SONIA GREEN, GENERAL MOTORS CORP.

Fueling GM's Hispanic Marketing Efforts

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Sonia Green is like the orchid she brought to Detroit four years ago from Florida -- thriving. Ms. Green has made her mark since joining General Motors Corp. in 2001 as its first marketing director concentrating on Hispanics.

Sonia Green, marketing director, Hispanics, General Motors Corp.
“You need to be a pit bull,” says the effervescent native of Santurce, Puerto Rico. Ms. Green persuaded GM to be more aggressive in its Hispanic marketing and to increase its dedicated media spending dramatically. She convinced nearly all eight GM vehicle brand divisions to pony up for relevant, integrated national ad and marketing initiatives as opposed to the spotty, market-by-market approach of the past.

One Hispanic agency
The number of agencies was streamlined from more than eight to one, Accentmarketing, a Miami shop backed by Interpublic Group of Cos.

In addition, Ms. Green swayed Gary Cowger, president of GM North America, to star in a Spanish-language corporate spot in 2003 to put a face on the auto motive giant.

The results: Hispanics accounted for 4.5% of GM’s sales in the 2003 model year, up from 3.6% in 2002, according to consultancy Strategic Vision.

Ms. Green, as director of diversity marketing and sales for Hispanic, has been drumming up support from GM’s regional field offices to participate in Chevrolet’s sponsorship of El Premio de la Gente, Telemundo’s annual Latino popular-vote music awards show that airs this fall. The partnership started two years ago as a mere media buy. But Ms. Green convinced Chevy and its dealers to take a more grassroots approach. So in 2004, Chevy dealers set up voting boxes and nominees appeared in Chevy showrooms. “Those are the kind of projects we’re trying to do,” Ms. Green says.

“Sonia brings enthusiasm and passion to our diversity marketing efforts,” says Brent Dewar, vice president for marketing and advertising for GM North America. “Her consumer insights have elevated GM’s approach to both the diversity and general markets.”

The nuances of Latino subsets
Her biggest marketing challenge these days, Ms. Green says, is to gain deeper understanding into the nuances of Latino subsets: “How do we best reach bilinguals and English-dominants as a corporation?”

Ms. Green, the mother of two teenage sons, graduated with a B.A. from New York’s Baruch College and completed Columbia University’s marketing and management program. She arrived at GM from global tech giant Ingram Micro, where she spent a year as general manager.

But Ms. Green, who describes herself as “45-plus,” spent most of her career at Avon Products, where she lived in five different countries and honed her Latino marketing skills. “Avon taught me the importance of teamwork and integrating marketing and sales,” says the former director of Avon’s U.S. marketing unit.

Right now, Ms. Green is packing her bags for a new assignment. In June, she’ll move to Florida to head a statewide pilot to boost GM car and truck sales to Latinos. “This pilot has enormous potential,” she says. The orchid she brought to Motown will return with her family to Florida.

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