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Marketing: When You're in a Dogfight Become a Cat

Len Sherman's New Book is a Graduate-Level Marketing Course That Will Provide TA Leaders with Many Tools and strategies

Len Sherman is a adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School - TotalPicture Radio interview with Peter ClaytonLeonard Sherman

Leonard Sherman is an executive in residence and adjunct professor of marketing and management at the Columbia Business School. He has worked as a senior partner at Accenture, as a managing partner of J.D. Power and Associates, and as a partner at Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He hold a BS in aeronautical engineering, an MS in transportation systems and a PhD in transportation economics, all from MIT.

He is the author of a fascinating new book titled If You're in a Dogfight Become a Cat - Strategies for Long Term Growth published by Columbia Business School Publishing

Welcome to an Innovation Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio, I'm your host, Peter Clayton. Len welcome.


You have a interesting background --- including consulting with Audi of North America back in 1993 when their sales were down to about 12k units -- the reputation of Audi in the U.S. was in the toilet. So can you share with us some of your backstory and expand on your experience with Audi?

Regarding Human Resources you write "Cross-disciplinary new product development teams are often deprived of critical management skills by business unit general managers who hold their best talent to focus on established business needs." You go on to talk about project managers who are fired for talking on risky projects, which of course, establishes a culture of risk aversion. I would like you to talk about the need for Business Alignment - because a focus of this show is on talent acquisition, engagement, retention and HR.

How can this be changed? Is the only realistic change a new leadership team starting with the CEO?

And yet, statistics from PwC in your book - of 246 global CEO's in a 2013 survey, 97% cited innovation as a top corporate priority. What am I missing, Len?

At this point I think we should backtrack and talk about the title of your book If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

In your chapter There's No Such Thing As a Bad Industry you discuss a number of companies in what are thought as -- let's be nice and say 'challenging' industries. Airlines for instance. You talk about Southwest - a company that is talked about at a lot of recruiting and HR conferences because of their unique culture, HR leadership, and hiring practices. What stands out about Southwest from your perspective?

I'd like you to discuss Maximizing Shareholder Value -- the MSV doctrine - the pros and cons.

The majority of your book focuses on B2C companies and examples - and yet there's such a strong connection between marketing to consumers and marketing to employees or job candidates - we talk a lot about customer facing companies on TotalPicture Radio, like Verizon, AT&T, or Rogers in Canada - their customers are also candidates for their jobs and of course they are employees, too. Can you talk about how you perceive this connection between these two worlds?

Do you agree that everyone would be better served - back to business alignment - if marketing departments worked closer with their HR departments and recruiters?

You point out that "companies are most successful when they can capture lifetime customer value, so customer retention, not just attraction should be pivotal to business purpose. The same can be said about a company's employees. Retention is a top-of-mind issue.

I've made many marketing films for large organizations that have very defined business silos and aggressive, highly competitive cultures. (Especially in financial services). I'm sure you've run into these in your consulting work - not a great environment for innovation let alone business alignment. Am I right?

In your years of consulting work with major corporations, how many management level employees do you think can clearly articulate their company's strategy?

Is it possible to reduce a corporate strategy to an easy-to-remember sound bite -- that's meaningful?

However just because you have a clearly articulated strategy doesn't mean it's a good strategy - and you name names, JC Penny, Kodak, Blockbuster, GM's one platform disaster, New Coke, and more recently we could add Volkswagen and Wells Fargo to the list. You write about Ron Johnson, who was such a rock star at Apple, and such a disaster at JC Penny. What happened?

A friend of mine just started contract recruiting for Sears. I'm like, good luck with that. Recruiting good people is hard. What do you do if you're recruiting for management roles at Sears or Wells Fargo, or Volkswagen today? What would be your advice?

You have a chapter call Creating Strong Brands that I'd like to spend some time on. Back to recruiting -- if you're filling jobs at Google, or Facebook or Apple, you have a smile on your face and a pipeline of talent at your fingertips. However, most recruiters are not that lucky. What strategies can recruiters take from consumer marketing that would be helpful in attracting talent to their less than stellar company from a brand perception standpoint?

I'd like to return to the "less is more" theme in your book. A number of well known companies are sited -- Apple when Steve Jobs returned, and JetBlue which reinvented air travel (in my opinion). I met David Neeleman (JetBlue's founder) who told the story of not issuing frequent flyer cards -- which would have cost thousands of dollars.

Len there are so many parallels to talent acquisition and creating strong brands. One example from you book which I clearly remember is Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. In HR and recruiter speak we call that authenticity - please share with us the Dove story and the impact it had on Unilever.

In your chapter titled Brand Builders and Killers you talk about Community-based marketing. In recruiting, we talk about building talent communities. One example you write about is Harley Davidson. What many people might not realize is back in the 80's Harley was practically on life support - tell us about H.O.G. The Harley Owners group and the impact it had on helping to turn the company around. Oh, and the new leadership team.

What Makes products and companies meaningfully different?

Chapter Title: Where do Great Ideas Come From? Personal story. You're an MIT alum. In 2005 when this podcast began, I travelled to Boston to an MIT Innovation Conference to meet and Interview Reid Hoffman - at the time the CEO of LinkedIn. (Fresh in my mind because over the holidays I republished the interview) he knew! He knew LinkedIn was a home run! So Len, where do Great Ideas like LinkedIn like Facebook, like iPhones and iPads and Alexa, come from?

There's somewhat of a case study in your book regarding the development of the Honda Element I'd like to discuss. Honda was specifically targeting millennials - a cohort near and dear to many recruiters req sheets. How did Honda approach the project and what happened?

Len I love your book and I hope my sourcing, recruiting, talent acquisition and HR friends go wherever they buy their books and buy If You're In a Dogfight, Become a Cat!. I believe it can help in creating conversations with marketing departments - having a better understanding of how consumer marketing works - and apply strategies you write about, like how Cirque du Soleil applied the four-actions framework to transform the Red Ocean circus category into a Blue Ocean market opportunity.

Thank you Len, how can our listeners connect with you?

Stay tuned... Peter Clayton's exclusive interview with Len will air Thursday, March 2nd.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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