Office With a View: The lifestyle-marketing group’s public relations SVP Brianne Pins and CMO Rona Mercado discuss helping businesses reach diverse consumers
Joining the Cashmere Agency early on was a good bet for chief marketing officer Rona Mercado, the company’s third employee, and public relations SVP Brianne Pins, its seventh. The two women have been working at the Cashmere Agency for more than ten years, helping companies reach customers of all backgrounds.
The award-winning lifestyle-marketing agency was launched in 2003 by its co-founders Ted Chung and Seung Chung, who saw most of Hollywood’s marketing efforts getting steered toward white audiences. Today, Cashmere has become one of the entertainment industry’s go-to culture-centered marketing agencies, and it has collected a large clientele list along the way, including Google, BET, Universal Pictures, Netflix, FX, Coca-Cola and more.
Mercado and Pins have been able to carry on the agency’s goal of creating space and opportunity for people of color while also working at a place where they can be comfortable in their own skin. While they were removing barriers to people of color’s careers, they also faced personal challenges. One was dealing with imposter syndrome. They’re not alone. The latest KMPG Study shows Imposter Syndrome is experienced by 75% of all female senior executives.
“Sometimes, in everyday life, I have to do a reality check of what I’ve accomplished,” Pins told for this week’s Office With a View. “I’m not an expert on everything. There’s always more to learn. But I have to really ground myself: I’ve been in big rooms with people who have decades of experience over me. What I’ve done is say, ‘Where have I been, and what did I do to prevail in that situation?’ I use that as my driving force.”
“When I think ‘imposter syndrome,’ I equate it to being vulnerable,” Mercado added. “Women are just people, and vulnerability is a strength. Sometimes you’re going to be vulnerable. Like, ‘How do I stack up?’ You start counting your wins. In moments of vulnerability, I have a real narrative to remind me of why I’m here, what I’ve done, how much I’ve done — and then it’s fine.”
Mercado and Pins shared how they contributed to building the Cashmere Agency — and their own confidence in their work — along the way.
This interview has undergone editing to ensure clarity and length.
Are you motivated to do the work that Cashmere does by your belief that people of colour still require more opportunities and resources.
Mercado: Absolutely. It’s more than just checking boxes. There’s always room. It’s going to take more than a post. It’s about the culture. What’s the deal with TikTok, for example? Why do these dances happen and become such a global phenomenon? It’s about the culture, and that’s something we zone in on when educating clients.
Pins: What’s interesting, even on the industry side, is it’s about the budgets. Some clients still divide their budgets by national and multicultural. African American against Asian, Latino/Hispanic and Asian. There’s still different budgets. It’s one of the things we try to educate clients about.
Have there been challenges as women of Asian descent you’ve faced during your career?
Rona Mercado: On the rise, I’d say it came more from outside forces. Just walking in a room with the way you look, people don’t understand who you are. I’ve gone into rooms, pitching, and clients seemingly look like, “Oh, you’re Asian American, but your counterpart is… I’m confused, you’re multicultural.”
Brianne Pins: It’s AAPI Month. It’s AAPI Month. I’ve worked with other agencies, other companies before coming to Cashmere [where] women often didn’t have a voice, especially where executive leadership was all-male. Even now, we do a great deal of educating people about what cultural means and what multi-cultural means. It’s still that education piece that we’re constantly having to do.
What do you think these “traditional” companies aren’t understanding about diversity?
Mercado: People can’t just be woke in three years, right? There’s a lot of education that needs to happen. And depending on where you are or what company you’re at, speaking with partners, some people have been there for years, and have done things very traditionally.
Pins: A lot of these traditional industry places aren’t looking at the world as a melting pot. There’s still separate budgets. It’s still very segmented when you look at how some of the marketing plans come together within the industry.
How do you attribute your success as a professional?
Pins: There are two things that I’ve always taken with me. Two things: networking and accountability. Accountability is number two. I learned very early on that if you mess up, just own it — especially if there’s a learning opportunity there. We’re not perfect, especially when you’re up-and-coming.
For the networking part: The best friends I’ve had for over 20 years in L.A. are journalists I met from day one and PR coordinators when we were just grinding it out with no money and trying to figure it out. We’d go to different events. Each night, we went out to meet and greet people. Although social media is changing the way people work, human interaction still exists. Time spent on creating this is something that can’t be valued. My success is largely due to the power of networking and relationships. Whether it’s a difficult day or a wonderful day, I always lean into my friends and family for the support that really gets me up everyday.
Mercado: The other piece that really helped me was saying “yes” to opportunities even if they were maybe kind of scary. Sometimes I’d ask myself, ”Well, could I grow from it? Can I do it now? No, but I’m just going to say ‘yes.’ I’m just going to do it.” That got me somewhere every single time. Saying “no” happened later in my career when I was a bit more mature. And you learn that if you say “yes” to everything you’ll burn yourself out.
What advice do you have for the next generation of professionals coming into your industry?
Mercado: As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” But with great responsibility comes great power. I feel like I have a responsibly to do right by my people, and people that could benefit from me, so that’s what I would say to them. Just shoot it. What’s holding you back?
Pins: Leading with empathy is a good thing. Everybody is human. We have to put ourselves into other people’s shoes and try to understand what type of day people are having. That will take you far, both professionally and personally.