Elizabeth Mata Sanderson, VP of Strategy & Insights at Univision

 - Mar 21, 2017
References: univision
Elizabeth Mata Sanderson is the Vice President of Strategy and Insights at Univision Communication Inc., a New York-based media agency that’s geared towards Latin Americans. She spoke on the differences between Hispanic Millennials and their generational counterparts, the importance of making time for innovation, and how media will be consumed differently in five years.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Univision?

I’m VP of Strategy and Insights for CPG and retail categories, which means that it’s my role to understand the Hispanic consumer, who is our primary viewer. We aim to understand how they live their lives and how this might be different from other demographics within the US population. We research how they’re different as shoppers, as well as how they interact with different categories like food or beauty care. We look to see how these differences impact communication, and in turn, how they should influence our marketing strategies.

How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?

Our team is on analytics and strategy development, so we’re constantly looking at new ways of understanding and analyzing data, as well as finding new sources of data. We do this is many ways, from actively listening within the social media space, retrieving real-time information through specific communities, and trying to figure out better and faster ways to uncover insights.

The other side to this is giving people the time to come up with innovative ideas. When you’re doing this kind of work, it’s important to have the time to prototype and experience failure in a sense, so that you can explore different ideas. We also see the importance of rewarding people for this kind of work. At a lot of organizations, most rewards come from revenue, but innovation can take a while for an idea to be fully commercialized. So, if revenue is your only gage for success, it can really put handcuffs on anyone who wants to work in innovation.

What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?

In this economy, I find one of the biggest barriers to be monetary resourcing. There’s always a "mind the gap" initiative that effects our clients and us. To get around this, we try to tie our ideas back to specific categories so that we can show the value of what we’re doing. It’s important to remember that not every project needs to be worth a million dollars and be tied back to a certain category though. Sometimes we’ll try something in a smaller channel that requires a lower budget and fewer people working on it, which can make innovation a lot more manageable.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?

We use point of sale data to identify trends in certain spaces. For example, we’ll look at claims, or we’ll look at advertising. We also own a number of social media sites, such as The Onion, The Root, Gizmodo, and Jezebel. These resources help us to do a lot of organic listening that enables us to get a better idea of how different consumers are interacting with us. Then, we’ll go back and track innovations with our point of sale data, to see how Hispanics are reacting to new item launches. Doing this helps us to determine if a trend is just a flash in the pan, something that’s not going to take on, or if it's something that has a lot of potential to our clients.

Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

Most definitely. Technology is changing things in a big way for us. Social media has transformed and affected our news outlets as people have turned to different resources to keep themselves updated. Due to this, we’ve adapted to these newer mediums by broadcasting through Facebook Live, as well as on mobile. There’s a lot of innovation that’s being driven by technology right now, and it changes how we deliver content to our consumers. It’s totally transformed how we do business and how we adapt user experience.

What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?

It’s important to make innovation a priority. I think of innovation in a way that’s two-fold, and because of this, there are different ways to foster innovation. There are ways that you can come up with fresh ways of accomplishing tasks that are both more efficient, and more effective, which is a big part of innovation. Due to this, it’s key that people spend time refining the way that they consider innovation in the first place.

Another part of it is changing the way that consumers see you. Incremental innovation can be fostered by rewarding those working within it, tracking progress, and considering the value of the projects that people have been working on throughout the fiscal year.

For breakthrough innovations, it’s important to have a lot of funding towards innovation and resourcing. You need to make someone accountable for driving the incubator in a sense, and give them the time to think so that they have more freedom to explore new territories.

What do you think your industry will look like in five years?

I think that the media industry will be radically changed by technology. It already has been, and I think it will continue to be. I hope that in five years we have really great data measurements on all these new alternative devices in which media is being consumed as well. As these measurements improve, marketers will make very different decisions about how they place advertisements. Due to this, there will be changes in what is available on these platforms, as well as how it is monetized.

I expect consumers to be more and more mobile in the future, so eventually the measurements will catch up to them and we’ll see the behavior of marketers shift because of that, which will change the business models of media companies.

How does your company approach the Millennial demographic?

Since we are a multicultural company that is very much focused on Hispanics Millennials specifically, we know that by 2060 the US will be about a third Hispanic, and 60% of all of the population will be multicultural. Due to this, we’re constantly making sure that our finger is on the pulse of the content. Looking to what Millennials are currently interested in is key to our success. We continue to have great ratings because we produce content for Hispanic Millennials that they can’t really get anywhere else. As long as we continue to do that, we’ll be in great shape.

Have you noticed patterns between recent and historical trends within you industry?

Because the Hispanic population in the US is so young, we’ve found that this demographic of Millennials has a lot of different categories, which affects how they relate to their parents versus how they relate to their generational counterparts.

Hispanic Millennials still live by a lot of traditional Hispanic values, such as the idea that the community, or the family, is more important than one’s self, and an understanding that hard work is the key to success. When it comes to certain things, like cars, Hispanic Millennials are more similar to other Millennials.

However, when it comes to things like beauty, they're more similar to other Hispanic generations. Men and women both believe that appearance is important in that it affects how they define themselves, how people treat them, and how looking your best can lead to more opportunities. 96% of Hispanic Millennials say they would not leave their house without any beauty products on.

The other category that they’re very similar to other Hispanics in is food. They’re adventurous about it, they like cooking, and they’re comfortable in the kitchen even with new ingredients and no recipe to help them. Due to this, they’re more likely to explore new trends in food and talk about them, which is something that sets them apart from their generational counterparts.

What’s the most unconventional thing you have done to get creative inspiration?

Previously, while I was running the fragrance department at P&G, we were in the design phase and stuck on how to face a project that surrounded scents that were fresh and inspired by the outdoors. So, one day I decided to take the group out to Central Park. I don’t know how productive we we’re in a traditional sense, but from this experience we were able to draw a lot of inspiration from our environment. Just being outdoors, looking at the colors around us, and relating to one another in a different way outside of the office really gave the whole project a jolt. I wish I could to do more outings like this on a more frequent basis because it has the ability to be really transformational.