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HDI Youth Marketeers: Liesl Loubser

Marketing mavericks corner the youth sector with a combination of research, youthful energy and innovative platforms.

Juliet Pitman



Liesl Loubser

There are two things you notice when entering the offices of HDI Youth Marketeers – the energy of the place and how young all the staff are. Which is appropriate when you think about it – who better to provide insight into what makes the youth market tick, than the very people who form part of that market.

Filling her business with young people has been part of Liesl Loubser’s philosophy from day one. “Apart from me, all people in the business are under 32 years old, and we have a junior board of directors made up of 60 young people, from kids right through to teenagers,” she says.

Specialising to fill a gap

When Loubser started the business (originally Hot Dogz Inc.) in 1996, youth marketing was a wide open sector. “No one was focusing purely on marketing to the youth and I saw a gap,” she says.

A short stint as a high school teacher confirmed her love of young people and her experience as a marketing consultant provided the ideal skills set. “It was the era of specialisation and I knew, from consulting projects I’d done using the education channel as a marketing medium, that the youth are a primary market for many brands. In South Africa alone, young people are responsible for R80 billion worth of spend a year,” she says.

Thought leaders

She should know. Although there are many more players in the youth space than when Loubser started, few of them manage to really get a handle on what is a notoriously difficult and capricious market. HDI Youth Marketeers has established itself not only as a provider of innovative youth marketing solutions, but as a thought leader and IP owner in the space.

The company conducts the annual Generation Next Youth Brand survey in partnership with The Sunday Times, canvassing 5 000 youngsters between the ages of 8 and 23. “It provides brands with key insights, trends and themes regarding the youth and brands,” Loubser explains. HDI also runs the Khuza Awards, a research-based awards programme that recognises youth advertising and communication that works for young people.

Research gathered from both these initiatives informs the youth marketing solutions that the company delivers, and puts it at the forefront of the latest trends and information.

Forever curious

But, as Loubser is quick to point out, it’s an exceptionally challenging market to be in and no one can ever claim to know it all. “It’s a market that’s continually shifting and changing. Young people change dramatically as they move from being kids to tweens to teens and young adults. That’s why our payoff line is Forever Curious – we continually need to be learning and investigating and open to the next thing,” she says. “At the moment social and green issues are very relevant, so we’ve incorporated a division to respond accordingly,” Loubser explains.

The acid test of whether the company’s strategy is effective comes down to one question: how effective are its interventions at striking a chord with the youth market? Loubser points to some examples of how the company fares in this regard.

Resonating with the market

When a major cereal brand wanted to reach mothers by engaging with

children, most companies would have gone for an on-box promotion, but HDI drew on its research. “Recognition is vital to children’s self-esteem, but teachers, parents and society reward only the top performing children. Many kids lack confidence as a result, so we knew that they would respond to being recognised,” she explains.

The Star in You programme was launched, providing teachers and parents an opportunity to attend workshops with emotional intelligence experts and talk about how to recognise and reward children for different strengths. “We uncovered five attributes of successful people – things like confidence and respect – and launched them as new criteria that teachers could use to reward kids,” Loubser explains. The programme changed the way teachers viewed children and the way children viewed themselves.

Drawing on further research that indicated that children need to view other people in a positive light, HDI included the Star in You Kids Award, which today attracts over a million participants a year and is South Africa’s largest youth self-esteem and celebrity choice award.

Leveraging platforms, looking to the future

While projects like these were initially developed for a particular brand, they have become platforms that any of HDI’s clients can use. “Existing programmes are tried, tested and more cost-effective but we also do bespoke projects if clients require them,” Loubser says of the business model.

The most recent was a live event for an international broadcaster for the Ben 10 animated character, which attracted 20 000 parents and children on the first day and highlighted the future potential of live eventing. 2010 will see HDI Youth Marketeers consolidate their recently-opened Nigerian office as the company turns its eyes to Africa. As Loubser says, “There is so much potential and we can’t wait to learn more about the youth of Africa.”

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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