Anina Malherbe launched Vivid Luxury Marketing in 2007, marking the culmination of a journey she’d been on for 15 years. She graduated from Stellenbosch University with a BA Fine Art Degree, specialising in jewellery design and began her career in retail as a designer for various fashion jewellery and accessories manufacturers.
Two years later she became a merchandise buyer at Truworths. In 2001, Malherbe joined jewellery brand Shimansky, just as the business was starting to expand. As part of the retail and general management team she helped launch four new stores and then found her niche in marketing. She took on the position of marketing director and helped put the Shimansky brand on the map. But by 2007, she was itching to start her own business. “I have a great love for luxury products and I wanted to work on other brands in this category,” she says. “I realised that to do that I would have to branch out on my own. I had no finance and no clients, but I didn’t care.”
She started out small, sharing offices with a friend. Through persistence and determination, she says, she managed to bag her first big client, luxury accessories label, Jimmy Choo. “I had a good track record and they also saw that I was passionate and determined,” she says. “Once I had that first client, it gave me a foundation on which to build.”
The first year was tough. Malherbe thought she had a great background and all the experience she needed. “I like to think that I did my practical MBA at Shimansky, where I had learnt so much. But nothing can prepare you for starting your own business. I had to deal with finance, administration and staff all on my own. It was no longer about just doing the things I enjoyed. I found myself working long hours just to take care of all the behind the scenes stuff so that I could focus on the service I provided for clients during the day.”
That same year she was invited to speak at the first Luxury Marketing Summit in the country. She also managed to attract some high-end clients like Gucci, Burberry, MaxMara and Gerard Darel. Other coveted international and local brands soon followed, including Bentley, Phoenix Private Jets, Patek Phillippe, Limeline Interiors and Boating World, which represents international luxury motor yacht brand, Fairline. Malherbe’s hard work was rewarded when the business won a PRISM Award in 2011 for its Belvedere Vodka Campaign, Vivid’s first entry.
Knowing the market
She is down-to-earth about her success, focusing rather on the satisfaction she gets from doing something she loves. “I started Vivid because of my intense interest in and love for luxury brands and fashion,” she says. “I had spent a lot of time researching all the top international luxury brands in fashion, jewellery, footwear and accessories. I knew their philosophy, their brand proposition and image, their logos, ad campaigns, seasonal collections, you name it. I applied that to offer 360-degree marketing for luxury brands in South Africa.”
She attributes some of her success to Vivid’s holistic approach. “We’re working in line with worldwide trends, which show that marketing initiatives for top-end brands are being pulled in under one roof. We are able to provide all PR and marketing services, from events and media coverage to social media and creative campaign development.”
Malherbe decided from the outset that she would take on luxury brands only, and not sign up any business that might dilute that offering. “That is what has set us apart from the competition,” she says. “We have built up a specialised knowledge base in sectors such as fashion, property, hospitality, and automotive. In addition, our clients are assured of high-level input into the management of their accounts. We do not sign them up and then hand them over to juniors.”
Vivid executed the first-ever event at the exclusive R100-million Penthouse at One&Only Cape Town last year. As part of a multi-tiered marketing campaign for Seeff Properties, the PR portion of the campaign garnered some R3,6 million worth of media coverage, an achievement Malherbe is proud of.
“The challenge is always to understand the brand and its target market,” she says. “Big companies tend to be more academic when it comes to marketing, but when you are dealing with a luxury brand, it’s more about understanding its intrinsic elements. You need to be creative, well travelled and exposed to global trends.”
The business grew by almost 100% last year, but again, the first year was especially hard. ”I started the company just before the recession hit,” she says. “It was quite a shock to go through the downturn. What’s really positive, though, is that those first three years made us really lean and mean, and now that the tide is turning, we are able to operate within a tight structure. At the same time, luxury brands are continuing to move into this market, which bodes well for us.”
Her goal is now to establish an office in Johannesburg, and to move into high-end finance and telecommunications brands. “It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it helps if you really like what you do. It’s important to be super committed and determined. That’s what gets you through all the late nights.”
Ahead of the curve
Malherbe’s role as head of a luxury brands marketing business means that she has to know the latest fashions and trends worldwide, and also be up to speed on global business news and developments. Not surprisingly, she enjoys researching fashion in its many forms. She reads books which will help her to take the business to the next level. She enjoys reading marketing books to help develop her skills, self-help books for a better work-life balance, and inspiring autobiographies by top business leaders.