Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Meet Gonzalo “Gonzo” Araya NGLCCNY's Media Communications Chair

An interview by Anthony Brincat

With more than 15 years of experience working across industries from tourism to corporate real estate and automotive. Gonzalo has excelled in research, analytics, marketing, coaching and design within the Fortune 500 and Global 1000.  In his early college years working at the Broward County Visitors Bureau, he and his team identified an untargeted $5M annual LGBT market that grew the community into what it has become today.  At the age of 19, he was recognized as the youngest Station Manager in the system by Spirit Airlines.  In this role Gonzalo led the Fort Lauderdale location as Operations Manager overseeing all passenger service operations, where he implemented a scheduling system saving nearly $.25 million in annual revenue.  He later transitioned into a Corporate Facilitators position where he designed and delivered Sales, Safety and Leadership programs to hundreds of front end personnel, as well as corporate and interdepartmental management teams.  What he may or may not have realized at such a young age, was that his career was about to take “flight”.
He later became an Analytics Advisor for LNR Property, a subsidiary of the 2nd largest U.S. homebuilder, Lennar Corporation.  At LNR, he designed a database for Asset Management where he excelled, was quickly promoted, and managed 27 investor reporting high net worth portfolios.
Jumping into the driver's seat as a Sr. Planner for the automotive giant AutoNation, Gonzalo was noted as a strategist who could tap into the affluent market using principle analytics.  He managed the OEM of 300 dealerships and 39 auto makes; some of the key brands in his focus were Mercedes Benz, GM, Nissan and Toyota.  Gonzalo also managed digital and procurement initiatives with numerous technology vendors and IT staff.

All of this broad-based experience and knowledge has been invaluable to where he sits today.  Gonzalo is the Creative Principal & Analytics Officer at L7z Group, an agency headquartered in New York, with offices New Jersey that designs and develops responsive websites, mobile and social media apps and leverage social-mobile campaigns to engage audiences and humanize the brand.  His agency specializes in digital business and advertising executions that are greater than the technology that delivers them.

Anthony:   When expectations are set higher than what can actually be provided, we are likely disappointed, how does L7z manage client expectations?

Gonzo:  It may sound basic (because it is) – we listen, we think and we communicate.  At L7z we firmly believe in having an open dialogue with our clients to ensure we exceed expectations and maintain a rapport that is honest, transparent and loyal to their needs.  We are a very “niched” firm so we know we have to listen intuitively and quickly innovate a foundation for process; this is when the L7z “Johari Window” comes to play.  Lacking the actual “quadrant,” it is as follows:
  1. Clients don’t know what to do, and don’t know how to get there.
  2. Clients don’t know what to do, but know how to get there.
  3. Clients know what to do, but don’t know how to get there.
  4. Clients know what to do, and know how to get there.
Anthony:  When I think of agencies that need to be taken to the next level, The Department of Motor Vehicles pops into my head.  If L7z were given the opportunity to re-vamp their systems and processes, how would you do it?

Gonzo:  First, I’d shoot myself (LOL)!  Then I’d call our partners at NCA and collectively come up with a strategy that would truly align people, process and technology so that they can effectively deliver the brand promise and elevate their quality and service levels.  We would look at the operation holistically from an enterprise approach.  We’d impact performance and internal culture, create business efficiencies based on our findings and deliver accessible digital resource tools that will reinvigorate the strategy and/or program after initial delivery. We all dread going to the DMV.  Most of it is due to the lengthy wait and lack of customer service – people, process and technology needs to be realigned.

Anthony:  The digital mindset is one that never learned long-hand division, how does L7z help to bridge the gap between the “digital” mindset and “analog” mindset?

Gonzo:  Great question.  We need to take the leap and evolve – or be left behind.  Today’s world must be able to feed and facilitate for the 21st Century Workforce – 4 Generations, 4 Realities, 4 Mindsets.  At L7z we are that; it is our culture!  We understand the generational challenges and are not afraid of them.  We are a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, 2nd/3rd career makers and vibrant college goers.  As technologists, marketers and strategist, we will educate you on how to get there, until you are ready.  At L7z we are not attorneys (sorry friends), our ticker doesn’t “tick” all the time.  We value trusted Friend / Partner / Client relationships.  Most of our clients have used us as a resource, before ever going into contract – and we welcome that.

What’s going on today with digital technology is nothing.  Have you heard of the 2045 Initiative?  Look it up…

Anthony:  While banner ads can be used cost-effectively across a broad array of digital media entities from an advertising creation perspective, they don't necessarily yield strong results, is there any way to target their use better?

Gonzo:  Today, one-off/single advertising executions (banner ads or not) do not work.  You need a solid integrated strategy that will cover all 360 touch-points.  First, before executing any type of campaign you really need to know your audience – it is part of your “due-diligence,” “R&D,” or however you call it in your industry.  You need to know how they engage with your brand.  What drives them to purchase.  How they purchase.  The 4 P’s in Marketing - 1.) Product, 2.) Place, 3.) Price and 4.) Promotion – cannot stand alone anymore.  There is a 5th PPEOPLE.  They are your brand advocates.  Your vested brand partners.  They are the ones speaking on your behalf so why not know who they are?  Especially in today’s digital space, if your 360 integrated marketing strategies don’t have the “5th P” into consideration, your campaigns are most likely to fail.

Anthony:  Creative execution refers to the manner in which an advertising appeal is carried out or presented. A particular advertising appeal can be executed in a variety of ways and a particular means of execution can be applied to a variety of advertising appeals.   Can you please provide an example of an execution technique?

Gonzo:  Without disclosing any client detail due to confidentiality and integrity, instead I’ll share our internal L7z “tactical” approach we use with our clients.  It naturally creates a defined creative different approach, for every client.  This is “ESDDEM” 
Extraction > Strategy > Design > Develop > Execute > Measure –
Our approach minimizes scope and budget creep and the client has full control of their own expectations, every step of the way.  We never engage in the “Develop” phase unless “Extraction,” “Strategy,” and “Design” (or “ESD”) are fully satisfied. We also always Measure everything we execute.  Transforming ROI, is our core identity.

Anthony:  Your clients are human and want to see, hear and understand you. They want you to help them achieve their goals and objectives. They want relevant content and conversation that makes them think. They want to be inspired to do different and to do better.  Humanizing your brand is a requirement, not an option in business today.  How does L7z go about humanizing the brand?

Gonzo:  At L7z, we begin with a media audit and really focus on the brand’s self-awareness around messaging and culture – you’re about to go public.  We create a strategy that may involve many of the following: existing media channels, new media channels, identify talent, hire new talent, a social media policy, a digital calendar and create “themes” that are relevant to your audience and make sense to the business.  Your employees are probably more than likely already on social media during work hours whether you allow them or not, identify the “star” or “stars” in a team and leverage their knowledge to communicate on behalf of the brand on social channels.  Implement a policy that ensures the brands “tone” and engagement methods.  Your employees are your brand ambassadors; allow them to turn skeptics into advocates.  There are no real rules behind social media but etiquette is important.  You never want to spam, over-share or share boring content – keep it meaningful; talk about your culture.  You never want to have one-way conversations; the engagement should be a two-way dialogue. You want to Measure and Monitor – listen, respond and fix.  Never delete, instead address and make better.

Anthony:  Every client on the web these days is looking for a website that will function just as good on mobile devices as it does on a desktop, the need of today’s modern technological era is to have one working design that is compatible across multiple platforms and devices, has L7z worked on any projects in this area?

Gonzo:  Yes, we do.  If you’re not designing/developing for an optimized viewing experience across all devices, you are wasting your time.  Your web experience should be ubiquitous.  It should be adaptable and accessible regardless of device – desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile.  This is what responsive web designs are.  They are basically site designs using “fluid grids” that adapt the layout to the viewing environment.  This makes the site more intuitive to navigate allowing for an enhanced user experience regardless of device while still maintaining cohesive branding.  We have noticed a slight shift from “mobile apps” to responsive design apps; you have more creative ability and don’t have to be dependent on the likes of the iOS or Android Marketplace rejecting your app, for whatever reason.  Are native apps such as iOS and Android going to stop? No, but there is a noticeable shift in development and most agencies like ours, are noticing this trend.

Anthony:  Lastly, I recently have been paying attention to some of things you post on Facebook and what strikes me is how passionate you are about the things you feel deserve attention.  In your own words, would you please create some language for the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights . . .

Gonzo:  “That to secure these rights, we simply must be treated equal!”

We all rise the same (birth) and will lay the same (death) in our short journey of life.  What proves our equality more than that?

Written by Anthony Brincat, NGLCCNY Member & Volunteer Correspondent, Media Communications Committee.  Anthony is a Senior HR Manager at  Allen & Overy LLP, a multi-national law firm.

Photography Credit: Vaughn Stewart, NGLCCNY Member & Volunteer Photographer, Media Communications Committee. Vaughn is Principal and Chief Photographer at Vaughn Stewart Photography.


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