Marketing Case Study Problems

• Analyze and evaluate a specific marketing scenario.

• Propose a solution to marketing problems.

Read the case MUJI – less is moreincluded with this assignment brief.

You have been asked by your marketing manager to produce a report that reflects the current situation of the homeware sector and the specific market of the brand you work for – Muji. In addition, your manager requires insights into how the market for your brand is likely to develop in the future and the challenges and opportunities it may face, (including a critical review of how well your brand is equipped to deal with them) and three key recommendations for how to move forward based on the evidence you have found.

Case: MUJI – less is more

There are many advocates of sustainability who herald the opportunity to embrace a sustainable lifestyle by returning to the good life or the simple life. Following the idea that less is more first associated with the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe the Japanese company Muji has turned simplicity into a core brand value by developing new uncomplicated, plain products at reasonable prices, making the best use of raw materials while considering environmental issues.

Having initially started selling 40 products in a store in Japan in 1983, Muji is now an international company selling some 8000 products in 98 stores outside Japan spanning 16 countries. Their simple designs aim to complement people’s desires to follow more minimalist, less complicated, more sustainable lifestyles. In the opinion of Masao Kiuchi, the age of consumption as a virtue is coming to an end and rather than live to consume people are becoming more concerned with consuming to live simply and happily.

Restraint in design, restraint in lifestyle

By careful choice of raw materials, Muji pursues the deliberate avoidance of bleaching or dyeing of materials in order to use and highlight their natural colours. Objects are not complicated by unnecessary functionality or over decoration in keeping with Muji’s policy of conserving resources, as well as reducing waste and pollution from manufacture or recycling. Muji remain faithful to their philosophy that having objects that do enough, is good enough.

Equally packaging is not meant to decorate the product to make it seem more than it is but be purely practical in order to be in keeping with the natural colours. Plain, uniform containers allow for bulk packaging and reduce wastage and the products can appear on store shelves and speak for themselves.

Restraint in design is matched by Muji’s brand discretion; packaging and labelling are understated to project ano-logo or no-brand image implied in the name. The full Japanese version of the company name, is Mujirushi Ryohin, literally and means no-label quality goods. The calculated rejection of strong logo-based marketing is fundamental to the company image and its products are consistently positioned as everyday and basic products.

Ikko Tanaka, Muji’s chief advisor, explains the philosophy of ‘basic’ in these terms:

‘You may feel embarrassed if the person sitting next to you on the train is wearing the same clothes as you. If they are jeans, however, you wouldn’t be worried, because jeans are what we could describe as `basic’ clothing. All Muji products are such `basic’ products’ (Ryohin Keikaku Co. Ltd, 2000, page 7).

Reuse, recycle, refill, rescue

Muji promotes the recycling and reuse of its products, reflected in the mu of its brand name, which represents infiniteness in Japanese. Since its lines are plain and not driven by fashion, unsold products can be stored for resale at any time. The provision of products in this way encourages people to make a lifestyle choice based more on self-restraint and moderation. The ability to recycle goods is also important and the use of noxious substances in manufacture is not allowed. When Muji discovered that the covers of appointment books that they had released for sale in February 2009 had used vinyl chloride, these items were recalled and recycled.

Strength in simplicity

Muji turns its minimalist strategy, product design and style into a strength. Rather than appearing bland and dull many Muji products allow for mass customisation by the consumer turning a standardised product into something personal and unique.

For example, the handle of the plain white Muji umbrella allows for a strap or charm to be added to serve for easy identification but also for the owner to personalise the object. Similarly, the Muji bag offers customers an opportunity to literally stamp their personality on their purchase. Customers are invited to make use of a set of stamps and an ink pad while they are in store to print something on their bag. As a result a typically featureless Muji object becomes a fashionable, one-of-a-kind bag unique to the individual carrying it. Muji has also produced a t-shirt with a rubber square on the chest for customers to design their own logo or message.

Beyond the product concept

Muji, and its parent company Ryohin Keikaku Company Limited extend their sustainable practices beyond their core product concept. A five point plan outlines their coexistence with earth in environmental and societal terms and their business partners were asked to adhere to the same principles. Consumers can also contribute with suggestions. For example, Muji began to stock Fairtrade products in response to requests from customers starting with coffee in 2006.

Muji operates three campsites and manages 231 hectares of forest for use by the local community including children’s summer camps which are run by staff volunteers recruited from within the company.

Sources: Fair Trade News (2006) MUJI (Ryohin Keikaku Company Ltd.) will jump into Fairtrade market 6th October 2006 available at accessed 5th January 2010.Environment and Planning 39 pp. 555-569.MUJI accessed 5th January 2010, MUJI (2010) Environmental Activities available at accessed 5th January 2010.Ryohin Keikaku Company Limited (2000) Corporate Data available at accessed 5th January 2010. Ryohin Keikaku Company Limited (2009) Corporate Data available at accessed 5th January 2010.

Case taken from Emery, B. P. (2012) Sustainable Marketing Harlow: Pearson

Last Updated on February 10, 2019 by Essay Pro