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The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Marketing students involved in sweet assignment

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What do you get when you mix Harbert College marketing students and an aspiring Italian gelato company? Mango Perfection, Chocolate Addiction, Vanilla Passion, and Caramel Creation.

Students in Danny Butler’s Spring 2014 Selling class served as focus groups, then developed social media strategies for Michelangelato — Concept Italia America’s recently released frosty delicacy now sold in area grocery stores and on game days at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“The students helped the investors understand their target market,” said Butler, Thomas Walter Center Professor of Marketing, who noted that focus group studies revealed students were unsure what gelato was – an important revelation for Concept Italia America, who then repositioned its U.S. marketing strategies. “The Italian group assumed everybody knew what gelato was and it’s not ice cream. They realized, ‘we’ve got to change completely.’ It was the equivalent of thinking, ‘the world is blue’ and we’re finding out that the world is orange.”

Concept Italia America's Daniele Frappelli listens to students' social media plans.

Concept Italia America’s Daniele Frappelli listens to students’ social media plans.

What was the best social media strategy to communicate the Michelangelato brand to 18-24-year-olds? Butler’s students were then divided into nine teams which used their savvy, marketing concepts and accounting skills to develop a social media strategy, keeping within a budget of $100,000. The projects were worth “almost half” of each student’s grade, Butler said.

The result: welcomed strategies.

“The group did a really great job for us,” said Daniele Frappelli, CEO of Concept Italia America, which has offices in Rome and in Auburn. “We basically mixed a little (knowledge) from the different groups. We’re going to follow what was good for each group — how we market this to the students and create events, through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) There were a few groups that were really amazing.

“We have our own marketing team, formerly with Proctor & Gamble, and they analyzed some of the ideas and it was good that the students were focusing on some ideas that we were already working on. That basically gave us the confidence that we are doing the right thing but it was also amazing how the students are moving ahead, even thinking like a corporation.”

Butler added, “Students got real-world experience, and for the client there were some good ideas in there that most of what was presented to them were things that they confirmed what they thought they learned in Rome.  Students get paid with a grade, and the clients will ideally — in the long term — come back to Auburn to hire more of our students because they will know that they are good, knowledgeable people. ”

Call this Engaged Scholarship/Thought Leadership with a frozen, albeit sweet twist.

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