Why Zojirushi wants to be the only 1
The way they try and do this by living the consumer life and noticing problems that could be turned into opportunities for solutions. Take the mini-bread making machine, for example. Zojirushi's study of Japanese homes, which are tiny, has led to innovation. A $190 minibread-making machine that produces loaves half the size of those made by standard bread machines has become a surprise hit in the U.S. Consumers say it helps avoid the problem of large loaves going stale.
In doing what it does well, that is, innovate, Zojirushi has ensured that it remains the only player in certain categories. That means avoiding commodity battles with rivals like Panasonic and Braun. Zojirushi briefly made dual-mug coffeepots, but when engineers couldn't sufficiently differentiate its product from other brands', the company abandoned the market. The focus now is on products that take advantage of Zojirushi's expertise in heat conduction and insulation. One recent hit in Japan is the "i-Pot," aimed at elderly tea drinkers. It sends an e-mail message to family members whenever the pot is used, so they can remotely confirm that an aged relative is up and about.
Report/Pic: Time Magazine