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  • Writer's pictureBen Finzel


Change starts with talking, but it only means something when it results in sustained action. With The Change Agencies, we’re focused on starting those conversations in multiple ways with multiple people. One of the ways we’re doing that is with a new blog series we’re calling The Change Q&A. The idea is simple: ask a leading marketing, advertising or communications professional to share their thoughts about changing the way businesses and organizations communicate across cultures. Then we share those thoughts with others to help spur dialogue and action.

We’re thrilled to be starting this dialogue with a friend of The Change Agencies: Chiqui Cartagena. Chiqui is the Chief Marketing Officer for The Conference Board (TCB) in New York City and has responsibility for all marketing and communications for the nation’s leading global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest. TCB’s unique mission is to provide the world’s leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society.

But Chiqui is more than just a brilliant corporate marketer. She wrote two books on marketing to Hispanics, served as Senior Vice President for the Political and Advocacy Group at Univision Communications and had senior marketing roles at Story Worldwide and the Meredith Corporation. She’s had a distinguished career in journalism as well, with roles at Ad Age, TV Guide, NY1 News, and the news organizations of Univision and Telemundo, as well as the Miami Herald.

Chiqui doesn’t just have terrific experience. She’s also very smart and, I’d add, kind, for taking the time out to participate in this Q&A with us. We’re so happy to have this opportunity to start the Change Conversation with this Change Q&A with Chiqui Cartagena. Thank you, Chiqui, for sharing your insight, perspective and wisdom with us!

Q: In your career, you’ve been both a journalist and a marketer. How have those experiences shaped your approach to multicultural and LGBTQ marketing, communications and engagement?

A few common threads run through these two seemingly different practices, Journalism and Marketing. The similarities are the art of listening and the art of storytelling.

Asking people questions and really leaning in to listen to what they say is fundamental in both professions. When done right, then people/clients/subjects will tell you everything you need to know.

But gathering the information is just the first step. The other art lies in weaving the facts you have discovered into an engaging narrative – and that is storytelling at its heart. It doesn’t matter if the expression of that story is through a 30-second spot, a media piece that runs in a newspaper, magazine, or radio show, or a longer documentary or book.

In terms of multicultural and LGBTQ communities, I don’t see much of a difference, as they are reflected in each other. If you think of humanity as “Tribes,” these tribes of multicultural communities and LGBTQ communities are more similar than they are different. They have always been treated as the “other,” not the “norm,” and so they are always looking for visibility and positive role models. As a marketer and a journalist, the ability to connect emotionally with people is the key to producing a compelling marketing campaign or media piece.

Q: You literally wrote the book – two of them! – on marketing to Hispanics. Can you share some of your best advice from these books?

My Latino Boom books were written as business primers to help executives better understand the importance of the Latino community in the US and the impact they will have as a demographic group on the US economy. Their economic influence spans everything from housing to transportation, to financial services to education and healthcare.

In fact, the subtitle of my last book is “catch the biggest demographic wave since the Baby Boom.” I still believe that this community is poorly understood and mainly invisible in the US. But if businesses want to grow – and who doesn’t? – Latinos represent the lowest hanging fruit in terms of domestic growth for the vast majority of brands and companies in the US. Yet most people have yet to realize that.

So my best advice to businesses: Get to know your Latino community and figure out how to sell your product or service to them. Your bottom line will grow as a result! The future is here, now…

Q: What are some common misconceptions about marketing to Hispanics and other multicultural or LGBTQ audiences that you wish marketers and communicators would understand?

The biggest misconception about Hispanics or multicultural markets is that we are small and that we are already being reached through the “general market advertising efforts.” Companies that want to grow their businesses in the US must start targeting multicultural markets because we are younger, more affluent, and digital innovators. In a word, we are their future Uber consumers – and when we’re properly targeted, companies reap the rewards of growth.

The other big misconception is that we are all the same or one-dimensional, i.e. Hispanic, LGBTQ, or female –in my case, I am all three…and more! By seeing us as multidimensional consumers, smart marketers will be able to find more insights and emotional triggers to work with. But they have to do their research and uncover the insights they need to tap into each side of their consumers, and this aspect is often lacking. Lack of proper research and consumer insights often lead to bad multicultural marketing decisions.

Q: How should communications and marketing change to better engage with multicultural and LGBTQ audiences?

Everything starts with good research that leads to consumer insights, which then informs your creative brief. Having a robust sample of multicultural consumers when conducting product research is critical for getting the right insights.

Then you need to make sure you hire the multicultural marketing experts who will help you develop smart ideas for your campaign. The right team makes all the difference. You cannot depend on your agency of record, especially if they don’t have the right expertise on board – and usually they don’t. Don’t be fooled by the Total Market approach – that has proven itself not to get the best results.

Q: What’s the best advice about multicultural and LGBTQ communications and marketing that you’ve received?

To get multicultural marketing right you need buy-in from the CEO/CMO so that it is accepted by all of the organization. If you try doing multicultural marketing without the proper buy-in from the organization, you will fail.

Q: What’s the best advice about multicultural and LGBTQ communications and marketing that you’ve given to others?

Don’t be overwhelmed. Often, the best multicultural marketing/LGBTQ campaign work is based on human commonalities that are skillfully expressed with the right tone and nuance. A good campaign should reflect an insight that unites us all but that celebrates our differences to be effectively engaging. A good example of that was the Zola commercial that ran on Hallmark Channel that caused some controversy recently.

If you haven’t started doing multicultural marketing, you must do it NOW! The future is here. Get the appropriate team in place to help you do it right, but don’t delay any more. A new century is upon us!

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