• Verimark reported more than half a billion rand in revenue this week, all of it in Southern Africa.
  • The company's last offshore foray, into Singapore, was a disaster.
  • But it is going to try again, this time exporting its iconic advertisements, and products, to partners it hopes will take its hard-sell approach all over the world.


In its last financial year sales grew by nearly 16%, to more than half a billion rand, TV-sales company Verimark reported this week. 

By next year it hopes that number will be bolstered by offshore sales – because this time, it thinks, it has found the formula for selling super-bright flashlights and iron-replacing steamers all over the world.

And that could see its iconic advertising – where people suffering immeasurable torment in a black-and-white world are catapulted into colourful happiness through, say, a super sharp knife – dubbed into French and Spanish and flighted everywhere from Mexico to west Africa.

"It is not going to be a three-months thing, but we're building towards it," CEO Michael van Straaten tells Business Insider South Africa.

Verimark has started participating in trade shows in Europe and America, and will soon be exhibiting in Spain again. There it hopes to catch the attention of distributors it can offer an entire hard-sell package: carefully selected products, pre-branded and packaged, with tested television commercials and other collateral ready to run.

Some new partners may choose to re-shoot the TV ads, Van Straaten says. But some will simply translate phrases such as "using that blunt old knife just won’t cut it," dub the ad, and put it into heavy rotation.

Once customers are hooked, Verimark will facilitate shipment of its products directly from manufacturers in China to, say, Brazil.

Verimark has a handful of outlets in neighbouring countries, and most recently tried to establish itself in Singapore. That was a disaster, and the company has now entirely wound up that operation.

But it still has much to offer the world, Van Straaten insists: more than 100 products with hard-sell ads, product and promotional campaign pre-tested in South Africa.

Direct-response TV (DRTV) marketing may have been born in the US, Van Straaten says, but Verimark considers itself more entrepreneurial than its first-wold competitors because it is South African.

"In the US if you have one home-run product, one every two years, you make billions. Because South Africa is such a small market we need small home-runs every two months."

Distributors elsewhere could copy concepts and find their own manufacturers for Verimark products, Van Straaten says, but his company hopes to sell them on a long history, a consistent pipeline of new products – and those ads so familiar to South Africans because of their high-frequency flighting.

A decade ago, Van Straaten says, taking a television ad into a non-English market, or one where the South African English accent rings strange, would have been a major endeavour – because they came as 30-minute infomercials. Today Verimark is shooting ads as short as 30 seconds, making dubbing quick and cheap.

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