The Business of Luxury

Marketing high-end products requires a special blend of business and design knowledge, and that’s what students learn in an interdisciplinary program called the Design and Marketing of Luxury Goods.

The semesterlong course is offered by Columbia Business School and Parsons The New School for Design, both in New York City. Teams of six to eight students work with luxury brands such as Cadillac, Cartier, Ferragamo, Lalique, and Van Cleef & Arpels. The schools also partner with the Luxury Education Foundation (LEF), a not-for-profit that brings students together with senior executives in the luxury sector.

Late last year, as the semester ended, students presented their final proposals to executives. For instance, one team of students focused on developing an integrated branded communications plan to market the Cadillac ELR model in the U.S. Another team focused on helping Cartier gain a higher share of the men’s watch market while appealing to millennials. Other students explored how Lalique could expand into the home interiors sector.

According to Ketty Maisonrouge, professor of marketing at Columbia Business School and president of the LEF, interdisciplinary approaches are particularly important when the product for sale is a luxury item. “Luxury brands sell dreams, beauty, design, and craftsmanship,” she points out. “In order to succeed in this sector, business executives need to understand the design process—which includes ideation, sketching, modeling, creating, and producing. At the same time, designers need to understand the reality of budgets, schedules, scalability, commercialization, and promotion. A program that allows creative and business minds to discover and appreciate their different perspectives before entering the workforce gives students a unique experience that will guide their future careers.