Francisco Serrano is the CEO and of 121 Corp.
121 Corp works with web development and graphic design to bring you the highest quality digital campaigns. They provide web designs, video production, motion graphics, and much more.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
Alright, with us right now we've got Francisco Serrano, and Francisco You are the Chief Speed Officer at 121 and you guys are on the web at 121corp.com that's C O R P.com Francisco, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me. Josh. Very excited to be here your podcast.
Yeah. So so one to one is As an agency, you have to handle branding and a lot of other things. You know, I think before we get into what you do, let me just list off a few of the companies that you work with. And so to the person who's listening to us, you go ahead and take a drink every time I say a company that you might recognize, and we'll see how they're doing Francisco by the time I get about 20 seconds in here. Head and Shoulders Disney, Kellogg's, Visa, Heineken, Bayer, Hasbro, tic tac Nutella clear SL cheese you go on and oh my gosh it's this is like the who's who? p&g French's Lysol. Starbucks. Okay, I'm gonna stop right now because our audience has all passed out. So now that it's just you and I, Francisco, how did you build such a thriving agency?
Oh, well, that was a funny approach. Never seen it like that, Josh. Well, we started about 16 years ago and we decided to create an agency that it was different. And how we develop this concept of a difference is focusing on customer service. So and the customer service translated into speed. So the faster you deliver the the outcome, the better the clients, or the happier clients work, right, so, so our core offering is based on speed we deliver either both in digital or in graphic design deliverables for many fortune 500 companies, like you already mentioned. And we do it with the key differentiator, which is speed. So we do it faster than anybody out there. So that's, that has been our signature since we founded the company.
Yeah. And so obviously, Francisco when you talk about saying that just simply Customer service is the key to your growth. Obviously, we can unpack that a little bit. So let's talk a little bit about more about What you mean about customer service? And how that led to so much acquisition in terms of a great client base? And if you don't mind, maybe share differentiate yourself? I mean, isn't that what typical agencies do?
Yeah, exactly. Well, going in depth about explaining why customer service, you know that out there, there are so many agencies and you have them from the freelancer that are very talented all the way through big global agencies, and everybody's suffering something different, right? You have the creative ones, you have the Latin ones, you have the ones that folks some video others in social media, some strategy and other ones in data management. So for us is speed. So for us, we sometimes people say why speed Well, if you Focus on speed. And you launching a product into the market, you better off launching the product and learning from the experience of launching it. And structuring a comeback every time or every week, try to make it better every time instead of just saying, I'm going to wait until I have the perfect product or perfect service and then I'm going to launch it then. So speed has helped us understand that the digital real right now is learning and growing at the same time, right? So coming back to the differentiator from all agencies out there, of course, you need to be fast, everybody has to have that ingredient into their, their offering to the public or to the clients. But for us, we it's it has to be the center the core. Most of our clients like you mentioned Are the fortune 500 companies so they have the volume, they just and they already have their partners in strategic and digital and creative and Latin and whatever they just need. The the gap that we feel is the the adaptation or implementation to component in context to all the different moments of truth or point of contacts with the with the final consumers. So that's where we come in. And we do it. So one to one has offices in New York, yeah, Manhattan, DC and in Mexico, right. And we serve as companies all over the globe. So from Far East, we have Europe in America. So that gives us a loop of of offering that no one or very few companies can can Provide, right?
Right? You know, I'm trying to what I'm trying to, I'm trying to find this simple answer. You have a big agency and you have exceeded the lifespan and the depth of of success and you're on the Inc 5000. doing very, very well. Where did you get your first handful of clients?
Well, we started out in Mexico. I am originally from Guadalajara, Holly school, the tequila town. So, we founded the company there, and we started to, to engage with a lot of clients locally. And one thing led to another and one of these clients were in the US based and we we went and became their agency of record for the Hispanic brands. And and that's Hershey, one of the one of our clients and then from there everything organically start to grow. If you Fast forward 17 years, right? We are now I mean talking with people at Amazon and you know, like you mentioned, right audible and record bank Keizer, etc.
How did you get the attention of Hershey? How did they say? Yes, you are the ones we want to work with?
Well, first we worked with a, they acquired a company of candy, a company that it was from Mexico, and we were in charge of all their branding in Mexico. So in the US, I'm sorry. Yeah, they did is they took us under their wing, and we were the specialist only in that brand. And then the rest. I mean, we just spread the magic across different departments. Right.
Hmm. Nice. Well, that, you know, they always talk about you know, kind of right place right time, but it's more than that. Right. It's you, couldn't you you would probably defend the notion that Oh, you just got lucky.
Well, yeah. I mean, I have to accept that we're fortunate and lucky. But also we seize the opportunity and we get and now we could have just remained with the Hispanic portion of Hershey. Right. After that we decided that we wanted we wanted to that our purpose was a little bit more than that. So right now, like I said, we have we sell over and globally so that's that makes us very proud.
Is it primarily to the Spanish speaking audience?
No, no, no. We, for example, with Amazon, we are their go to partner for their new standards. Everything you see in their website as far as magazine, we do, or a lot of things of that nature. For Audible, you know, the reading and the audio book company that it was purchased by Amazon. We are their go to day to day partner. Also we have people working Inside audible and we do work for Hispanic and across the all the different markets, right? And so on. I mean, it's just and for Europe, we do for India, we do work for India and you know, so it's just across, depending on the adaptation of the material. And that's where we come in and we adapted to either digital or print form.
What do fortune 500 companies know about branding today that maybe small companies don't really get?
Well, they, they really care, or they, at least they are constantly talking about that. Engagement, engagement, meaning that the emotional connection it's a big thing when trying to build a brand and small businesses sometimes because of not having the right budget. They don't invest necessarily in engagement and more in direct sale. So that's the one thing that I can say that I have seen in small businesses. There's much more engagement that people need to think of in the small arena.
Now, and when you say how does branding evoke engagement?
Well, when you when you what's branding, branding is just a connection between a product or a service, and the mass market. And branding, it's touchpoint. This touchpoint has to, it's like, like a relationship between two people. I often say, when you want to engage with somebody, you engage with them on a face to face, on text on the telephone, visual and digitally, and that's the way you create a relationship. And that's the way you build a relationship with a person. Well, in branding with this product and the service is the same you need to build that relationship in order to make them come for the second third In for time and acquire your product. And it's more than just the product. It's just the emotional connection that you have with it. Right? So that's the whole thing about how many times we've seen that we purchase items that are more expensive. And it's the same, but it just has this intangible that we call it a good brand. Right? Well, that's because you invested in the relationship. And that emotional connection is stronger. You know, Apple is the greatest brand of the mall to show that, that relationship with the emotion.
So what questions are brands or companies asking about themselves? When they say, Okay, here's the direction we want to go to evoke this emotional connection, like how do they? What's the process that you take them through to settle in on the messaging that they want to communicate?
Yeah, well, keep in mind that My role in this whole process of Fortune 500 companies is the adaptation to the moment of truth of the individuals, right. So for example, if you have a product like Coca Cola, right, or let's call it you know lysyl we created I don't know if you have seen there's a there's a lie soul. See if I have it here, yeah.
This product? Uh huh. Tina,
very popular in 2020.
Yeah, so we created that brand, right so and and everything came up out of the packaging. Once you have the packaging, then you start to tell the story. But you cannot just put a rendering in the digital realm and communicate that message like that. You need to make sure that when when consumers are on your website, you're telling a story and you're engaging with them. So, you take this image and you tell the story, depending on the on the output that the message is going through, it can be a video it can be a GIF, it can be magazine at Costco ad, or it can be now through this difficult times with with the Coronavirus thing and you need to adapt that message and make sure that you're not copying and pasting that. So, that is the role that we that we try to or we do on a day to day basis, right. So the marketers know exactly what kind of message and the brand has to offer to the consumer. And we get that to either to the media and or to the target audience because it's the need of, of a student is different than the need of a mom. Yeah. Or have a grandma so and and the story And the purpose probably is the same. But you need to adapt the message to make it appealing and try to make the conversion. Right.
So, the added the visual adaptation of the message, what percentage would you say is art? And what percentage would you say is science?
Um, well, that's from my point of view is I think it's 5050. Really?
Yeah. So one might just think that, well, I can just go to an art school and tell them, here's what we want to convey and let the artist who has no concept of marketing whatsoever, do their thing. But there's more to it than that.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, remember that nowadays. I mean, since the beginning of consumer behavior, data has played a role an interesting role in how to to make sure that Your brand is getting out there, right and you're increasing your sales. Nowadays, when all this data and strategy come together, if you don't have, so it has to be the right brand guidelines. So design you have to be respectful and and mindful of all the different design aspects of your brand. So the colors, the illustrations, the motion graphics, whatever, be technical about it, but try to convey the beauty of it from one side. But in the other you need to be very technical and say and understand what the data is telling you. What's the moment of truth for each of the targets and each of the different media types that you have. So that's why I say 5050 and
what do how is consumer behavior change? We'll talk about a couple things. Pre Coronavirus How, how has consumer beat How is consumer behavior evolving up until January of 2020? Like, if you kind of look back at the past three to five years, what are consumers more sensitive to certain things? Are they? Are they savvy or? And so, which is my speculate? So I've been a consumer expert for 13 years and that's been my observation is that, you know, you can't be as on the nose when it comes to, you know, I'd say, you know, advertising. It's more about, you know, invest, I think investing in that relationship and being authentic with your audience, but I'm not sure what your observation has been.
Yes, yes, Josh. I think that you always have to be honest and transparent and convey what you have to offer to the consumer. Right. So pre Coronavirus I can tell you that the the trend across the board is that the consumer is living the now generation It doesn't matter if it's the youngster millennial or Gen Z or that is coming up or if it's the baby boomer, everybody's like embracing the now generation What does this mean? It means that today I can find out what color boxers does my best friend have that he took to the beach and I want to buy something like that. So do you know that power that gives the brands that manufacture boxers to help the consumers take a decision whether or not buy certain brand, or if I need to go to the movies and I want to see the rock and have that Understanding that they are going to be reaching out at that present stage. And you need to be there when they take that decision. So and and all the products that that are peripheral to, to whatever the things that is happening like the movie event or like the boxer, you know, you need to understand what is influencing the people that are taking the decisions and work around that now, and that works. Now, also, the now generation is we're leaving one moment. So I can assure you that many companies out there have plans for March and April, on their marketing campaigns there. They're going to have to cancel and they're going to rethink how the messaging is going to be. And what's going to be the tone that you're going to need to set up and to make sure that you prevail. So there's difficult times.
And so Francisco specifically. I'm sure you've already been having plenty of conversations with your clients, what are they predicting throughout the rest of the remainder of 2020. And again, we're recording this at the very end of March right now, just in just depending on when someone's listening to this. That's, that's how far into the future we know right now. We're working on limited information. So I'm very curious, you know, how brands are looking into the crystal ball and how they are pivoting and responding to our new world?
Yeah, well, most of our clients, some of them are in the digital realm. So like Audible for example. They're very much aware that this situation is coming up and they're just coming up with new and and you know, whatever ideas to help people through this difficult time so they have a free packages for students so they can grow professionally, right and self self growth in this difficult times. consumer packaged goods. So the fast consumer packaged goods industry, they are very much concerned about the availability of products right now, making sure that all the products get to the, to the consumers right now. Nestle is very important is just chain chocolate, right? It's forming right now. Yeah or Yeah, funny but it is. And imagine Reckitt Benckiser with Lysol and all the cleaning products, right? So it is very important for them right now their focus is making sure that the frontline people are are doing, you know, a good job the manufacturer knows to stop. So it's kind of a different priority right now. So to the answer of how long this is going to take. I mean, they don't know nobody knows. I mean, if we knew we, we wouldn't be in this situation, right. We saw that it happened in Hunan in China in November and we didn't do anything about Right now, we're look, we're took us so and they are preparing for I can tell you that rewriting the marketing plan, we are adapting to this new thing for us. And digital is going to play an important role, right? Telling the story even in this difficult times. That's the key. Do not stop telling your story. Yeah.
Well, Francisco Serrano, again, you are the chief speed officer at one to one. I guess that also makes you the, the founder co founder. Yeah, I'm the I'm the founder and CEO but the chief speed officers
to illustrate exactly what we do right?
Yes, you're on the web at 121corp.com C O R P.com And if nothing else, just go and be inspired by the the kind of success that that Francisco has has created for his agency Francisca you and I met at the Inc 5000 conference. And I just wanna say thank you so much for your insight. This is a great conversation. I love chatting with people who kind of have their ear to the track on what, you know, our largest companies, you know are doing and what they're thinking. So I really, really appreciate your insight.
Thank you for having me, Josh. It was a pleasure.
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