They sell only one product. How did they become such a powerhouse?

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Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Though nowhere near the sales figures of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or Starbucks, the Red Bull brand is just as iconic.

So how does a brand that only sells one product gain the same amount of recognition? What keeps them ahead of the curve? And perhaps most importantly, what are the secrets of Red Bull’s marketing success?

The Beginnings

Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian marketing director at a toothpaste manufacturer, first discovered energy drinks on a business trip in Bangkok. …


Understanding the business model of a truly unique company

Image of a Muji store from the outside.
Image of a Muji store from the outside.
Muji store in Stockholm, Sweden. Image by Muji

The idea of a company not branding itself seems contradictory. In a world where brands allocate millions on marketing, it’s rare to find a company with a single-minded focus on the product at hand. That’s what makes Muji, short for Mujirushi Ryohin, meaning “no-brand, quality goods,” stand out among the rest.

The Japanese company sells conventional items such as household goods and apparel, but unlike most brands, Muji doesn’t want consumers to feel an urge to buy their products. Instead, as they put it:

Muji’s goal is to give customers a rational satisfaction, expressed not with, “This is what I really want” but with “This will do.” “This is what I really want” expresses both faint egoism and discord, while “This will do” expresses conciliatory reasoning. …


Just as we thought 2020 couldn't get any stranger

Message from Burger King asking readers to order from McDonald’s
Message from Burger King asking readers to order from McDonald’s
Source: Burger King Twitter

When it comes to fast food, there’s no greater rivalry than Burger King versus McDonald's. Since their inception in the 1950s, it’s fair to say they’ve been battling it out ever since.

But with 2020 being the year of the unexpected, Burger King didn’t fail to deliver. As England prepared a second lockdown, Burger King’s UK branch tweeted a letter urging people to order from fast-food competitors such as McDonald’s, KFC, and Subway to support the industry.

“So, if you want to help, keep treating yourself to tasty meals through home delivery, takeaway or drive thru. …


Why we pay money for something many can get for free

Bottled water placed on a surface.
Bottled water placed on a surface.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

In most industries, it’s easy to differentiate through quality.

In food, it’s the ingredients; in fashion, it’s the materials; and in hospitality, it’s the customer service. Yet in the bottled water industry, it’s hard to tell the difference between high and low-quality water. In fact, to most people, water is just tasteless.

In developed countries like the U.S. where tap water is generally safe to drink, it’s puzzling to understand why bottled water has become an indispensable part of American culture.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), since 2017, bottled water is America’s favorite packaged drink. …


Lessons from Asia’s biggest apparel chain

Modern Uniqlo store
Modern Uniqlo store
Uniqlo Philippines Store. Image by Uniqlo

Among the masses of fashion brands proudly displaying labels, creating distinctive designs, and following the latest trends, Uniqlo stands out for swimming against the tide. The brand has no labels, little variety in clothing, and sells standard casual-wear.

Though the strategy seems counterintuitive, Uniqlo’s numbers say the opposite. It’s now the largest apparel chain in Asia, and it’s within touching distance of fashion giants Zara and H&M.

The Beginnings

Old Uniqlo storefront
Old Uniqlo storefront
The first Uniqlo store. Image by Uniqlo

In 1972, Tadashi Yanai inherited a chain of tailoring stores from his father. …


The rise of hybrid clothing

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Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

In the crowded sportswear market, brands have built their name focusing on niches before expanding. For Nike, it started with high-performance running shoes; for Under Armour, it was T-shirts using synthetic fabric; and for Lululemon, it was yoga-inspired technical apparel.

This is the story of how Lululemon went from a modest shop in Vancouver, Canada to a billion-dollar company that shaped the athleisure market.

The Beginnings

Back in 1998, Chip Wilson began taking yoga classes to alleviate his back pain. That’s when he noticed nobody — not even his yoga instructor — was wearing yoga-specific apparel.

Sensing an opportunity, he set out to create quality apparel for women to wear during yoga. The idea was to create stretchy, comfortable gear for low impact exercise, as most sports gear was focused on high-impact sports like running, football, and tennis. The concept took a few years to take off, but the yoga market eventually went from a niche to a mass, and Lululemon was perfectly positioned to become the dominant player. …


How the eerie world of AI chatbots can go wrong

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Tay on Twitter

Back in 2016, Microsoft released Tay, a chatbot designed to interact with Twitter users by emulating the personality of a teenage girl.

Although the idea of using artificial intelligence to interact with humans seemed potentially far-reaching, the experiment ended in a complete PR fiasco. Within 16 hours of release, Microsoft’s chatbot was taken offline after a series of obscene messages.

Xiaoice — Microsoft’s Chinese Chatbot

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Image of Xiaoice by Microsoft

A couple of years before the release of Tay, Microsoft released Xiaoice (Little Bing in Chinese), a chatbot with a teenage personality mixing banter, mood swings, and a cheery voice.

Surprisingly, Xiaoice was an instant success. It resonated among millions of Chinese citizens needing a friend or partner to talk to. This was to the extent that some people considered her a virtual girlfriend. In fact, more than 10 million users told Xiaoice they love her, and the average user sent her 60 messages a month. …


An inside look at Japan’s national sport

Image of two sumo wrestlers grappling
Image of two sumo wrestlers grappling
Sumo Wrestlers grappling. Photo by Bob Fisher on Unsplash

You may think it’s a bizarre sport featuring nothing more than large men grappling, but Sumo wrestling is the crown jewel of Japanese sport. Wrestlers lead highly disciplined lifestyles, having everything regulated from their meals to their manner of dress. They spend every minute together, training, eating, and sleeping together in stables.

The history

Ancient drawing of sumo
Ancient drawing of sumo
Ancient drawing of Sumo wrestlers. Photo by the Japan Sumo Association

Originating over 1,000 years ago, Sumo incorporates elements of Shinto — the native religion of Japan. Back in ancient Japan, Sumo was performed as a ritual dedicated to the gods as a prayer for good harvests.

In the Edo period (1603–1868), Sumo became regulated, with tournaments being held to fund shrines and temples. In the process, the sport’s audiences transitioned from the elite to the masses, commercializing the sport and creating professional sumo wrestlers. …


Based on my experience as an Ivy League student

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Photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash

I just graduated. Looking back, I’ve had my fair share of intense days.

What follows are 5 simple productivity hacks you can add to your work routine to get the most out of your day.

1. Touch Typing

Yes, typing. It’s so basic most people neglect it.

Let’s do some simple math: If you type 50 words per minute it’s gonna take you 20 minutes to write a 1,000-word essay. But if you double your speed to 100 words per minute, you can theoretically write that same essay in half the time.

That’s just one example. But if your day revolves around writing — the case for most of us who text, email, and surf the internet — that’s a lot of time saved. …


From design to daycare to food, it all adds up

An IKEA store
An IKEA store
Source: IKEA

Up until the 1950s, interior design was exclusive to the upper class.

IKEA, through remarkable marketing, operations, and the vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people,” created a paradigm shift in the minds of millions of households by offering quality products at affordable prices. So, how does a teenager in Sweden create a brand head and shoulders above the rest? What keeps them ahead of the curve? And perhaps most importantly, what are the marketing secrets of IKEA’s success?

The Beginnings

Old image of IKEA founder holding a chair
Old image of IKEA founder holding a chair

IKEA was founded in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad in Sweden. The company name comes from his initials (I.K.), plus the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, which are the name of his farm and village growing up. …

About

Kenji Farré

Cornell University

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