Future-proofing businesses: Brandcenter professor shares advice on building your brand

Andrew LeVasseur, head of the creative technology track at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, arrived last week at the VCU School of Business’ Summer Lunch & Learn series with a plan. Teach the audience about the importance of branding, and do it using three words: Crazy. Scary. Exciting.

The point was that technological progress is crazy and worrying about being left behind can be scary, but if you position your business to take advantage of the times we live in, the future can be exciting.

 Representatives from VCU, Dominion Power and other statewide businesses attended to hear LeVasseur discuss branding.

Photo by Katherine Keogh, VCU Brandcenter
Photo by Katherine Keogh, VCU Brandcenter

 “Branding is a universal idea. It’s something that can only be formed from experiences with something,” he said, before detailing how technology has disrupted the old ways brands conducted business.

Netflix’s rise, Blockbuster’s fall and Uber’s growing popularity when measured against traditional taxi services show why companies need to forge ahead and embrace the evolving landscape they face, LeVasseur argued. If businesses do not stay ahead of the curve, they risk learning the lesson the hard way.

Three former Brandcenter students pushed ahead of the curve by creating products that served needs people didn’t know they had, according to LeVasseur.

One product, a light-up ball called Hackaball, teaches children programming through an iPad app in which they can create hundreds of different games using predefined rules and light variations.

Another Brandcenter alumnus created Dustin’s Words to give his developmentally challenged brother a way to speak using buttons and connections to his parents’ cell phones via Bluetooth.

The final product, Klink, is a kind of “Uber for alcohol delivery,” LeVasseur said to the audience’s laughter.

“You being here today puts you in the class of a change agent. You are here to learn how to adapt.”

LeVasseur cautioned about going in blindly. Businesses must understand how technology will impact their businesses, before they can incorporate it and create a positive impact. He noted that many businesses tried innovating without knowing where it would take them, and paid the costs.

“You being here today puts you in the class of a change agent,” he said. “You are here to learn how to adapt.”

We are only at the beginning of this technological progression, LeVasseur said. While it can’t be stopped, businesses can start doing things today to future-proof themselves. According to LeVasseur, these steps include:

  • First, stay curious. If you keep hearing news about an app and wonder what it’s used for, find out. Do your research and learn what new things are coming. 

  • Second, challenge convention. Always look to do things differently than your competitor. In a time when products and services are more easily available than ever, differentiation can drive brands forward. 

  • Third, experiment. If it works, great. If not then, you can’t say you never gave it a shot. It is crucial for businesses to find new ways to work. Sitting back, waiting for change to come doesn’t work anymore. 

  • Finally, scale your company’s edges. Take what you learn and enter new markets, create new products and grow more than ever. The only thing stopping you from doing better is yourself.

"You have to create an environment that challenges the status quo, an environment that represents new,” LeVasseur said.


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