L’Oréal Brandstorm is an annual innovation competition where teams of university students come up with ideas to tackle current business challenges the cosmetics company is facing. For students interested in gaining marketing experience or learning about the fast-moving consumer goods industry, this competition is one of the best opportunities during the program to get front-line exposure to the business world.

Bringing my passion for marketing and innovation, I collaborated with two of my classmates—Shirley Zhou and Stella Zhou—and formulated our team “Lady Mad.” Our project brief was to work on the skincare brand La Roche-Posay and create new ways to engage with more health-conscious customers.

Before coming up with an innovation, the first step was to define the problem. Therefore, we spent lots of time doing market research to find out what were the pain points of consumers. During the customer interviews, we found the common problem was the inconvenience of finding a scientific and personalized solution for acne skincare.

To better confirm our assumptions, we sent out 120-plus survey questionnaires to targeted consumers and got more data to support our efforts. Having the market research findings made us more confident about the current market pain points and led us to come up with our innovative solution for customers who have acne problems—a personalized AI tool to help consumers quickly diagnose their skin problems and match them with product recommendations.

Different from our routine assignments in the program, this project was very hands-on and connected to the real business world in a far more complicated and uncertain way than what we experienced in the classroom. Because of these complications and uncertainties, we met lots of real-world challenges and obstacles like how to define the real pain points, how to source the right consumers, and how to design our presentation to tell a more persuasive story.

Another benefit of participating in Brandstorm is the opportunity to connect directly with L’Oréal employees. The MMS: DKU program has built a relationship with the company over the years, and as a result brand managers and hiring managers have come to campus to provide feedback on students’ pitches for the competition.

From day one when we signed up, I realized that Brandstorm would be a tough but rewarding journey. I will never forget the highlight moments during the competition. I had such enjoyable experiences listening to the voices of customers and hearing their stories of how they were struggling with their skincare problems. It was they who motivated me to have more energy and made me believe this small piece of work also had an impact on others.

Another strong motivating factor came from my awesome teammates, Shirley and Stella. They made me realize again that the best part of working as a team was not just about tackling the task at hand, but about bonding closely with your teammates and bringing out the best in each other.

I also appreciate the strong support given by our MMS: DKU program staff who made each participant feel that they were not alone during this challenge. To better help us prepare for the competition, the program staff set us up with a coach so we could have one-on-one conversations to discuss our project status on a weekly basis. The coach also helped us a lot in providing suggestions about our presentations, business strategies, and even slide preparation. The program staff even connected us to past participants so that we could learn from MMS: DKU alumni and get first-hand insight into the competition.

When it comes to takeaways, I would say the L’Oréal Brandstorm was a one-of-a-kind experience during my business school journey. I got to know myself in a team setting much better. I also gained significant marketing experience, honing my skills such as market research and strategy. Of course, I also learned a lot from the challenges and failures I faced during the competition. But I was really grateful for the support of my MMS: DKU teammates and the program staff which gave me the confidence to keep fighting for myself and my team.

marketing experience; the three students posing in front of a sign that reads "I Love MMS: DKU"