Latin Players: Meet Miguel Piedra & David Naranjo of Rock Orange

When you walk into the main conference room of the Rock Orange headquarters in Miami, the phrase “Dream even bigger” on the wall stares back at you. You could say it’s a good tagline, but actually, it’s more like a guiding principle for the way things are done around here.

Led by principals/managing partners Miguel Piedra and David Naranjo, Rock Orange has gone from that startup you root for to one of the hottest fully integrated communications agencies on the block, amassing some impressive accolades (and big-fish clients) in just three years since its launch.

In 2014, they took home the Bulldog Agency of the Year award, and this year, they were recognized by the SABRE Awards with a nomination for their work on Cotton’s 24 Hour Runway Show, a non-stop, outdoor fashion show with musical performances on Miami Beach (which is also now a Guinness World Record holder for world’s longest fashion show).

In February 2015, the agency worked with a new client, Macy’s, and a longtime client/friend, Mexican pop icon Thalia, to activate the launch of her fashion line at the department store. It was the first-ever Hispanic-backed exclusive clothing collection at Macy’s, so Rock Orange hosted a high-fashion soiree showcasing live looks for an intimate crowd of influencers in New York. They also live-streamed the event on Thalia’s Facebook page, breaking down the walls between her core fans all around the world and those privy to a first-look at the collection in person.

The activation is a case study in what Rock Orange does best, which is connect brands with celebrities and vice versa. In 2014, they worked with Botran Rum to build awareness among U.S. consumers. After bringing Latin music mogul Emilio Estefan to the table as the face of the brand, the agency kicked off a multi-channel marketing campaign that included a media familiarization trip for key influencers to the rum’s distillery in Guatemala, celebrity-driven launches in New York and Los Angeles, participation in the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and other grassroots events and sponsorships. Emilio makes perfect sense as a spokesperson, considering he got his start at Bacardi before launching his music career with the Miami Sound Machine. For Naranjo, there’s a personal connection to Emilio and his superstar wife Gloria Estefan — before launching Rock Orange with Piedra, he was at the helm of the Cuban power couple’s marketing, strategic partnerships, public relations and global branding efforts at Estefan Enterprises.

Which brings us to another one of Rock Orange’s most memorable case studies. In 2013, the agency worked with Sony Music Masterworks on the public relations campaign for Gloria’s 27th album, The Standards, which took the Conga queen into jazz-inspired American standards territory. Key to their strategy was touting Gloria’s status as a legendary artist while introducing her to a new genre of music and a new audience that wasn’t a part of her core fan base. Rock Orange focused on three areas: record sales, brand awareness, and social media amplification. That included securing national coverage with a total market approach (from Despierta América to Good Morning America). Perhaps the most memorable hit was Gloria’s interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter, which reaffirmed her status as “the most successful Latin crossover artist of all time.” Additionally, Rock Orange and Sony partnered with AARP (the world’s largest-circulation magazine with more than 47 million readers ages 50 and over) to put Gloria on the cover, and offered a free download with an exclusive promotional code. The campaign paid off in a big way. Upon the launch of the album on Sept. 10, 2013, Gloria debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart — something she hadn’t done since 1994. The Standards campaign garnered the then-new agency a 2014 Billboard Latin Music Marketing Award in the best public relations campaign category.

At the root of Rock Orange’s success is the almost 30-year friendship between Piedra and Naranjo, two Cuban Americans who met in the seventh grade while attending W.R. Thomas Middle School in Miami.

Their personalities, while different, complement each other, and the agency’s name itself is a nod to this “solid/fresh” balancing act. Piedra, whose name translates to “rock,” brings business acumen, keen problem-solving abilities, and time-tested crisis management skills, which he honed while leading the international marketing and communications divisions at corporate giants like Burger King and Disney. He’s also the agency’s interior designer, photographer and tech enthusiast.

Naranjo, whose name means “orange” in Spanish, has a warm, vibrant energy that is characteristic of a showbiz mover and shaker. Having worked for Sony Music during the height of the Latin pop explosion before moving on to Estefan Enterprises, he’s the one with the finger on the pulse of pop culture and the endless celebrity Rolodex. As David puts it, “If I come up with an idea, Miguel is really great at refining that idea into something real.”

Both share a background in broadcast journalism, a creative spirit, a worldly sophistication, and a deep appreciation for their team, whom they lovingly call “Rock Stars.”

Standing in the back of their offices, it’s almost like they’re still in middle school and this is their playground. The space has a backyard barbeque feel.

–Courtesy of Billboard

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