Camp Strategar, planting seeds for the future

About three years ago we started Camp Strategar. The week long program started off with my niece Eliana Sandhir, who was 10 at the time. We wanted to give her a real life project to make the most of her time.

The program is very important to me. I feel it helps her get a real world view on topics that go beyond the classroom as well as instilling a strong work ethic in her. It also helps build skills that prepare her for school and life in general. Over the past three years, the program has evolved. This year, the topic evolved from food and nutrition to gender equality. We chose the topic together during a family dinner discussion about the United Nations’ 2030 sustainable goals which include so many important topics like clean water for everyone, ending poverty to gender equality. We both felt that gender equality was an interesting topic to research and an important issue to address.

To help her undertake this big topic, we invited a new camper to join us this year. Marissa and Eliana both worked independently on their presentations but shared their ideas with one another. The week’s activities consisted of researching the topic, answering daily questions and compiling all the research into a presentation. On the last day of camp, our team was presented both their findings and proposed solutions that could solve gender inequality.

They came up with five solutions to solve this important issue: 

1) Create educational materials gender positive

2) Parental rights that treat men and women equally post the birth of child

3) Appreciate a woman’s work through equal pay

4) Stopping girl bashing

5) Inclusive decision making to achieve equality for all

We were so impressed by the presentation and ideas. We have uploaded the deck to slide share, you can see it  here.  In the years to come, we hope to expand Camp Strategar to include more girls and boys who are interested in learning and providing real world experience.

If you have any ideas or are interested in having your teen join us next year, please drop me a line.

Strategarian Awards for Public Service

At Strategar we believe in giving back to the community. We are involved in non-profit and professional development organizations, dedicating our spare time to volunteering.  Volunteer work often goes unnoticed but there are instances when volunteers get recognized for their work.

Our Brand Story Thinker, Angelica Ocampo was recently recognized at the 2019 American Advertising Federation (AAF) National Club Achievement Awards. As the AAF Dallas Public Service chair, one of her duties was to write a Club Achievement report that recapped club projects and initiatives that helped the non-profit community in Dallas.

Angelica’s work on the Public Service report helped the club place 2nd, an improvement from last year’s 3rd place. Her experience has motivated her to continue as the Public Service chair for the upcoming term.

Strategar’s ties with AAF don’t stop with Angelica, our newest Strategarian, Vivian De La Cruz is also a member. I actually met Vivian at an Ad 2 Dallas event, I was a panelist sharing career advice to a group of young professionals. Vivian is the copy writing chair for the Ad 2 Dallas Marcom team and is working as an account coordinator, writer and social media expert at Strategar.

Learn more about AAF Dallas and Ad 2 Dallas below.

About AAF Dallas:

AAF Dallas is the oldest civic organization in the Big D and has been the trusted business partner by connecting our corporate members and sponsors since 1908.

Our working board of volunteers is dedicated to our mission to protect and promote the wellbeing of the advertising industry through our government relationships, to provide thought leadership to our members through innovative programming, to attract top talent by supporting and growing future industry leaders via our Educational Foundation, to foster diversity in advertising, and to honor advertising excellence.

About Ad 2 Dallas:

Ad 2 Dallas is an affiliate of AAF Dallas for advertising professionals who are 32 or younger.

Through networking and educational events, public service opportunities, and social gatherings, we help up-and-coming professionals gain the skills and contacts they need to become tomorrow’s industry leaders.

Younger Population Is A Growth Opportunity for All

Watching season 3 of “Stranger Things” this past weekend, I was reminded of my experience as an 80’s kid. We saw when the Berlin Wall came down, the Challenger explode, Reagan’s 1986 Amnesty Reform and so much more. Wrapping up the millennium, there was also a lot of excitement around the 2000 Census. The hypothesis for many pioneers of Hispanic marketing then was that the 2000 Census would validate the enormous growth of the Hispanic/Latino population from the 1990’s.

It’s amazing how quickly 20 years have passed and how the consumer continues to evolve. Reading Pew’s latest research published this week, it is astonishing to get confirmation that Hispanics (18% of the U.S. population), contributed to 50% of the country’s growth from 2008- 2018. Growth is driven by U.S. births, or homegrown as I like to call them, but the population growth is slowing down some, and the median age has shifted from 26 to 30 years old.

What does this mean for brands? 

Targeting Latinos has transcended language. Depicting culture and community is just as important to Latinos as language once was. This mindset is supported by media, proximity to LATAM, and social networks. In this millennium, we (Latinos) have become mainstream with a plethora of crossover artists, food, and even celebrating “dia de los muertos” as shown in the Pixar movie Coco.

Having spent 20 years in the business, I’m excited to see what this youth accomplishes in the next decade. My advice to young Latinos is to stay humble, have fun, study, take care of your body, and save as much as you can. Also, use those pennies to travel and see the world. On the money and education front, culturally, many of the U.S. Latino homegrown population came from little means and there’s still a big opportunity to learn more about money and financial literacy. These are areas I predict will continue to develop in the next decade. At Strategar, we are exploring creating content that will raise financial literacy and close the educational gap. I am very excited about what’s to come next for U.S. Latinos. What are your thoughts on how the Latino population will evolve over the next decade?

“Social Good” – The Advertising Winner of Super Bowl LIII

Well folks, Super Bowl LIII is behind us and like every year many of us who work in advertising or marketing sit back to see what this year’s sponsors had to say during the coveted broadcast.

Today, I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on what the experts thought of the ads. Many have said, “the brands fell flat”. Some said, “they better try harder next year”. While I’ll admit there was some of the usual Hollywood flare missing in this year’s advertisements, as the Forbes article “Super Bowl 2019 Commercials: 10 Themes Emerge That Reflect Consumers’ Fears, Desires, And Hopes” points out, we saw some definite trends this year. The trend that most stood out, was the move by blue chip brands to use their premium air time to promote “social good” messaging.

If you’re wondering what social good messaging is – don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Social good messaging is when a company or brand showcases work they do for a social cause. A social good campaign may highlight causes related to the environment, helping disadvantaged groups, supporting non-profits or improving people’s lives. As marketers and global citizens, this is important because it recognizes a shift from brands focusing on themselves to showing support for something bigger. In essence, these brands are showing us what they are doing to make the world a little better.

So what brands did this best? Of the television ads that aired, here are my top 3 – with explanations for each:

Microsoft’s “Everybody plays, Everybody wins” ad featured disabled children whose playing field is equalized by the use of their gaming console. For anyone who has ever interacted with a kid with special needs, it was heartfelt and very touching to see those kiddos feeling included with their peer group. The brand showed in a tangible way how it is helping the quality of an underserved group. I give a thumbs up both on message and a brand promise the audience can understand.

Google’s “Job Search for Veterans” ad featured a tool that veterans can use to find employment best suited based on their military experience. This ad seemed more neutral among the experts, but again, if you have ever volunteered with veterans or have spent an hour talking to them after they retire or return from deployment, you would understand it was a great social good message to promote. We also learned Google had a special search feature to make employment search easier for veterans. Well done Google.

Verizon’s “All Our Thanks” (First Responder) ad was also memorable. This one featured an NFL coach who survived a car crash. He was thankful to the first responders who were there every step of the journey. Much to the coach’s surprise, the people he was there to talk to were the people who had been there at that critical moment. While the ad is very moving and definitely took premium air time to recognize the importance of first responders, I struggled to understand the connection to the brand. The only connection I could make is that they were trying to make good on recent press about throttling data plans of firefighters during California fires, and of course donating to a fund that will benefit them. Maybe it was opportunistic, but it seemed Verizon is on the right track talking about this important issue – after all in the case of the coach, it all started with a call. The question moving forward is how will Verizon be involved in the process? The ad seems to miss the connection to a direct service and how they improve people’s lives.

As your brand is looking to do social good work, I recommend you consult with creative agencies that understand how to bridge the two worlds. Work with a partner who will take an insight or cause you care about to create a brand message that promotes social good and is related to your product or service. Ideally, you want to connect the message to your brand’s vision and share how it stands for something bigger. When you do so be authentic and do not leave your audience scratching their heads trying to figure out the message.

Of course this assessment is missing additional channels and results, but the key takeaway is that more brands are moving in this direction. What did you think of the social good work that aired? I am personally excited to see the trend head in this direction. I would love to hear your comments.

Living by the Values You Establish

The Small Giants Summit took place in Dallas last week and we were fortunate to be invited to attend by our business associates Hussain and Shezad Manjee at DHD Films. It was a great opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs from all over the U.S. and world. The goal was to gather, share ideas and best practices from other successful small and medium-sized businesses.

To be completely frank, before the conference I had never heard of Small Giants. Some of you may have read Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham. Bo is also the Editor at Large at Inc. Magazine and is involved with the organization. We are not yet members, but I am so grateful we made the time to attend. Hearing other business leaders share experiences of how they build values-driven organizations was life-changing in many ways. They didn’t only speak about the concept but also shared tens of actual examples they apply daily.

Paul Spiegelman leads the organization with the goal to unite like-minded small and medium sized business owners who have made the choice to build a values-driven organization versus one focused solely on growth. Regardless of industry, the goal of the members is to have great “business mojo”.

When you hear a statement like “building a values-driven organization” or “business mojo” for the very first time, you wonder what exactly does that mean?

In a nutshell it’s about having clearly defined values that impact every aspect of your organization. The values are consistent with everything you do. Whether you’re talking about your operation, your employees, your clients or suppliers, you and your employees live by the mission and values making the collective organization great. The companies we visited with ranged from 3 to 23 years in business. Many of their employees were also present and unlike other conferences or business settings I have attended, the room oozed with a desire to share best practices and learnings.

On the last day of the conference we had the opportunity to attend an open house (or as the organization calls it a “passport” event) at Call-Em-All, a company also based in DFW that specializes in messaging services. Brad Hermann’s and Hai Nguyen’s vision, approach and complete openness blew me away. I spent time getting to know many of their employees and it became evident that this approach to business is a win for the company and for the employees. It is possible to be profitable but not at the expense of your employee’s well being.

All in all, everyone I met at the summit had that one commonality: Making a conscious effort to have awesome working environments, living by the values they have established.

I can’t wait to join the Small Giants Organization and adopt many of the great things shared last week. If you are looking for an organization that adds meaning to the way you do business and you genuinely care about building good work culture, check them out at

See you at SXSW!

We are excited to announce that our panel “Occupy Your Meal” was accepted into the SXSW 2017 program!!

And yes, we are STOKED yet humbled to share so much of what we’ve learned this year working with a variety of clients and partners, including Snappy Salads, a fast casual chain of eleven restaurants, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) and urban farm Nectar.

So What is “Occupy Your Meal”?  The food industry is going through a revolution. No longer are consumers satisfied with fast food, processed foods or irresponsible growers that are mass producing cheaply and irresponsibly. We will explore how socially conscious growers and restaurateurs are changing the outlook of the fast casual restaurant industry one bite at a time.

Questions we will address:

  1. What should consumers look for in growers and restaurants to ensure they are supporting companies that care about long term sustainability?
  2. What new trends, including the emergence of urban farms are happening to improve all Americans are served REAL food?
  3. What can consumers do in their respective communities to play an active role in the “Occupy Your Meal” movement?

Chris Dahlander is CEO and founder of Snappy Salads. He has a simple goal: Provide the highest quality ingredients, in awesome salads, soups and wraps, all in a place with a cool vibe. He walks the talk and we’re eager to get the word out. From sustainably grown tomatoes that come from Ft. Davis and olive oil from California Olive Ranch to the reclaimed wood he uses for every table in his restaurants, his company is the embodiment of the”Occupy Your Meal” movement.

Lawrence Williams of the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC)  provides incentives, programs and tools to increase the production and consumption of healthful and sustainable foods, such as Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Certification for the food and foodservice industry.

Imran Charania, founder of Nectar,  an urban farm with an integrated fresh food delivery service.

Check out our submission video and our slideshare presentation.

As part of our collaborative process, we’ll also be implementing a series of questions to get your feedback on what you think is missing in our food industry.

Stay tuned and thank you all who have supported us along the way.

#OccupyYourMeal #EatResponsibly #ResponsibleDining

The Journey

Last month I was invited to the Adversity Podcast hosted by my friend and fellow strategist, Diego Lastra. It was great recounting much of my journey and how I ultimately landed at my dream job at Strategar.

What I enjoyed most, was the opportunity to reflect on the journey. Sometimes it’s easy to take the road for granted, but in my case every job I had before taking the plunge to start my own shop was critical in forming my views and my approach. In the 14 years leading into Strategar’s birth, I went from B2B marketing, to B2C to multi-cultural and even media. Along the way, I worked on companies like KodakMicrosoftChevyBank of America and Sprint. While I mostly handled brand leadership, I was always involved in research, strategy, problem solving and the creative output – and hence how we came up with the company name Strategar. We provide a blend of it all.

As I recounted my journey I was reminded that my focus has always been and will continue to be client-centric. What does that mean? I means we listen and craft plans that solve their challenge or issue. We look at the situation from our client’s perspective but overlay our expertise to develop a customized action plan. Being client centric also means we leave all the fluff out. We believe the most important aspect of our involvement is growing and maintaining the client relationship that requires transparency and trust.

We also discussed if being a Latina was ever difficult in business. The reality is that I never saw it as an impediment but as an opportunity to shine and to ensure others would have a seat at the table in the future.

Altogether, as I look back, the jobs and teams I led were the perfect experience to work on with the Texas Department of AgricultureGO TEXANSnappy SaladsUNT Dallas (a happy plug to a few of our clients). I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of their marketing journey – and to do our share for making our communities and the world a little better through the communications strategies we develop.

As I look ahead, I’m very excited about the future and the possibilities. We have pivoted our service offering, have hired a terrific team, but bottom line what makes us good is that we bring our heart to work and our clients know we have skin in the game with them and that we care about their efforts as much as they do. We also embrace the idea of bringing our entire self to work and recognize that we each have unique personal perspectives that add a ton of value to our clients.

Thank you all for your support and for even taking the time reading this. I was over-joyed with the positive feedback we received as I shared the podcast. From ex-colleagues and clients to friends and family it was great to hear from each of you. It’s a great feeling, and one to celebrate! I’m looking to part 2 of the interview. Will share once that’s done.

Walking the Walk You Talk

Last month NBC Universal announced Cesar Conde would take over the entire Hispanic portfolio including: Telemundo Network, NBC Universo Cable Network, Telemundo International, Telemundo Local Stations, Telemundo Digital Media and Emerging Business and NBC Deportes. Basically this means Cesar will oversee all U.S. and International Hispanic outlets. (He officially starts this new role Oct. 12.)

I had the pleasure of meeting Cesar when I worked at Univision and it’s exciting to see a company as large as NBC Universal recognize the importance of the Hispanic segment in the U.S. and abroad.

Back at the home base in Dallas, we experienced first hand the equal commitment for both owned stations: NBC 5 and Telemundo 39.

For the past few years, I had heard how things were changing at Telemundo stations. Several old colleagues had mentioned that NBC Universal Owned Television Stations had made the commitment to treat Telemundo and NBC stations equally.  The reality is that it sounds like an easy task, but the fact is that in media, like any other business, your largest division gets more funding, more space, more resources – period. Telemundo stations are growing, but they are still smaller in audience reach and revenue by comparison to NBC stations.
Much to my delight, the Dallas Telemundo 39 office reflects the exact commitment my old colleagues had described. The two news, sales, and management teams share one roof and the space is pretty much 50/50 – ideal for sharing best practices and collaboration. Even the news studios are a mirror reflection each having comparable state-of-the-art equipment.

I want to commend NBC Universal’s leadership for their commitment and walking the walk they talk at a national and local level. I also want to congratulate the local station leadership including John Treviño, Thomas Ehlmann and thank Rosa Cuellar Khraish for the invitation. As an outsider, it’s refreshing to see companies that get it – and it’s no surprise that the integration is working.

Intersecting Possibilities

It’s 1985, the transparency goes up and the teacher begins to write “Venn Diagrams”. As my 4th grade teacher began to explain the idea, I became instantly fascinated by the possibilities of what occurred when two, three or infinite circles met. It’s a concept that I continue to get excited about and even better, it’s a concept I get to apply to my daily business routine.

One recent example of an opportunity to connect circles occurred when a client shared a new solution that combines software and hardware to distribute branded content across TV screens anywhere via the web.

I immediately started to see the possibilities and how this offer could help many of my existing clients distribute and manage branded content in real time. The solution solves for POS and digital signage at the very minimum – and promotes an interactive way to
engage with customers. 
And better yet, they also offer an amazing content management tool and analytics reporting that help ease the pain of content distribution and managing hundreds/thousands of screens.venn diagram

Of course all industries have different needs, so the potential intersection varies by client. In the spirit of sharing, here are some examples of the application across three different industries:

Fast Casual Dining

  • Digital signage allows owners to save on printing menus and can also be used to feature food, specials and seasonal items
  • Adjust pricing with a few clicks and via the web, submit and it will show across all your screens
  • Share videos on related content and news that will benefit your guests

Stadium/Professional Sports

  • Through interactive digital displays, attendees never have to worry about missing a minute of the game, giving them the liberation to visit the concession counter once or twice
  • Engage with fans in the stadium by showing content that will enhance their experience and will build value for your sponsors
  • Share maps, Eat/Shop locations and provide special offers for your sponsors

Distribution Services

  • Present information on a large dashboard screen that can highlight warehouse performance, sales goals, and HR announcements
  • Use screen to share messages from executive team, build morale and promote company culture
  • Leverage screens to engage with sales force and merchandising team across markets and warehouses, introduce products, featured items and company messages

The magic definitely occurs in determining where the two can solve a pain point. Our goal is to figure out the intersection that will help drive innovation and provide a better customer experience. And of course with the right team and the right solutions, the possibilities are truly endless.

Are You Ready For The New Year?

There are exactly 30 days remaining in 2015 and with the year quickly coming to a close – are you ready for 2016?

I realize the days of long term business planning are long gone. Today’s heavily fragmented media environment means consumers can demand constant on-the-go services 24/7. The smart phones and tablets have forced business leaders to be nimbler, scrappier and creative to ensure their message isn’t lost in the clutter.

Sure there’s still some forward planning involved, but we all know the concept of “annual planning” seems like something out of our college history books. However, as we look forward to the beginning of 2016 – it’s not too late to get that plan in tighter shape.

Below are five questions your plan should address to ensure you’re ready to ring in 2016:

1. What does success look like?

This is a tough question for many business leaders and marketers to answer. The idea here is to define what success for your company, team and you personally entails.  For some business executives this may mean – have a meaningful 1:1 with each employee in the company. For marketers it may be related to sales growth and establishing new clients or new sales channels. For engineers this may refer to innovation and developing new products. The fact is that defining success across your organization is a critical step in your planning efforts.

2. What are your biggest threats?

Do you understand the competitive landscape? The brands that move swiftly don’t necessarily have the biggest budgets – but they do tend to understand their competitors and what sets them apart. In some cases they are the ones willing to take a risk. Understanding your competitors can range from looking at competitive messaging, media spend or even mystery shopping to understand the experience from the consumer point of view. Without this knowledge – it becomes nearly impossible to develop winning strategies that move the needle.

3. Do you have the winning team?

The expression “you are only as strong as your weakest link” comes to mind. One of our business mentors, Brad Herrmann from Call-Em-All put it best in a recent blog; “Don’t invest in finding ways to make people stick around. Just make it easy for them to leave.” Looking ahead, do you have a plan that allows disgruntled people to leave easily? Do you have a program that rewards the “good apples” and ensures your work environment is a destination for top talent? If not, build one.

4. Do you have the right resources?

The right resources may sound similar to the winning team, but there’s a critical difference. The right resources involve providing the right tools that improve the way your team performs key functions. Whether it’s a CRM tool for sales or a project management tool for your work groups, this can be a daunting task for many leaders. This may also refer to funding for expansion, new hires or a new communications campaign. For many small businesses having the right resources may mean additional expenses. There are plenty of resources available to help you in this area. We are also lucky to live in a time where technology has made it possible for any business to have access to resources that streamline operational/communication functions. Apps like Google AppsXERO and Capsule are a few of the ones we use.

5. Do you have it in writing?

Our team believes in the power of the written word. Besides giving you a good snapshot as to where you’re at today and where you want to go, it also gives structure for your team. Ideally you would have your direct reports heavily involved with areas of your plan and ultimately share it with team leads. You then would need to consolidate it and share a vision, plan or hurrah with your overall company. Knowing where you stand and what the possibilities are is a great way to end the year strong and more importantly begin it stronger.

If you don’t have these areas covered – it’s OKAY! At least you’re discovering this on December 1st and not December 31st. Our team specializes in helping clients answer and develop a plan for these types of questions and we would love to help you define your winning marketing/communications strategy for 2016.