Professor of Marketing Sanjay Sood, who holds both an MBA from Kellogg and a Ph.D. from Stanford, says that incorporating real-world experience can dramatically improve the classroom experience. That’s why for the last decade he has been teaching his classes with C-suite industry executives from MGM, P&G and Google, assigning live projects with real companies — like NBC, Universal Studios and the TED brand — and taking his students on field trips to startups, major corporations and ad agencies.
“The co-teaching model of having faculty paired with seasoned executives in the classroom for the entire 10 weeks is a differentiator for Anderson,” says Sood. “We’re one of the few business schools that emphasizes a joint classroom model of practitioners with faculty for the entire quarter. It provides extra depth to the content as well as a unique combination of academic rigor plus managerial relevance.”
Sood’s academic research focuses on two areas, brand management and behavioral decision making. “As a doctoral student I was excited by the relatively new field of branding in consumer behavior and also was fortunate to be exposed to some of the pioneers of choice architecture,” he says. “The faculty at Anderson are adept at bringing research into the classroom and I have tried to follow that lead. Academic frameworks in branding can be applied across industries, and behavioral decision making is becoming increasingly relevant to senior managers and policymakers.”
Sood helped develop what is now UCLA Anderson’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports, at a time when Dean Judy Olian established entertainment and media as a strategic priority for the school. Currently, between 10 and 15 percent of Anderson classes enter media and entertainment careers. In his classes, Sood looks at movies as brands going in the same direction as other products: Whereas Hollywood used to launch a new brand weekly, the trend now is toward brand franchises.
Using psychological principles in his research, Sood examines how firms can best build, manage and leverage strong brand names. This includes investigating what brand names mean to consumers, how to manage brand portfolios, how to use brand naming strategies to launch new products and how to protect brand names from becoming diluted over time and across geographical boundaries.
In his latest work on decision making he studies the differences between how people make decisions about products versus how they make decisions about experiences — like buying a DVD versus going to see the movie in a cinema. “Experiences generally make us happier and we’re willing to pay more for an experience. We define ourselves more based on the experiences that we have in life rather than on the products that we own.
“We don’t really have strong preferences among products, typically,” he continues. “Depending on how many options are presented or the ways those options are described, it can flip us from one option to another. We really are quite fungible in terms of our preferences over time. This is important to marketing but also in the area of public policy.”