Intern’s Insight- An insight into a great Startup Direct mentor

Intern’s Insight- An insight into a great Startup Direct mentor

This week I caught up with Marc Dhalluin who mentors many Startup Direct entrepreneurs and asked him some questions on mentoring. Here are his replies…

Hi there Marc. Why did you decide to become a mentor?
Marc: As I progressed through the corporate world each position became more about strategy and enablement, or the ability of the organisation and its teams to turn the strategy into effective plans and subsequent actions. It was more about leading, guiding, coaching and mentoring people to discover their best selves. It is not possible to do this only for the work environment as anyone’s abilities are at the core tied to who and what they are as people. This necessitated a style that suited the organisation’s objectives (more leadership / coaching) and a more passive (mentoring) style for the human part.

What is the best thing about being a mentor?
Marc: Seeing the palpable joy when someone does something they never thought they could or was seriously struggling to do. Each and every mentorship is for me a journey in which I discover something about my environment and myself.

What do you think is the best piece of wisdom you have shared with a mentee?
Marc: Find the right questions to ask. Then the answers will flow. It’s not asking the right questions that leads to failure.

What is the biggest challenge you have helped a startup business overcome?
Marc: Redefining the dream and ensuring that it is as appealing as the original.

What is the most interesting startup/entrepreneur you have worked with?
Marc: PerformHer Academy in South Africa. Targeted at women and breaking down their own barriers in their path to the boardroom of enterprise or their lives. Defining the problem statement was easy; refining the product a challenge and keeping the founder motivated.

What personal attributes or qualities do you think are important for business success?
Marc: There are many. I focus on purpose – really knowing why you want to do something (I prefer when the answer is not to make money but to make a difference in people’s lives and then the money is one of the consequences-; determination; inquisitiveness – the how and why; and humility.

What inspired you to succeed?

Marc: The desire to make a difference in people’s lives. And success in business is only one dimension. Originally it was status and money – what a waste of emotional energy. I believe deeply that we need to develop ourselves to be our best selves.


An eco-friendly, green language. With Universal appeal

I was inspired by a design I found on a t-shirt in Thailand.

original tree shirt

Many commented on it, especially younger people. From asking why a tree was being painted, to what happened to the tree, and who did it?



rainintheclouds  Or why the man was reigning in the cloud, where did he want it to go? What was special about the cloud?

So together with my friends Alfonso and Francesca de Chaud of poly[nation] poly nation, set out to create a portfolio of images that’d one day be used in education.

These would reflect the emptiness without man’s efforts and the fruits of his awareness.

Thus, our efforts help the tree to bud; regeneration enabled when we make an effort. All can. And it’s easy.

We’re gathering relevant topics from around the world that need attention:

sharks hunted for their fins
seals clubbed for their fur
whales hunted when there are perfect substitutes for what they provide
rhinos and elephants poached for their horn (aphrodisiac) and ivory (decoration) respectively
destruction of the habitat of the Macaws in the Peruvian Amazon through deforestation
poaching of abalone (perlemoen) for eastern ‘medicinal ‘beliefs
rape of the Patagonian Tooth fish – taste of the greedy
the destruction of bees and their environment 
the island of trash in the Pacific
the debris accumulating in space

We’re aiming to compile a portfolio of graphics depicting universal environmental issues. These graphics will be distributed through education systems; they’ll encourage awareness and participation.

One day, globally.


Brand strength has never been more important

What great marketers know – why brand strength has never been more important. And why their brands flourish.

……their brands will never be found on the junk heap

“The belief that [the] marketing contract can be stripped of all its joyful subjectivity until all that remains between consumer and brand is transaction . . . is the fallacy of our time.” Giles Hedger, Chief of Strategy, Leo Burnett Worldwide How Mad Men Lost the Plot

It has never been easier, nor quicker for brands to be considered ‘junk’ and cast aside. And the ‘best’ have more competition than ever.

As people and markets evolve and ultimately change, so too must brands evolve and if necessary change if they wish to remain relevant and competitive. And not be relegated to the ‘also rans’ scrap heap.

Jeb Bush’s suspension of his campaign, despite one of the largest war chests in the game, attests to brand irrelevance and not being in touch with the market. As does Rubio’s, whose relevance had some traction for a while but ultimately undone by Republican’s move to the rightist ‘fascism’ of Donald Trump.

The history of the development of branding, leading up to brand as a metonym, is closely linked to advances in technology, which changed dissemination of information, distribution of products and services, consumer contact points as well as the nature of the interactions.

Think brands from the age of the stamp of ownership (the word ‘brand’ originates from the Old Norse “Brandr” which means ‘burn’), to trademarks (closely associated with quality) and the continued development of consumerism where marketers realised they could influence, pander to and create increased desire.

It wasn’t too long before desire on its own was seen, due to economic and cultural shifts, as nothing more than skin deep with little positive human value bringing out the worst in society. Avarice. Consumers evolved; demanding deeper and more meaning from the brands with which they interacted. It therefore became important to connect with consumers through shared values and shared behaviours.

For the majority of consumers, brands are short cuts to decision making. They put you on the radar, preferably in a favourable position if we as marketers and business leaders have done our jobs BETTER than the competitors.

Baby Boomers are retiring, Generation X (Millenials) were influenced in attaitude by economic prosperity, whilst the Ys and Zs have been / are being led by technology. This influence or shaping results in changed attitudes, culture and values.

Brands are shaped by customers themselves and their relationship with the brand. The reputation of an organisation gives it ‘lift’ – or not, a competitive edge through inspiring loyalty and confidence amongst consumers. And given the fact that that a brand is the result of many facets acting in unison, the result of good branding is always more than the sum of the parts. Good marketers not only know this, but work towards it. Synergy. Together Everything Achieves More.

Good marketers know what the ‘Everything’ is made of, and how each part of the puzzle needs managing. And their brand’s zenith should be the Zeitgeist of the moment.

The profound impact that the technological advances of the last 20 years, of which the majority has happened in the last 6, has had on societies is well documented.

Perhaps most importantly, it has empowered consumers through increased transparency, consumer advocacy and brought the point of interaction and the nature of that interaction between brands and users closer together. It has therefore brought more focus on brand integrity – consumers and the media are increasingly more aware of how brands behave.

(In the USA on 21st Feb a man is arrested for a number of apparently random shootings in which 6 people die. It is reported that he is an Uber driver. Uber has been under fire for the non-vetting of their drivers leading to issues around security for their passengers. Yet thousands of cab / taxi / private hire drivers are not screened in a way that’d suggest they couldn’t commit murder.The Uber brand is tarnished for a ‘non-work’ action by someone associated with the organisation).

Brands are complex; they’re built up over time and have as a kernel an acute insight or human truth. The customer touch-points and channels for that amplified truth have multiplied in number, complexity and sensitivity. One size doesn’t fit all – how the amplified truth is deployed at each touch point in itself demands an amplification programme that has multiple layers and approach points layers.

So why the junk? Because there is so much shallow insight – if any – poorly amplified (from a decent marketer’s point of view) out there. That’s why. Ok, a little harsh maybe but it depends which side of the fence you’re on.

And why is there so much junk out there?

Technology has lowered the barriers to entry making it really easy to ‘get out there’ – it costs relatively little to generate eyeballs irrespective of quality (depth) of content and be seen alongside great brands. And channels are full of stuff – just stuff…..which doesn’t say that much about the customer they’re aimed at, let alone the users.

Any brand worth its salt is focused on an insight that is spoken of as a ‘higher purpose’. It has cultural resonance. It answers the question ‘why’ we are in business as opposed to the ‘what we do’ and the ‘how we do it’. And crucially today, progressive organisations know that the real battlefield for competitive edge lies in culture. And that brands need to reflect that culture. They need to have a good EQ – Emotional Quotient. It all speaks to shared values and shared experiences.

(Trends in recruitment indicate more hirers looking to recruit on a candidate’s potential and cultural fit with the organisation; to enhance culture through service oriented and collaborative hires).

Commercially it requires greater effort, resource,commitment and craftsmanship to bring insights to life given the lower attention spans of consumers. The lower attention spans are primarily a result of multitude of choice, and linked to channel surfing…the search for instant gratification.

Appealing headlines entice our clicks, only to disappoint with the content.

In the main, consumers have never really gone out to look for commercial messages as part of their day-to-day information consumption. That’s why commercial messages have always been ‘placed’ in front of potential users. (But let’s not forget those brands who delighted us with their self-expression, and ability to tell stories, whether short or long. Note the build up to Superbowl 50, the USA’s ad showcase, and the hype around which brand/s would entertain the most). And why the advent of ad blockers has so many rightfully concerned.

Brands resonate with customers. Brands with higher demand resonate on a different level from the mediocre ones. It’s an absolute given that a car will get you from a to b. Each model’s appeal is ‘how’ it gets you there; – effectively, what does it say about you?

MOST importantly, many marketers have become so caught up in the hype of tech and social media. Pressured by accountants to prove what they do works, they embraced the new highly focused and measurable digital tools in search of likes, impressions, shares. They have forgotten the relevance of many pieces of the puzzle in building brands, making those brands wanted and famous.

As a tractor has 4 wheels, it is of little use transporting your family from a to b for the summer holidays, let alone giving its driver the swank and social kudos saught by many.

So too must brand leaders re-appraise all the tools available today and understand what each best serves.

Product fit and the market, get it right. Amplify the target’s insight relevant for today, and spread it using the channels best suited to the outcome required. Use the correct tools to connect one-on-one, and personalise as appropriate through the contact points.

And to avoid the junk heap, manage the relevance of the brand and have the gumption to make it stand for something.

It’s about standing up and being counted. Doing the underlying products and services, the people who make and deliver them, justice.


Recommendations : prior engagements

Mike Freedman
Partner at Freedthinkers
As well as having all the skills of an experienced & savvy marketer, Marc has the rare ability to see beyond what is to what could be, taking bold leaps of the imagination. He’ll then test his thinking with a keen appreciation for the art of the possible. Working with Marc is stimulating & rewarding.

Neil Jacobsohn
Strategy practitioner, presenter and facilitator
I worked for some years with Marc in two environments; firstly when he ran a digital business for me at the Times Media Group, and secondly when he played a senior marketing role in the Times Media advertising team. In both situations Marc proved to be intelligent, inventive and creative in his insights, and hard-working and results-driven in his output. He is a highly skilled marketing and business executive, capable of seeing the big picture and of filling a broad general management role, in marketing and beyond.

Rose Murdock
Founder of Performher Academy
Marc is probably the best, most intellectually challenging client experienced in my years at Ogilvy.The relationship with our Agency was forged on integrity, professionalism and the principle of partnership.
Marc is a really good Marketeer. Both a strategic and creative thinker and sets the bar high. He boldly challenges the status quo in pursuit of innovative solutions and has the ability to evaluate both sides fairly and logically applying cogent thinking
He is committed, focused and results orientated. His depth of marketing experience and strategic thinking together with his tangible energy will be highly valuable to any role he chooses to take on and he will be a valuable asset to any corporate he chooses to join in the future.

John Small
Chairman and CEO at Tapestry Resorts, Vice Chairman at LaTour Hotels and Resorts and Chairman at ResortCom International
Marc is a highly talented and creative individual. He was easy to work with, and when committing to get things done, or to complete all of his mutually agreed tasks, he regularly delivered on time and exceeded expectations.
Marc was a pleasure to work with, and was a consumate professional. I really enjoyed the working relationship, and the personal friendship that evolved.
His quick wit, and insightful perspectives made working with him not only fun, but highly rewarding. If I had an opportunity to bring him into our current organization, I would certainly do so.

Please feel free to call or contact me at any time at or on my office line at 1 619 683 2470 x 1501. It would be a pleasure to talk to any interested employer on his behalf!

John E. Small
ResortCom International
404 Camino del Rio South, Fourth Floor
San Diego, Ca 921108less

Danielle Timmins
National Head of Data Planning & Analytics
Marc is a strategic and conceptual thinker who understands the importance of identifying and understanding (consumer) barriers before coming up with solutions; the fact that the digital landscape has changed the world of marketing forever; and a person who acknowledges the need for a strong brand strategy. Great energy, results driven with a natural inclination to constantly challenge himself and those around him, thus keeping everyone on their toes – in a constructive way. In short: it’s been a pleasure working with Marc!

Tamra Capstick-Dale
Managing Director at Corporate Image (Pty) Ltd
I’ve known and worked with Marc for some ten years in his role at Sun International. Marc is blessed not only with a particularly insightful understanding of brands and how they work, but also with an irrepressible energy and enthusiasm for what he does. There never seemed to be a challenge too large or too daunting for him, which along with an easy smile, always made Marc a pleasure to deal with. I was fortunate to have a constructive, productive and warm relationship with Marc, as did my staff. His experience and charm were a wonderful combination.

William Reyneke
When savvy instinct and superb skill merge, you find a unique individual, capable of delivering exceptional results. This is the case with Marc, an über marketer that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for many years. Without fail he demonstrated a truly distinctive gift for transforming the creative imaginative to a practical and highly successful result. Every single time, on time, results guaranteed. The ultimate professional. His remarkable talent for seeing the wood from the trees became legendary. His enthusiasm is infectious and he relishes a good challenge which he inevitably tackles head-on and with flair. Call him gifted, sharp, intelligent, a brilliant communicator, inspiring, result orientated – he fits every bill and more. If results speak louder than words, there would be deafening accolades following him.

Helena Gavera
General Manager at Cedar SA
I was the first publisher at New Media Publishing working on Prive magazine for Sun International. Marc was my client and what an amazing client to have! I learnt so much from Marc in those days – about the Sun International brand, about gaming in SA, about marketing and the positioning of Prive as the flagship marketing tool for SI. I fondly remember the marketing conferences at SI where the magazine publisher could show reader research and enthuse about how the magazine engages customers. I would gladly work with Marc again and can absolutely recommend him as a leader in marketing.

Startup Direct
Deniz Turan
Chief Caffeine Officer
I had privilege working with Marc as my mentor at Caffeine Bank. Marc is an inspiring leader, visionary thinker and exceptionally great person to work with. He truly reflects a passion for helping others find and create their own success. He has been a great source for knowledge and advice when it was time for us to create our brand values, company vision and marketing strategies.

It has been more than a pleasure being able to work with and learn from Marc. He’s a top talent and I look forward to continuing to learn from him!less

February 7, 2016, Deniz worked indirectly for Marc at Startup Direct

Rob Becker
Chief Executive Officer at Novodomus Holdings
I had the privilege of working with Marc for 8 years at Sun International. He is a seasoned marketing executive and has always conducted himself in a considered and professional manner.
Marc spearheaded the launch and marketing of our new business in Santiago, Chile and his strategic insights and creative talents contributed significantly to the success of this business in a highly competitive environment.

Santiago Salvestrini

Gerente de Marketing Corporativo at Enjoy S.A.
I worked with Marc for the last 5 years. He was my direct report in Head Office for all marketing initiative and strategies. He always was willing to share his wide knowledge regarding to advertising and gaming industry, and being an extremely focused professional, working under his leadership was easy and very productive. Marc’s vision leads us in great and different ways to build our brand, always keeping in mind the commercial focus. Is very passionate about life in general, and driven by results without loose the human touch. He’s great empathetic personality make him a real team player and more important a leader with the ability to share a vision which the team will follow and deliver on it.

Debra Clausen
Marketing Director: Power Brands at Distell
Marc was a client I will never forget. He always provided absolute clarity in terms of the consumer and business challenge and gave clear inspirational briefs. Marc has a strong leadership style, but has great patience and compassion for people he is leading. He made every member of the team feel valued whilst pushing us to deliver excellence in every pursuit. There is no “average” with Marc – this is because he inspires those he works with to want to give him excellence. He also has a wicked sense of humour which is always an added benefit.

Mike Abel
Chief Executive Partner at M&C SAATCHI ABEL, South Africa
I worked closely with Marc from 2001-2008 whislt he was the Senior Marketing Lead at Sun International Gaming and I was running the ad agency.
I always found Marc to be very smart, considered and engaged. He likes big ideas, challenging the status quo and finding a very differentiated and powerful positioning for his properties, brands and assets.
We worked closely on launching and handling communications for the Boardwalk Casino, Flamingo, Windmill, Grand West & Golden Valley. In all instances I found Marc to be a very sound and precise marketer ensuring all the preconditions to success were in place prior to launch. We also worked very closely on the Charlize Theron brand campaign.
He likes brave thinking that creates the opportunity for reappraisal and fresh consideration.
Marc is also au fait with non traditional media and is extremely comfortable working through the line and within the experiential and activation space.less

John Little
Regional Managing Partner Africa & Middle East, Roth Observatory International
I have known Marc for many years and consider him to be an intelligent and insightful marketer who is also very comfortable in the creative communications space. He has entrepreneurial flair but is equally effective in a corporate environment. He has competitive drive combined with a positive energy. A good man to have on your team.

John Charter
Partner at Human Elephant Foundation
Marc is a seasoned professional with great ability in the marketing and overall management areas.He has a great understanding of branding and communication generally. He is articulate, thorough and committed and would be an asset to any Company he would work at.

Adrian Funkey
Gaming, leisure and energy specialist
Marc is an intelligent and innovative marketing expert with specialist skills in the gambling industry. He has an intimate understanding of what makes customers tick and over many years he has fine tuned a highly effective approach to optimising the gambling Rand. It was a pleasure to have worked with Marc over a long period while I was at Sun International.

Nicola Botha
Regional Marketing Manager | GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World and Golden Valley Casino
I worked with Marc at Sun International over a period of 13 years. He is an exceptional leader with vast gaming, marketing and brand experience. He is strategically minded and results driven – always going the extra mile to meet the organisational goals. Marc manages his subordinates with trust, belief and integrity. It truly was a pleasure working with such an energetic and hands on individual.

David Blyth
CEO Yellowwood Future Architects
Marc has been a client of mine for many years. Apart from his incredible knowledge of the hospitality and leisure industry, Marc is a passionate and motivated person who really cares about results. His enthusiasm for achieving business success through marketing is explicit and direct and while he is very objective, firm and fair in his management style, he also has a keen sense of humour!
I would not hesitate recommending Marc as an executive professional with great values, loyalty and fortitude.

Charles Hiten
Chief Executive – Merkur Gaming Americas
Marc was instrumental in the establishment of the Monticello Grand Casino & Entertainment World brand and making it a household name in Chile in a very short space of time. His professional insight, sage advice, and his engaging personality make Marc a valued member of any team. It is without hesitation that I recommend Marc.

Raymond Duxbury
Chairman at Northpoint (Pty) Ltd
Marc is a personable manager who interacts easily with other people. He is a team player who enjoys the challenges and opportunities involved in marketing big corporations. I found it a pleasure to work with him and to learn from his knowledge of social and corporate responsibility, as well as his sensitivity to the political and social issues of the day.

Donald Recsei
Director at Actionmandirect
Marc has unique strategic marketing vision. In various roles he has demonstrated deep insight to tap into the consumer mind and profit opportunities for corporate organisations.
Marc has a proven ability to select dynamic profit imperatives and get his team to translate these into bottom line results.