running. Some doing well, other’s struggling. I was banking money from affiliate marketing and have built a fat email list.
I made a shocking decision. I willingly dropped out of further finance studies. I wanted to pursue marketing full force. So I got the education institution to swap out my academic credits, which advanced me in my marketing studies. I finally found myself studying something that fit with my values.
The next 4 years was a roller-coaster ride.
Here’s a list of the stuff I managed to get up during that time.
- I built one of the very first Twitter follower boosting systems, called TwitterTycoon.
- I built a leading training platform for up and coming Affiliate marketers. It was a private entry platform equipped with tools, software, support forum and educational material.
- I wrote an e-marketing course for a college from scratch and helped introduce the curriculum – yes I used my spare time to fill in as a teacher! A proud achievement for someone who rebelled against teachers his whole life
- A network of affiliate sites.
- At 23 I started an SEM business doing consultation and strategy work for clients on Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click marketing strategies.
Might I add, there were many of my projects that failed miserably.
Where did I find time for studies? Hell knows, but marketing was a natural fit for me so I required less time to break my head over books.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn during all of this was that there is no such thing as a free lunch. HARD WORK combined with sheer determination and passion produced results.
Although I had all of this going for me, I wanted more. The one thing that was missing for me was that I wanted to work with blue-chip brands. As you know, almost all major blue-chip brands go through a tender and RFP process when looking for a marketing partner – a.k.a. agencies.
My background is that of a purist online marketer. So I peeked at what agency openings there were and thought screw it, let’s see what happens – I threw my CV out there. I knew at the time that whatever came my way, it had to allow me to still have time to attend to my own business. I ended up as the Head of Search advertising at a leading full service digital agency shortly after.
Immediately I found myself working with big brands, crafting their search strategies and seeing to it that they unfold as planned. It was a different landscape compared to what I was used to.
What became apparent was that agency work is a LOT of work – very little time for anything else. My projects started to struggle. In fact, I had to sell and close off many of them as I couldn’t sustain them, let alone find time to grow them.
After almost two years heading up search, I hopped over to another agency – an agency that focuses on doing performance media solutions. Their core focus? Building practical marketing solutions that deliver results that are 100% measurable. The self-taught digi marketing kid in me was happy. This is the type of shit I craft in my dreams. I naturally moved to become an Account Director – steering brand marketing efforts in the right direction.
IT’S A WRAP FOR “THE AGENCY LIFE”
I’m happy to report that I’ve done ok. Man what a ride that was!
Here are some of my achievements, if you don’t mind me sharing.
- Planned and co-planned the digital media strategies for countless brands. These were opportunities that came through partner media agencies. Some of the verticals I worked in included:
- I’ve managed to help one of the leading insurance brands grow their R.O.I in web marketing from nothing to 1, 300% increase – in 2 years.
- Helped steer a team to help a grow a huge tourism body account. Limited budget called for smart growth practices to be applied. Year on year we’ve seen 25-50% growth.
- Directed one of the world’s leading vehicle trading brands.
- Managed and coordinated more than R40,000,000.00 worth of digital marketing activities for clients.
- Managed to start this project!
As it stands now I’ve taken the role as the Digital Manager for one of the most exciting global tour operators in the market. Tourism, and especially tour operation, is the most challenging industry I have come across. When it comes to building and marketing a brand and its products to a global audience who are influenced by multiple factors such as global currency fluctuation, climate, cultural preferences and media manipulation, it’s no easy task!
Why this blog? I’ve always naturally gravitated towards ‘creating’ things and sharing value with others. I’ve had the privilege to work in an agency that has a strong foundation in delivering value to other businesses. I’ve had the misfortune to see how countless agencies around the world completely bullshit their clients, charging clients for ‘perceived’ value, but if you look at their operations and compare it to what they got paid for the job, one can probably equate the activity with fraud.
I’ve had the privilege to learn (hands on) a hell of a lot about what it takes to start and grow a business via marketing, more specifically online marketing. I’ve also learned what it mentally takes to MAKE IT HAPPEN, and trust me, it’s not at all about ‘the law of attraction’.
Today I know that there is no difference between marketing for big brands or marketing for new business. A brand is a brand. It boils down to understanding who the brand is currently talking to and who they want to be talking to and applying very smart growth strategies around those target audiences. Some of the world’s best-known tech brands have had minimal airtime on T.V, but still they managed to grow faster than many of today’s blue-chip brands that dump millions of money on TV slots. Growth is growth. Which one is going at it smarter? You guessed it.
Is this blog for you?
- If you’ve just started a business, this is for you.
- If you are part of a start up, or own a start up – this blog is for you.
- If you run a small businesses that have or would like to dabble in digital marketing practice to grow your business, then stick around.
- If you’re the marketing manager of a big brand, then please read how you can do things SMARTER and BETTER.
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I’m looking forward to sharing with you!