Monday, December 28, 2009

Cinco Años

Wow. I just looked at my calendar and guess what--It's been 5 years since I opened shop.

That's right: Five years ago I purchased my domain and applied for a business license and developed the Conexión Marketing brand and, little by little, I had a business. My early menu of services included marketing communications (collateral and merchandising), public relations and overarching strategies--services based on several in-house positions I'd held over the previous 16 years.

Friends, family and colleagues all asked, "Why are you doing Hispanic marketing in Seattle? Why not Yakima, or L.A.?" Seattle is my home, it's where I want to be--and though the Hispanic market was the fastest-growing cultural minority in our region, no Hispanic marketing firms called Seattle home.

My first clients were such a celebration, and they were such an important daily reminder of the talents and skills and experience that I offer in the area of Hispanic marketing.

Since those first clients, I've been on an amazing journey with this business. We began to partner with a handful of global agencies (and their national accounts) and are still happily helping many of them with Hispanic efforts today. We've even worked with a few local ad agencies on work within Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.

We've worked in advertising as well, with one caveat to our clients: They must be able to provide a positive customer experience for the Latino consumer before advertising commences. We believe in "marketing inside out," meaning, make sure you can truly service this segment before you target it with advertising.

We then made the big move to our downtown office at Third & Union, an important move for so many reasons. Most importantly, we're accessible to many of our clients while enjoying the hustle and bustle of downtown Seattle. (Feel free to schedule a visit!)

But helping local companies understand their need to reach this fast-growing segment in the right way continued to be a barrier, so we produced our own research. Hispanic Consumers in the Puget Sound Region was a first-of-its-kind study that helped local companies visualize the important of the local Latino community. It included much more than demographics; it included primary data on such topics as media consumption, language preference, top-of-mind brands in several categories, and more. This study is still available as a free download at our website. (Note that while most of the information is likely still very pertinent nearly three years later, our local media environment has seen many changes since we published the study.)

This study was an important benchmark for Conexión Marketing and the industry; it put the local Latino community on the map in the minds of marketers doing business in our region.

Since then, we've conducted much more research, mostly through partnerships with local research firms. Learning about Seattle-area Latinos is so essential in order to effectively understand their needs. Ours is truly a different market--unlike any of your "typical" Hispanic markets, and even wildly different from that of Eastern Washington markets.

We branched out with the verticals we've served over the past five years, helping companies in a variety of industries--banking, communications (telecom, broadband, cable), healthcare, insurance, civic efforts, media, retail, and consumer packaged goods.

Another way that our firm has branched out has been to incorporate social media into plans when it makes sense. We've done this for several clients now, and while it's difficult to measure ROI on social media, we have seen that it really does nurture a sense of "community" and that consumers enjoy being able to interact with brands. And we're certain that Latinos here are embracing social media because we see them regularly posting on several sites--including at least two local social media sites developed specifically for Latinos!

So while some companies may be holding back on their marketing budgets until the recession's in the rear-view mirror, other companies are stepping up with effective strategy and messaging and becoming #1 in their category locally, even nationally. That's the power of the fastest-growing cultural segment, nationally and locally.

What will 2010 hold? Hopefully, more of the same! Especially since we're expecting this coming year's Census figures to blow away U.S. marketers. Those of you already on board with Hispanic marketing, kudos! You're getting in while competition's light and media is affordable--so your brand is benefitting in a cost-effective way. Who knows what will happen after Census data is released?

I love my business, and I work with so many wonderful and talented people--our clients, our vendors and partners. A big GRACIAS to our many loyal clients, several whom we've served 4+ years!

And here's to a 2010 full of joy and prosperity for us all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Javier Cáceres: The Next Guillermo del Toro?

I am so proud of my high school alma mater. Shorewood High School recently took on a challenge by rival Shorecrest to create a music video. And in my humble opinion, SW still rules!

I saw the video on You Tube by way of Twitter, but now after reading Nicole Brodeur's column in The Seattle Times, I am truly blown away.

Javier Cáceres created, with probably hundreds of classmates participating, the most amazing video, "Shorewood Lip Dub." Cáceres conceived this thing, and choreographed it, *backwards*. That's right: Everyone in the video was moving forward but singing backwards, so when he played the video backwards, all students are lip-synching perfectly to the music--but walking, dancing backwards!

The coolest part of all is that Javier Cáceres is a high school senior--from Peru. He came to the States just six years ago with his family. He didn't speak much English then, but now he's a Running Start student with dreams of becoming a director. According to the Times columnist, even Ben Stiller and Ashton Kutcher are tweeting about this genius.

This is the American dream, folks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reaching Unbanked Latinos

In celebration of Plaza Bank President & CEO Carlos Guangorena's birthday today, I'd like to write a little about banking and Latinos. In general, immigrants to the U.S. are much less likely to be banked than American-born. In addition, certain minorities are especially unlikely to have a relationship with a banking institition.

The problem with not having that banking relationship is that then it's difficult to establish credit. And we know that, without credit, many things--like home ownership--are simply unattainable. Now sometimes we hear that employers even check credit reports of their candidates to ensure that they're "responsible." Well, not having any credit at all doesn't make a person "irresponsible," it just means they're living outside the societal norm in the United States. And if they come from a place where banks closed and they lost all their savings, you can understand their hesitation. But now, you see, they have limited opportunities.

According to a first-ever federal survey on the topic, minority groups showed to be much less likely than the overall population to have standard banking relationships. In fact, an article in yesterday's L.A. Times reports on the survey: "Nearly 22% of black households were unbanked, as well as 19.3% of Latino households and 15.6% of Native American households. Just 3.5% of Asians and 3.3% of whites did not use banking services." That's an astounding gap.

Excerpt from the article:

"Many Latinos are most comfortable operating in cash," said James Gutierrez,
chief executive of Progreso Financiero in Mountain View, Calif., which focuses
on giving small, short-term loans to Latinos. Instead of having a paycheck put
on hold for several days at a bank, many turn to expensive payday loans for
immediate liquidity. "There's a lot of distrust of banks," Gutierrez said. "But
even though it's convenient for them to operate outside the financial
mainstream, they can't build a credit history, get a small-business loan, build
wealth. You need to give people a staircase upwards."

Here in the Puget Sound region, Plaza Bank was formed, about four years ago, on this very principle. The founders and directors wanted to create an institution that would be accessible, and since many of them were Latino, they created the Pacific Northwest's first Latino bank--with bilingual/bicultural staff, services and materials. They of course welcome everyone to bank there, with business lending and administrative office is right here in downtown Seattle, and a gorgeous retail branch at the Kent Station Shopping Center in Kent. The Bank has been offering not only your typical bank products for consumers and businesses, but also opportunities for financial literacy. This is what sets Plaza Bank apart from the bigger banks. It's a community bank that is truly reaching out.

For the same reason, the organization Bank On Seattle was created a couple of years back. The mission of Bank on Seattle was to make banking accessible to the unbanked--and keep this population from losing all its money through payday loan services. They formed a cooperative of many credit unions and banks, including Plaza Bank. If anyone can provide information describing the organization's current efforts or achievements, that would be great to learn.

As a side note, in our own survey of Puget Sound Latinos two years ago, we learned that 56% of local Latinos are banked (meaning they have a savings account, checking account or both), which makes the Seattle area market very different from the national average.

Sources: Hispanic Consumers in the Puget Sound Region study available FREE at; ;