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  Dolores Kunda
© Nathan Mandell
Dolores Kunda '84
Dolores Kunda
U.S. Hispanic market offers great potential, says Kellogg expert

By Carl Vogel

When Dolores Kunda asked to be assigned to the Hispanic marketing group at Leo Burnett, friends and colleagues quietly told her she might be making a "career-limiting move." After joining the company in 1984 directly after graduating from the Kellogg School, she had advanced from a trainee to senior account executive and just returned from a two-year stint as the youngest account director at Leo Burnett Mexico SA de CV. Now she was requesting to become part of a small team with the primary responsibility of translating existing campaigns into Spanish.

Today, Kunda's strategy has been vindicated.

After becoming head of the Hispanic marketing group in 1993, she immediately began working to make the unit a stand-alone agency. "Everyone thought we were a cost structure, just a service of the agency for clients," she recalls. "So we ran a proxy P&L to measure how we were performing, and big surprise we were making money."

In 1999, the group became a separate entity and launched with its own name, L�piz (Spanish for pencil). L�piz has grown into one of the premier Hispanic marketing communications agencies in the country, with more than $135 million in billables in 2002 (last public data) and blue chip clients such as Chase Bank, Coca-Cola, Disney, General Motors, InBev Brewing, Sara Lee and Wrigley. In fact, the firm competed against some 21,000 entries worldwide to win a Silver Lion Award at the 2005 Cannes International Advertising Film Festival for its Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats spot.

"This is big news for the Hispanic market," says Kunda, a Washington, D.C., native of Puerto Rican heritage, who serves as president and CEO of L�piz. She often speaks about the importance of the Hispanic market at conferences and to reporters from national media outlets.

"Things have changed tremendously in the last five years. The turning point was the 2000 census. It really blew people out of the water when the numbers came in and everyone could see how much the last census had underestimated the growth of the Hispanic population," Kunda says. "There's a lot of saturation for many products in the general market, and companies are looking to find new targets. But if they're conducting separate marking efforts in Chile or Latin America looking for potential markets, but not pursuing the U.S. Hispanic market, they're missing a larger and a more wealthy population."

Kunda recently returned to Kellogg to attend a course offered by the school's Center for Executive Women that prepares women for board leadership roles. The Women's Director Development Program made an impression on her.

"It was fabulous," she says. "I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether they want to be on a corporate board. It really makes you think through your decisions, reflect on how to build a team and how a financial picture can be distorted by someone with an agenda."

The class consisted entirely of women, yet Kunda says the course wasn't geared toward women's issues in the boardroom, nor does she believe that the discussions and atmosphere would have been different if the class was mixed gender. But she does say that corporate America needs more women and minorities active on boards.

"At this stage of the game, I would hope that people not look at your gender, but consider the value of what you bring to the table," she states. "I can provide insight into Hispanic markets, and that's something more companies need to know about."

Kunda is quick to indicate that, even with the rise of companies such as Lpiz and a more general awareness of Hispanics in America, the job isn't done. Without demand from large corporate clients, there is a significant gap in the hard data on Hispanic markets, and absent those numbers, it is hard to illustrate the demographic's buying power.

"We're still working to get Hispanics at the table. We get recognized in this country by having economic and political power," she says. "When companies regularly speak to a group in a way that is respectful and [indicates awareness of] their culture, you know that group has arrived."

Continue to Assistant Deans Carole Cahill, Theresa Parker and Erica Kantor

Back to Success Stories

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University