Smeal summer course in Italy examines marketing of luxury brands

September 30, 2013

Over the summer, 22 Penn State Smeal College of Business students spent six weeks in Florence, Italy, learning about marketing in the context of Italian luxury brands with Lisa Bolton, associate professor of marketing, and Carolyn Todd, instructor in marketing.

Smeal’s international faculty-led summer programs give students an opportunity to take unique classes in an international setting with Smeal professors. Classes focus on foundational concepts through a global lens.

“In this Marketing 399 class, students learned a lot about pricing,” explained Todd, “in the sense that there are brands that are considered luxury but are affordable to most people. In that way, they learned the difference between affordable modern luxury and prohibitively expensive classic luxury.”

The class incorporated field trips paired with each lecture to give students a close-up view of Italian business and culture, including pasta producer Casa Buitoni, the Dievole winery, the Gucci Museum and Vespa scooter manufacturer Piaggio.

Keegan Carroll, a junior in marketing, said that Casa Buitoni was her favorite field trip destination from the class.

“We got to see different parts of their castle in Tuscany, the production center and how they make things, and we got to try the food,” she said.

Carroll said she also learned a lot about the global nature of these Italian brands.

“I assumed that since they were Italian luxury brands that everything would be made in Italy, but I found out that Buitoni is owned by Nestle and all the U.S. products are made here in the U.S.,” she said.

Students also were granted access to a men’s fashion trade show that was not open to public. Todd explained that this gave students a view of the business-to-business side of luxury brand marketing.

In addition to the course credits, students on the six-week program in Florence offered a condensed study abroad experience of living in another culture. According to Carroll, being in Florence for six weeks was just enough time to get immersed in the culture.

“I was also able to take a lot of weekend trips,” she said, which included Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, and the Alps.

According to Austin Jaffe, faculty-in-charge of global programs, there are several destinations available for students looking to complete a six-week faculty-led program internationally.

“We’ve created a culture of sending students abroad and getting faculty involved,” said Jaffe.

  • Classes with the International Studies Institute take place in renaissance classrooms at the Palazzo Rucellai.

    The classroom where students learned about Italian luxury brands in MKTG 399: Flair and Finesse in Florence. Classes with the International Studies Institute take place in renaissance classrooms at the Palazzo Rucellai.

    IMAGE: Carolyn Todd
  • Students got hands-on experience at the Il Papiro paper factory outside of Florence, Italy.

    At the Il Papiro factory outside of Florence, students learned the craft of creating a book with a cover made from hand-marbleized paper.

    IMAGE: Lisa Bolton
  • Students learn about the variety of grapes used in Chianti Classico wine at the Dievole Winery in Tuscany.

    Dr. Antonio Artese, executive director of the International Studies Institute and a profesionally trained sommelier, gives students a tour of the Dievole Winery in Tuscany, explaining the research that is conducted to ensure the quality of the Sangiovese grapes used in Chianti Classico wine.

    IMAGE: Carolyn Todd
  • Students visit the research and development center for the Casa Buitoni brand.

    Students visited Casa Buitoni in Sansepolcro, Italy, the research and development center for the brand. While at the center students were able to taste many of the foods.

    IMAGE: Carolyn Todd
  • Students learned about the business-to-business side of luxury brands at the OBI Accessory Factory.

    At the OBI Accessory Factory, a manufacturer of metal accessories for the fashion industry based in Florence, CEO Luca Boncompani explains the importance of building a trusting relationship between his company and client companies such as Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and Salvatore Ferragamo.

    IMAGE: Carolyn Todd
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Smeal Office of International Programs

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814-865-4264
Last Updated October 08, 2013