MERCEDES, RGV – To combat President Trump’s negative comments about Mexico and Mexicans, the Development Corporation of Mercedes is launching a marketing campaign in Monterrey.
The campaign will consist of advertisements on billboards and on social media. It is aimed at getting Monterrey shoppers to come back to the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes.
According to the Comptroller’s Office, McAllen and Mercedes have suffered the sharpest drop in sales tax revenues in recent months. McAllen has La Plaza Mall. Mercedes has RGV Premium Outlets. Both depend to a large extent on Mexican shoppers.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling recently announced his city would be launch a marketing campaign in Mexico, aimed at reassuring Mexican tourists that they are welcome, no matter what President Trump says. South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel has said his hotels have suffered from the anti-Mexican comments of President Trump.
Hernan Gonzalez, executive director of the Development Corporation of Mercedes, explained the rationale for his city’s marketing effort.
“We need to take some steps. We are a small community but obviously with a major destination, the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets. Mercedes is a good location for living and people are starting to notice that certain things are starting to happen here. But, we are anchored by the Rio Grande Premium Outlets, and we want to say to our neighbors and friends in Mexico, we welcome you to Mercedes, please spend time with us,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez confirmed the marketing campaign is an effort to counteract some of the national rhetoric.
“Obviously, the relationship with Mexico and our relationship with Monterrey and customers that come to the Valley, and especially the Rio Grande Premium Outlets, are extremely important to both economies. They get value in the goods and services they receive that may not be able to get there and we get value by them shopping here,” Gonzalez said.
“We believe the Trump Effect has made a bad situation worse. Some of the rhetoric and some of the discussions. We want to tell our customers, you are important to us. It is a soft sell but an important message.”
Gonzalez would not say how much the marketing campaign will cost. “It will not be glitzy and it will be modest. We will be rolling out in the next four or five days in Monterrey. It is the first step towards developing a year-round campaign. We ought to say, thank you and welcome every day. I think this is our effort to do that. We are going to run some ads on social media. There are going to be some billboards and there might be some flyers.”
When Gonzalez refers to Trump as making a bad situation worse, he is referring to the weakening value of the Peso. In other words, things have been bad because of the Peso and Trump has made the situation worse.
“The weakness of the Peso, the downturn in the oil industry, these things have an impact. But, all of a sudden, they become Trump-centered. Those of us who have lived in the region for a long time know that the Peso sometimes fluctuates. Sometimes, it takes a downturn. So, this is not new. But, the rhetoric is certainly new,” Gonzalez said.
“Obviously, the Texas economy, Texas as a whole cannot do without Mexico. We have to acknowledge that, whether it be retail trade, whether it be the construction industry, with cement coming this way. Many, many, things. Obviously, we have a great appetite for avocadoes. That has become a Texas staple. Very few meals today do not have sliced avocado or a guacamole, so, we are incorporating some of the Mexican flavor, but it really has been Texan-ized.”
Gonzalez said to a foreign national, Trump’s words likely have more resonance than they do to someone in the United States.
“Obviously, people perceive our president as being extremely important but at the end of the day, he has limited power. He can say, I want this and that but he still has Congress to contend with the Courts to contend with. If you are not from this country, you might not know that. He was elected president, not emperor. He cannot unilaterally do a lot, but his words do cause harm,” Gonzalez said.
“Obviously, we have been affected by some of the rhetoric that may not necessarily go anywhere but words mean something. And expressions, of care and concern also mean something. So, we are going to do our small part to make sure our friends and relatives in Monterrey are made to feel welcome in the region and more importantly in Mercedes.”
Gonzalez said the Development Corporation of Mercedes has conducted a study into where shoppers who visit the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets come from. He said this is important when marketing decisions are made.
“Obviously, a good percentage of the Outlet customers are not from this region. They tend to be from Monterrey and beyond. We do get some from Corpus and southern Texas because of the tremendous value and the good array of brands,” Gonzalez said.
“We hope to have the study ready next month. It traces cell phones. At the moment, a lot of what we have is anecdotal. License plates, in a border context, does not have a lot of meaning. What we do know is that if Mexico sneezes, we catch a cold. We have weathered this before. There is not a Fortune 500 company that does not have investments in Mexico. There is a resurgence of business coming back into Mexico from China.”
Gonzalez wrapped up the interview by emphasizing again the key point in the Monterrey marketing campaign.
“In a small way we want to say, we recognize you are important. We want to say we miss you and we will always be friends. Sometimes we forget to say thank you, welcome and we are glad you are here.”