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For a 2011 Fordham alumna, a student research project continues

Caroline Dahlgren (GSB ’11) is proving that you don’t have to give up your original student research at Gabelli graduation.

Now a supply management analyst at retailer Tiffany & Co., Caroline took the time this past year to educate a national audience about herstudent research into luxury-goods counterfeiting. She delivered a paper at the American Marketing Association’s 2012 Winter Educators Conference.

While a Gabelli senior, Caroline looked into consumers’ tendencies to purchase counterfeit goods such as handbags, sunglasses and other high-end accessories. Would an advertising campaign to dissuade customers from buying fake goods actually work? Caroline investigated.

She discovered that an anti-counterfeiting campaign could be effective — as long as it was designed with the right mix of “focus,” or target audience, and “frame,” which refers to whether the ad is posed in a positive or negative way. (A positive ad frame talks about how consumers can do good, while a negative ad frame focuses on potential harm and how somoene can prevent it.) Caroline’s surveys revealed two effective advertising combinations: a community-oriented focus with a positive ad frame, and an individual-oriented focus with a negative ad frame.

The American Marketing Association took an interest in Caroline’s work for several reasons. One is that the luxury-goods industry loses untold amounts of money to the counterfeit market. Another is that the AMA is turning more attention to the positive and “pro-social” capacity of marketing and advertising. This arena is becoming a specialty at the Fordham Schools of Business, led by the efforts of the faculty’s Center for Positive Marketing.

“It was important for me to demonstrate that a campaign striving to make a change for the better in society could be effective,” Caroline said. “Advertising, and marketing for that matter, does not have to be solely about persuading individuals to purchase things they may or may not actually need. Marketing is a truly powerful tool, and when used in the right way, it has the potential to make an enormous positive social and economic impact.”

Caroline also was glad to help call attention to the perils of counterfeiting — which, she learned, are numerous. It’s not only the luxury businesses that suffer harm. Counterfeiting often is linked with human trafficking, the drug trade, child labor and terrorism, Caroline said. “[Because] the counterfeit luxury goods trade is an unregulated industry, very few controls can be placed on what the profits fund.”

Despite having graduated in May 2011, Caroline is keeping up with her research. She and her thesis adviser, Assistant Professor Yuliya Komarova, are working together on a cross-cultural version of her study to see whether there are cultural differences in how Russian versus U.S. consumers respond to anti-counterfeiting ads.

Fortunately for Caroline, everything she has learned helps in her day-to-day work at Tiffany. “Working for a recognizable company in the marketplace, we are constantly concerned about protecting our brand,” she explained. “Unfortunately for the luxury goods industry, the fight against counterfeits is an uphill battle.”

Perhaps it will be a battle that her research will aid.

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