Understanding the business model of a truly unique company

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…


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

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. Suffering the effects of jetlag, locals directed him to a Krating Daeng, a Thai beverage claiming to boost performance and concentration. …


He was one of the earliest investors

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With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google doesn’t need much of an introduction.

Many of us know about the various businesses it owns, ranging from YouTube to Android. Some of us even know it was founded by two Ph.D. students at Stanford University. But surprisingly, very few of us know about its first investors.

This is the story of how Jeff Bezos —that’s right, the founder of Amazon — invested in Google back in 1998.

Background

To trace how Bezos ended up investing in Google, I need to give some context.

Back in 1996, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were…


And why it’s worth the investment

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Companies like numbers. Whether it be prices, sales, or profits, they’re all quantifiable. But there’s one crucial part of a company that cannot be measured: branding.

Oddly, branding isn’t really a thing. You can’t touch it, see it, or measure it. In short, it’s intangible. As a result, few companies monitor it to the same degree they might monitor a financial statement.

Nonetheless, it’s what allows certain brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, or Starbucks to be head and shoulders above the competition.

What even is branding?

Unlike most business terms, branding doesn’t have a clear definition. …


The relaunch of the world’s third-largest economy

Photo by Louie Martinez on Unsplash

When we think of Japan, technology is often the first thing that comes to mind. Ranging from robotics and gaming consoles to car manufacturers, it’s a nation renowned for innovation. But much to the country’s dismay, the tide is turning.

When looking at the world’s top 50 companies by market value, Toyota is the only Japanese one. Back in 1989 — only three decades ago — the situation was very different. Japan led the table with a staggering 32 companies in the top 50 by market value.

For a country that’s still the third-largest economy in the world, the decline…


The latest marketing buzz word

Fashion models on the runway
Photo by Armen Aydinyan on Unsplash

The food industry is doubling down on vegan, the automotive industry on electric, and the fashion industry on sustainable.

Ironically, the latest trend in fashion is not on the runway. Instead, it’s on words. Terms such as sustainable, carbon-neutral, and eco-friendly have stolen center stage from models, designers, and stylists.

Despite the enormous PR efforts to convey the industry’s progress, can the fashion industry really be sustainable?

Definitions

Before we get into the details, it’s important to highlight the ambiguity of the terms.

While terms such as sugar-free, organic, or free-range are regulated in the US by the FDA (Food and…


Brand-focused vs. content-focused advertising

“I never read The Economst” quote by Management Trainee, Aged 42
Image by The Economist

Not too long ago, we only had local newspapers, TV, and radio as media outlets. Today, with the rise of the internet, we’ve experienced a plethora of options ranging from online blogs to streaming services. Yet our free-time to consume all of these offerings hasn’t changed.

To put it into perspective, back in 2015, a Washington Post article estimated it would take 305.5 billion pages to print the Internet. It’s safe to say that number has done nothing but rise since.

While an increasing number of media outlets flooded the market, business magazines largely remained stagnant. Unlike the tech sector…


Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

To most of us, money is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. We’d much rather talk about sports, politics, or travel, but it’s an indispensable part of our livelihoods.

On that note, let’s discuss pricing — a topic many businesses aren’t entirely satisfied with. Whether it’s a freelancer or a large enterprise, many feel as though they’ve either left some money on the table or lost some customers in the process.

Truthfully, there’s a very fine line between charging too little, thus missing out on profits, and charging too much, thus missing out on sales.

In light of this difficult balancing…


Lessons from the Swedish fast fashion giant

H&M store in London. Image by H&M Media

Fashion and affordability don’t often go hand in hand. Yet H&M seems to have deciphered the riddle of combining cheap prices with the latest runway trends.

Through a mixture of creative marketing, fast production, and a short product life cycle, H&M has grown into one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

So how did they go about creating a sustainable business model? How did they become so recognizable? And perhaps most importantly, what are the secrets behind H&M’s success?

The Beginnings


Understanding the success of a sixth-generation business

Hermès store in Warsaw, Poland.
Hermès store in Warsaw, Poland. Image by Przemysław Nieciecki

While mainstream luxury fashion brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Versace are often seen as flashy, Hermès stands out for being a family-run business deeply rooted in a tradition of craftsmanship.

With products ranging from fragrances to saddlery, the brand is best known for its industry-leading leather goods.

Logically, keeping products relatively scarce makes for a higher selling price. Yet most brands can’t get customers to pay those higher prices. So how does Hermès do it?

The Beginnings

Kenji Explains

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