What “The Godfather” Teaches Us about Business — and Content

According to esteemed business-strategy professor Richard D’Aveni of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, Michael Corleone (far left, in uniform) is “hyper competitor” who excels at keeping the competition at bay with his “disruptive thinking.”

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Depending upon one’s perspective, they were either a group of enterprising olive-oil importers or the most notorious crime family in the history of cinema. They were the Corleones. And “lessons learned” from the three Godfather movies still convey much relevance today in the business world.

After all, the films’ famous “family” stands up to many interpretations as a timeless allegory of corporate America. Forbes ranked Godfather Part II and The Godfather as second and fourth (in that order) in its “Ten Greatest Business Movies” list. The Wall Street Journal has praised its exploration of business diversification and succession planning, among other timely corporate topics. Richard D’Aveni, professor of strategy at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College – routinely named to the famous Thinkers50 list as published by Harvard Business Review and other top publications – often references the trilogy in his lectures and presentations. Among other observations, he cites the central character of Michael Corleone as a “hyper competitor” who excels at keeping the competition at bay with his “disruptive thinking” while transitioning the family from a geographically centric enterprise to a global organization.

No arguments here. And, for my latest piece for the highly followed Content Marketing Institute’s industry insights page, I weigh in on what communications professionals can learn from the Corleones. As I pursued my research, I discovered that many peers out there are similarly inspired.

Bill Balderaz, president of Fathom, a Valley View, Ohio-based digital marketing/analytics agency, indicated that he encourages his employees to read the original Godfather book, for example, and that he has based staff personality assessments and company core values upon the movies. Steven MacDonald, content marketer at Philadelphia-based WorkZone, a Web-based project management software company with customers such as Subway, Holiday Inn and Wells Fargo, says he gains wisdom from quotes such as “Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.” For him, this speaks to the need to stay on top of the competition.

“Never let them out of your sight, and you’ll find it’s easier to outperform them,” he explains. “We regularly download competitors’ content, such as white papers and guides. Next, we create a theme to define what they’re honing in on. Then, my team and I set a goal of delivering one single piece of content about that theme that’s better than anything they’ve done.”

For the purposes of my Content Marketing Institute piece, I focused on client/stakeholder relations, as the value of an agency is only as good as the strength of its client relations. Here at W2 Communications, we go above and beyond to distinguish what we do from other firms.

Much of this is driven by our high tech PR agency’s experience and dedication in offering a wide range of integrated, full-service offerings for clients. By combining PR, social media, SEO, Web design, go-to-market strategies, video development and content creation, we’re even more diversified than the Corleones. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, then please do contact us. Meanwhile, consider reading my latest Content Marketing Institute piece as an “offer you can’t refuse …”







Dennis McCafferty is Vice President of Content at W2 Communications. He has seen Godfather I and Godfather II at least 30 times each. Like other GF diehards, he WILL watch the movies if they come on TV, even though he owns the box set on DVD.