A Ducati Superbike 848 took center stage as students got a lesson in product and brand positioning.

Students in the Marketing 4082: Brand Management course recently received an unusual visitor--one with an engine and two wheels. Tim Parker, owner of the Ducati motorcycle dealership in Minneapolis rolled in with a shiny, red Ducati Superbike 848 during his visit to share with the class how the Ducati brand sets itself apart both in how the company approaches its product as well as the market.

For students studying the building and managing of brand assets as well as a brands' strengths and weaknesses, Ducati was a prime example of positioning. The Ducati brand benefits from a rich history that helps shape buyers' associations with the brand today.

"The big takeaway for me from the Ducati presentation was the importance of the company's heritage, especially the importance of the family name being associated with the brand," says junior Jon Van Keulen, a double major in marketing and Spanish. "This focus on putting the family name on a product, in Italian culture, seems to be a type of promise of quality and excellence."

The Ducati presentation was purposely aligned with the class' upcoming trip to Italy in May to study Italian brands.

"The key objective behind all of this is to get the students to apply classroom learning to a real-world marketplace," says senior lecturer Jay Lipe. "At Carlson we support the notion of active learning as a way to deepen students' learning. It's one thing to tell students about the world of marketing, it's quite another to have them experience it themselves."

Students have been learning about mass marketed U.S. brands in the classroom and will focus on both mass marketed brands and luxury brands during the trip to Milan and Florence.

"I think it will be an invaluable experience for everyone personally, but also academically since the majority of us (if not all) are marketing majors," says junior Stephanie Erickson, a marketing major. "We'll be able to combine everything we learn in the classroom with real, international experiences, and then bring that experience into our future careers."

Visits to factories and museums at Lamborghini, Gucci Handbags, and Ferragamo are on the schedule as well as several guest lectures from professors at Bocconi University located in Milan.