As most entrepreneurs know, starting a business always seems like a good idea at the time. If they knew what was lying in wait for them, a good chunk of them would run for the hills. But that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship – the firm belief that your new company is going to make it, and make it big, and going for it against all odds.
Finding a niche in a competitive market
This is the driving force behind eQ, a specialist marketing company founded in 2014 by Annemi Olivier. “Essentially we are a full service marketing agency, but there are so many out there, and very few stand out,” explains Oliver, who has over twenty years’ experience in various fields including customer service, research, marketing, psychology and neuromarketing.
“I teamed up with Cheryl van der Merwe, who is also a director in the company, and we set about finding our niche.”
Van der Merwe’s expertise lies in writing, publishing, media relations and marketing, and the two quickly put their heads together and realised that online marketing and neuromarketing are the areas that set them apart.
“Although online marketing is by no means a new field in this country, our access to a unique network of bloggers, and excellent measurement tools, mean that we can customise an online marketing strategy that produces results,” says Olivier.
“We align it with existing traditional media strategies – or create those too where needed – and ensure that an organisation’s marketing strategy is far-reaching and effective, and targeted accurately.”
Growing neuromarketing in SA
The neuromarketing side of the business is exciting, and a particular passion of Olivier’s. “Internationally, neuromarketing has gained recognition over the past decade, but even there it is not yet a fully integrated marketing tool,” she points out.
“In South Africa, there are very few companies with knowledge of neuromarketing, and even less practising it. eQ’s directors are members of the international Neuromarketing Science and Business Association (NMSBA), and when we went looking for a local association to join for networking closer to home, we couldn’t find one.”
Undaunted, Olivier went about starting one, and a few weeks later, the Neuromarketing Association of South Africa (NMASA) was born.
“Because we didn’t have enough work to do with our day jobs, and getting eQ started up at the same time!” she exclaims with a chuckle. NMASA is a non-profit organisation that aims to grow the discipline of neuromarketing in South Africa, and encourage research into the field from a local perspective.
Bringing in the business
In another bid to get themselves known in the market, eQ pitched to be the sole South African representative in an international neuromarketing study on smoking. “We won the pitch, and then promptly wondered what we had got ourselves into!” says Olivier.
The survey, spearheaded by the NMSBA and Neurohm, a global neuro research and consultancy company based in Poland, is being conducted across the world, and aims to discover the link between smoking behaviour and cigarette packing warning labels in the first three years after the legal smoking age.
“Participating in Neuro Against Smoking (NAS) is important for providing health statistics regarding smoking in our country, but what especially interested us was an almost instant, local example of how we can conduct effective neuro studies, customised for any application,” she explains.
“Neuro science can be used to determine responses to anything – advertising campaigns, written messages, experiences and different situations. The applications are endless.”
Having only recently left her day job as executive head of marketing for an IT platform company, Olivier is now running eQ full time. “It’s challenging but I love it,” she says. “There is a growing need for quality campaign feedback, and we can provide this in unique, creative and measurable ways.”