Blending Boundaries: LAU’s Quest for a Metaverse of Beauty

LAU students from the Adnan Kassar School of Business win the L’Oréal Brandstorm competition with avant-garde ideas on revolutionizing beauty standards and cosmetic accessibility.

By Luther J. Kanso

The students were engrossed for a period of four months in brainstorming and mentoring sessions during which they worked to fine-tune their ideas and strategies, said Dr. Ramadan (R), who is photographed with (From L) Adam Ballan, former HR Generalist at L’Oréal Maya Hallal, Diala El Hout and Joumana Saad.

Learning is incomplete without hands-on field experiences. By offering business students the opportunity to implement theoretical concepts in real-life scenarios, they gain an understanding of challenges outside of the classroom, well before graduating.

One such initiative is the L’Oréal Brandstorm competition – an annual international business competition organized by L’Oréal, one of the world’s leading cosmetics and beauty companies. It aims to equip students with valuable and practical experience by promoting collaborations, critical thinking and innovation, all of which are primary reasons why LAU has been collaborating with the company for over a decade.

“Such initiatives are core for our institution – the Adnan Kassar School of Business (AKSOB) – our students and the industry partners,” said Associate Professor and Associate Chairperson of Marketing and Management Zahy Ramadan. “Through them, students become involved in business cases that are competed on at a global level, gain additional training from the company and are presented with internship opportunities.”

Taking on artificial intelligence (AI) for this year’s theme, the competition pivoted on deciphering the emerging beauty standards in the Metaverse – a virtual reality realm where individuals can engage with computer-generated environments and interact with fellow users in a digitally-simulated space. This is done through cutting-edge technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR).

To that end, a group of two marketing and one finance students presented MetaScent: a “pioneering avatar and space scent existing virtually and physically,” said Joumana Saad, a marketing student. “It’s composed of a device that diffuses the aroma with olfactory technologies, which then personalizes avatars by their choice of fragrance with the help of machine learning and AI modeling.”

With that, similar to 2017 and 2021, LAU has emerged as a dominant force in the competition and secured victory against other competing universities in Lebanon, exemplifying its drive to provide students with industry-relevant experiences.

“All three of our teams representing LAU in the national finals were praised for their highly innovative ideas, structured presentations and strategic perspectives by both the L’Oréal jury and faculty from the other participating universities,” said Dr. Ramadan. “The finalists – all senior students – integrated their overall business knowledge throughout their learning journey at the university into their presentations.”

To put matters into perspective, the said students were engrossed for a period of four months in brainstorming and mentoring sessions, he added, during which they worked to fine-tune their ideas and strategies. This was sufficient for them to divide their experiences among each other, as well as contribute to guiding current marketing students into becoming aspiring competitors in the future.

In light of that, they learned to hone their skills for networking with industry professionals and thriving in the marketing field, where doors to potential internships and full-time employment could become within reach.

Finance major Adam Ballan noted how the focus is increasingly on representation and inclusivity, with the industry making significant strides in recent years to highlight a wider range of beauty standards from different skin colors and hair types to body shapes, sizes and gender identities.

“We are grateful for such an opportunity,” stated marketing student Diala El Hout, “and would encourage all LAUers to become Brandstormers to help create a legacy by keeping LAU at the forefront of national and international competitions.”