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Smeal Summer Course in Italy Examines Marketing of Luxury Brands

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.
September 30, 2013

The Marketing 399 class at the Piaggio Museum in Italy.
Carolyn Todd and her MKTG 399 class at the Piaggio Museum in Italy.

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.

MKTG 399 in Florence: Field Trip to Casa Buitoni
Casa Buitoni

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 were also 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.

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