Dale Hefer, CEO of Nedbank’s annual integrated marketing conference, “Marketing is Business”, discusses the importance of conscious consumerism

Dale Hefer, CEO of Nedbank’s annual integrated marketing conference, “Marketing is Business”, discusses the importance of conscious consumerism

Written by Staff Writer


By Charndré Emma Kippie


Dale Hefer is the CEO of the Nedbank IMC, Africa’s foremost integrated marketing conference aimed at local and African marketers, and a consecutively sold-out event in 2019 and 2020 (lauded as the “virtual benchmark”).  This year’s event will be held on 29 July: One day. One stream. 18 top local and international speakers. No sales pitches – just hard-hitting and practical insights for anyone involved in any discipline of marketing.  At any level.  Marketing is Business™. 

Dale is a former Businesswoman of the Year, award-winning entrepreneur and the bestselling author of the marketing book From Witblits to Vuvuzelas.  Her second book entitled Hustling, Happiness, and a Blow-Up Doll Named Percy was launched in May this year. Dale is the founder of top advertising agency Chillibush, which she started in 1998 and sold in 2014. By then it was billing more than R100-million per year. 


Please briefly tell us about the Nedbank “Marketing is Business” Conference and it’s objectives.

The IMC (Integrated Marketing Conference) was first started in 2010.  I bought the conference in 2018 and re-launched it in 2019 with Nedbank as the naming sponsor.  My main objectives, in buying and re-launching the conference, were:

  • To provide an industry platform that traversed all the different industry bodies and associations. Something that was relevant to everyone in marketing and business.
  • To dispense with death by powerpoint presentations and ‘sponsored’ presentations – I determined there would be no sales pitches at the Nedbank IMC and that the presentations would all be hard hitting 15 minute slots – with some exceptions.
  • To uplift the youth.  Bursaries were created.  Four have been given out since 2019 and another two will be given out at the 2021 conference this July. Over R250k worth of attendance value has been made available for student attendance.
  • To prove the business case for marketing. To show that marketing deserves its rightful place at the boardroom table and is a measurable business imperative for every business.
  • The conference is presented in Association with MASA.  CPD points apply for attendance.
  • The conference is endorsed by the IAB.


How did your journey with Nedbank begin?

My launch theme was “Marketing Gets Naked”.  I wanted to strip away the misconceptions and jargon often associated with marketing and strip it down to the bottom line.  I also knew this could be Africa’s largest marketing conference and an industry highlight (which it has become).  Khensani Nobanda – head of marketing at Nedbank – immediately saw the value.  She loved the idea of creating world class thought leadership for her staff and for Nedbank clients.  She also loved the opportunity to uplift the youth.  We had an immediate meeting of minds and the 2021 conference will be our third.


Please could you tell us a bit about your background.

A mother of 12-year old twins, I am originally from Zimbabwe, and moved on to complete my BA at the University of KZN. After graduating, I worked my way around the world, after which I returned to Johannesburg. 

In 1998 I started an advertising agency, Chillibush, from a suburban garage. I then sold the business in 2014 by which time my annual turnover was over R100m. During my time running Chillibush, I became a finalist in the Ernst & Young Global Entrepreneur Awards (Runner up to Koos Bekker) as well as a finalist in South Africa’s Top Women in Business and Government Awards. In 2010 I was awarded Businesswoman of the Year. My agency was ranked a top ten South African agency by both the Financial Mail and Finance Week.

After selling Chillibush I purchased the IMC Conference in 2018.  I re-launched this in 2019 as the Nedbank IMC, which has become Africa’s foremost marketing conference.  In 2020, I was tasked with taking the conference virtual, as a result of Covid-19. The virtual conference had over 1000 delegates and was described as “the new virtual conference benchmark”.  Ninety-five percent of the polled delegates rated the conference as excellent.

I have also successfully completed the Comrades and Two Oceans ultra-marathons, as well as the Argus, 94.7 and Rhodes cycling events. And have completed several endurance canoe races. During my schooling years I actually represented Zimbabwe in hockey, squash, and athletics.  


What excites you the most about the work that you do?’

  • I love the networking opportunities and constant learning.
  • I love seeing the enthusiasm of the youngsters
  • I love exploring ways of constantly delivering a more exciting conference.


Please tell us about your views on ‘conscious consumerism’, and why it is important to acknowledge.

There is a growing consciousness in the world around us, made possible by access to vast amounts of online information, with people deeply engaged in following social movements, practices and issues that trend on social media. Events that happen elsewhere, if touching a social or political nerve, can have an impact on consumers who are, in reality, not materially affected by the event. This consciousness is changing the way consumers respond to brands, boycotting those which may not meet with their expectations. Relying on an existing brand loyalty today is no longer enough – consumers can quickly change if, for example, they find out that a product contains unhealthy additives or ingredients from scarce resources, hear that the company’s practices are not focusing on sustainability, and so on.


What 3 tips do you have for businesses to be more aware of conscious consumption in their day-to-day operations.

  1. Know your customer. As the world changes, is your consumer’s profile still the same? As your customers change, you should be changing too. The 24/7 world we live in demands that marketers are in tune and pre-emptive.
  2. Listen to your customer. What are they saying; what are they doing?  Social media is not just a push activity; marketers should be listening to the conversations of their customers. 
  3. Be transparent. If (or when) brands make missteps, be transparent and open. Your customers are becoming more educated and more savvy about the world around them. 


What trends are you currently witnessing in terms of South Africa’s consumer culture?  

South Africans have always been brand conscious and brand loyal, and we are cautious spenders. Given our current economic challenges, spending is more considered. While South Africans are prepared to pay more for quality, the product must deliver on this. Like our overseas counterparts, South Africans require an authentic voice in marketing, from adverts to influencers. If this is missing, there can be mistrust or even dismissal of the product.

Shopping apps are also on the rise in South Africa. Research indicates that 35% of us have installed shopping apps on our phone. These apps are a mix of retailers and specific brands. Again like our international counterparts, we tend to research our products online before purchasing, searching for information and looking at videos as part of that search. This means that brands should be on top of their online presence, easily accessible and intuitive to what kinds of information the consumer is going to be looking for, and questions they are seeking answers to.


What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?

My bottom line is to always give it my best shot. To work on a problem as best I can.  To try and avoid negativity. I keep motivated knowing that I need to earn the respect of my 12 year old twins by demonstrating a good worth ethic. And to show that work can be good fun. I have also learned to say NO which has taken many years.


Do you have any major milestones to share with us?

  • I have written two self help books.  I would love to write another book that is fiction – maybe a ‘who dunnit’ – but something that is really funny.
  • I also want to keep on growing the Nedbank IMC until it has gained even more traction as THE go to marketing event on the African continent.


Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects? 

In addition to the bursaries given via the conference, I sponsor a soup kitchen in Parktown North. 


Do you have any book recommendations for the youth that could potentially inspire them to get more involved in the environment?

If they are marketers, I would suggest they try and get hold of my first book titled From Witblits to Vuvuzela’s:  Marketing in New South Africa. If they are looking for some general ideas about life and business I recommend my new book: Hustling, Happiness and a Blow-Up Doll Named Percy. Using humorous stories of some of my real-life experiences – for example, why everyone needs a blow-up doll named ‘Percy’ – I demonstrate how to navigate this strange world so that you, too, can find your own brand of happiness.


What advice do you have for young people who are keen to work in your field?

  • Set goals
  • Communicate effectively
  • Have good attention to detail
  • Always be proactive



*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.

For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication, please contact National Project Manager, Emlyn Dunn: 

Telephone: 086 000 9590 |  Mobile: 072 126 3962 |  e-Mail: [email protected]



Subscribe to

Please fill out your details and we will ensure to keep you updated with a weekly bulletin on the latest blog articles we have to share!

Follow us on

You May Also Like…

Speed, Action, Attack – What Does Sustainability Need?

Speed, Action, Attack – What Does Sustainability Need?

The inaugural Future of Sustainability Summit, in partnership with Old Mutual Limited is being held virtually on 30 June and 1 July 2022. Topco Media has created a platform for decision-makers to come together at the Future of Sustainability Summit to share current innovations and solutions that will collectively make an impact on the African continent, not only for the general population, but for investors, consumers, the workforce, and governments alike.