Isenberg Alumnus Dissects Firm's Strategic Playbook

February 17, 2014

"In devising a strategy, good marketers include what-if conditions that might cause that strategy to fail," observed Marc Schneider '81 in his late November visit to Professor Marc Weinberger's class, Managerial Perspectives in Marketing Strategy. A former Isenberg management and finance major, Schneider is Group President of Heritage Brands in Manhattan, one of three divisions in the American-based clothing giant, PVH Corp (Phillips-Van Heusen). Schneider's division manages such high-profile brands as Izod, Van Heusen, Arrow, Speedo, Warner's, and Olga. "We sell one in three dress shirts in the United States. We also own 60% of the market for ties-35 million ties a year," he told the students.


Schneider was one of 10 executives (most of them Isenberg alumni) who interacted with students this fall in Professor Weinberger's course for seniors and MBA students. "Alumni speakers are the heart of the course," notes Weinberger. "I seek out graduates--most of them senior management/marketing strategists with exceptional success stories--who will change the way the students think; who will raise their aspirations."


Strategy in Practice. Schneider outlined a seven-step process that he uses to arrive at his division's strategies. After framing strategic choices, Schneider and a cross-section of his company's senior managers define the competitive landscape and specify market conditions. They identify competitive barriers and generate strategic options. Then they design and conduct tests to see how alternatives fare under different market conditions. Testing is absolutely critical, Schneider told the students, citing J.C. Penney's disastrous failure to test its recent strategies.


"Making your decision, though, is typically easier than making it successful," Schneider continued. "You're, in fact, just getting started." You have to communicate that decision throughout the organization; render it compatible with real-life workplace issues; execute it, and, of course, measure the results.  While your strategic decision follows from a top-down process, its execution is horizontal, requiring agile teamwork and extreme cross-functional prowess. You must coordinate budgets, timelines, supply chains, distribution channels, and respond to all sorts of bumps in the road with great skill.  You must be thick skinned, emphasized Schneider, by admitting and correcting mistakes on the fly.


Isenberg Roots & Career Path. As a student at Isenberg, Schneider was inspired by the late George Odiorne, a former Isenberg dean and management professor widely acknowledged as the father of Management by Objectives. After graduation, Schneider joined Macy's, where he spent 15 years learning the apparel industry. At Macy's he became divisional vice president of Men's Apparel. Before joining PVH in 2007, Schneider was an executive with Timberland for nine years, including its Executive Vice President and Officer of Global Product, Merchandising, and Licensing. Earlier, he was Executive Vice President of Merchandising, Design and Planning with Melville Corporation/Bob's Stores.


Schneider reconnected with Isenberg five years ago following a 25-year hiatus when he met Dean Fuller. Since then, the Isenberg alumnus has visited campus to help students with interviewing and professional development skills. He's also offered internships. "My principal reason for returning is to interact with the students," he emphasized.