Go See Do Review: Covid has affected all of us in some way or another. On a personal level I (and my wife) had the virus quite badly in the week leading up to Christmas 2020 and over New Year, which lead to a pretty bleak (un)festive season. We’re almost fully recovered and are waiting for the vaccine so that we can immunize ourselves and our family against further infection.
On the business side, it was a hell of a year.
South Africa was due to begin the first lockdown on Friday 27th March 2020. On Thursday 26th March, in the late afternoon, I received a call from my direct report in Berlin. He informed me that our parent company, based in the USA, had decided to pull the plug and disinvest from the South African business. This was a bit of a shock to say the least. I was brought on board in early 2014 by a former colleague to assist with the Due Diligence and eventual acquisition of the business in August of the same year.
The acquisition was done on the proviso that I would run the new company, which I had done for almost 6 years. My employment contract was actually with the overseas entity and, on Tuesday 31st March 2020, 3 days into lockdown and following the decision to divest, I received 3 months’ notice of termination of my employment contract.
Decisions then needed to be made about what to do with myself and the company. Yes, during hard lockdown.
This was and is a franchise business consisting of 19 regions and, aside from the Master Franchise, the parent company also owned 4 franchise regions (3 of which had been amalgamated into a new mega region in the Western Cape). With the livelihoods of not just its own employees (including mine!), but those of the rest of the franchisees also at stake, let’s say that liquidation and/or closure of the company was not an option. After careful consideration and much negotiation and deliberation with the parent company, its proxies and lawyers, I took transfer of the company on 1st July 2020, the day after my notice period ended.
All this may sound quite exciting. However, we play in the Visitor Information/Tourism Marketing space and due to Covid restrictions we had suspended all operations from the 1st April 2020. Most of our clients and locations were closed indefinitely, which meant we had no other option but to suspend all economic activity. I was therefore the proud owner of a 25-year-old company with 10 staff, 16 franchisees, no revenue and over a quarter of a million rand in monthly overheads
Rather than bury my head in the sand (ok I admit there was a little bit of navel gazing), I got to work on what the plan was going to be for the business under our ownership.
Firstly, there were all the requirements from a governance perspective, including bringing my wife on board as a shareholder, and I spent a few weeks getting all of this sorted out. Updates were made with banks, the CIPC, accounting and secretarial services and other service providers to ensure our compliance with all and sundry.
Up to then we had been trading as Brochure Management South Africa (BMSA), a brochure display company that had its humble beginnings in Cape Town in 1995. The BMSA brand had tremendous traction in the market, but the name was dated and no longer fitted with how the business had begun to evolve or with where we saw it going. So, we decided to rebrand.
I had been toying with the idea of rebranding for some time prior to the lockdown to be honest, and already had some ideas of what we wanted to do. We settled on the name Go.See.Do. Media (Pty) Ltd for the holding company with the BMSA business becoming Go.See.Do. South Africa. Each of the franchise regions would then operate under the Go.See.Do. brand depending on where they were located (e.g., Go.See.Do. Cape Town or Go.See.Do. Gauteng etc.). Go.See.Do. Media (Pty) began operating on 1st July 2020 and the previous entity exited the market.
The great thing about the Go.See.Do. brand is that it can be used for multiple applications, be it websites, social media, activations, maps and guides, brochure display and distribution.
It is easy to remember. Easy to say. Easy to understand. Also, under the Go.See.Do. Media (Pty) parent company we see even more potential for future diversification. After much background work we rolled out the new Go.See.Do. branding to the franchisees and the name became official from 1st September 2020 via a soft launch.
At the same time that we were planning and executing the rebrand, we realized that we had to come up with a digital version of and/or alternative to the BMSA product. Until then, BMSA had really limited itself to displaying brochures on strategically located brochure boards nationally. We had no national competitor, but we also had no digital presence to speak of. With the help of some professionals and input from a number of independent sources we ventured boldly into the digital space. This was multi-faceted and included having a multi-platform digital presence as well as integrating with and maintaining our physical display points.
What we ended up with was something we’re quite proud of.
We managed to create a stand-alone digital ecosystem under the Go.See.Do. brand. Our portfolio of digital marketing and communication products speak directly to audiences on multiple platforms. This is via the GoSeeDo.co.za website with unique content, blogs, listings, news and featured articles and a regular newsletter or via regular posts on various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. As with any medium, all of these have taken a while to build to our users’ satisfaction, but the good news is that we are already seeing good traction and engagement growth after only a few months of going live.
Simultaneously, we created an innovative solution aimed not only at ensuring the safety of visitors to our more traditional display boards, but also at presenting more content in a contactless (read: digital) format. To this end we introduced QR code activated contactless brochure boards. Visitors simply point the camera of their digital device at the QR code on a display board and all the information from that board is immediately available on their device along with a location map.
Visitors then scroll through the “digital” brochures on their own device and select what to open. Once opened the digital brochure shows the full brochure, a map of where the client is located as well as all relevant contact and social media information in an interactive format. In a couple of clicks a visitor can email, call or browse for information that they saw on the display board but on their device.
We still retained our core business of brochure display under the Go.See.Do. brand, as many visitors prefer to receive their information this way.
We’re the only national display network in South Africa and we have a network of 3,500 physical display locations that nobody else can match. Because they are so effective, many of our clients want to continue to use brochures as part of their marketing mix.
Our location partners also really value our display boards in terms of providing current and relevant visitor information to their guests. So, brochure display still plays an important role in our business, it’s just that now there’s an option for visitors to get the same information digitally as well.
As I said above, it’s been a hell of a year.
But what we’ve ended up with, since I received my termination notice as an employee of a brochure display company on 31st March 2020, is a new company, with myself and my wife as shareholders, a new brand name, an entirely new digital ecosystem as well as an interactive reimagining of 3,500 “old school” display boards. Not bad.
What next? Unfortunately, we are now in the throes of the “second wave” of the pandemic, and the South African Visitor Market is a shadow of its former self. Our core business is over 80% down from a year ago. Incredibly, the response from the industry to our digital platforms and interactive display boards has been phenomenal. Already we have clients paying us for social media campaigns, featured articles, newsletter inserts and so on. Our blog posts are finding favour online and our Go.See.Do. rebrand has been unanimously accepted.
I firmly believe that we are extremely well positioned for when the travel recovery begins and am looking forward to bringing Go.See.Do. to as many people as possible. If you have any questions or want to find out more, please feel free to email me on sa@GoSeeDo.co.za or on +27(0)82 880 55986 (voice, message or WhatsApp). Also, for Go.See.Do. Display information and specifications you can click here and for Go.See.Do. Digital information and specifications you can click here.
Let 2021 bring us all good health, regrowth and prosperity.