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Students Discuss International Marketing With Top Hershey Executives

By Prof. Olga Shabalina

Students in the International Marketing class made a trip to Hershey headquarters this fall to discuss their case decisions with two of the Hershey Corporation’s top executives — Diego Isaza, global brand director of Hershey’s & Reese’s and Beata Chojnowska, general manager of Hershey International in Eastern Europe and Russia. The opportunity to discuss case decisions with real participants of Hershey’s global expansion was inspiring and rewarding.

The meeting began with Isaza’s overview of Hershey’s global expansion strategy, and switched to a discussion of the case key question: “Did the company miss an opportunity in the Russia market by leaving it in mid-90s, or was it a timely withdrawal?” The answer was obvious … the company, with a great philanthropic legacy and time-tested traditions of social responsibility, couldn’t stand the high level of corruption which existed in Russia at that time. The same principles lie at the core of the company’s corporate philosophy globally:  take care of your people, give to live, consider your life as your legacy.

Students compared Hershey’s current marketing strategy in Russia with their own views. To their credit, most of their product and brand decisions coincided with Hershey’s current choice — Hershey’s Kisses and Hershey’s Bliss. Student Brian Wood argued for his team’s product choice — genuine chocolate syrup. He convinced global executives of this segment attractiveness for Hershey in the long perspective. Among other marketing decisions, packaging and brand name were discussed, and again, most students’ decisions coincided with Hershey’s.

No less interesting was Chojnowska’s discussion of chocolate consumption in Russia. The students strengthened their understanding of Russian consumer behavior and made new discoveries. In Russia, people consider chocolate a staple, while in the United States consumers are more puritanical about chocolate consumption. Another striking discovery was that low-income consumers are not brand sensitive at all, with taste preference and price coming first when making a purchase decisions.

The case discussion lasted more than two hours and continued afterwards on the way back home. The students were satisfied with first-hand information and invaluable feedback they got from the leading company in the U.S. chocolate market. They were also thankful to the Bolte School of Business for a lifetime opportunity to discuss global marketing strategies with top executives.

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