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Knowing how the best businesses have succeeded can help you succeed, too.

Success is a choice. Or rather, a good choice can lead to great success. If you want to understand how this is possible, just look at some of the great business management decisions of the last 20 years. From company name changes to product diversification, these smart choices have led to exceptional gains. Whether you’re a business manager or thinking about earning a business degree (or both), the following case studies can add to your business knowledge and help you understand how successful businesses got that way.

Apple’s Name Change

At first glance, Apple’s 2008 name change may not seem like a big deal. After all, the company simply went from Apple Computer to Apple. But the choice to drop “Computer” from their name has helped Apple change its brand identity from a company that made desktops and laptops to a company that’s a pioneer in interactive technology. Now, Apple is known for everything from the iPhone to its lucrative online music store, iTunes. The company’s business model has followed suit. From 2007 to 2013, computers went from 42% of Apple’s revenues to just 13%, even as overall profits grew.*

USA Today’s Strategic Overhaul

As more and more people have logged onto the Internet, demand for traditional newspapers has plummeted. In fact, between 2010 and 2015, the amount of time the average American spent with a newspaper declined 31%, which was more than the decline seen in any other traditional media (conversely, time on the Internet increased 105% during the same time frame). USA Today, however, saw the future in time to devise a plan. As other newspapers struggled to hold onto their traditional business model, USA Today quickly moved to pour resources into the company’s website, strike new circulation deals, and share content across platforms to ensure wider exposure. As a result, the paper remains an important part of American media.

Southwest Airlines’ Branding Initiative

In its early days, Southwest Airlines embraced a quirky, personable brand image that contrasted with the corporate stodginess of bigger airlines. But when the company grew into one of the nation’s largest domestic carriers, it had to make a choice: either “join the club” and become more traditionally corporate in its image or find a way to maintain the company’s personable feel despite its significantly increased size. Southwest chose the latter, putting into motion a branding initiative that relied heavily on social media to distribute branded messaging and, more importantly, to connect directly with passengers. The move has preserved Southwest’s personality and personable feel. As of 2016, the airline possesses the industry’s best buzz score.

Coca-Cola’s Diversification

You may be familiar with the story of New Coke. To recap, in the mid-1980s, Coca-Cola reformulated its flagship soft drink in an attempt to better compete with Pepsi. The new drink, named New Coke, failed miserably. But Coca-Cola saved its business by rereleasing the original formulation of Coke under the name Coca-Cola Classic. That, in and of itself, is an excellent case study in business management. However, the more contemporary story is how Coca-Cola has changed its business plan so that no one drink—not even Coke—can heavily influence the company’s success and failure. After years of diversification and acquisition, Coca-Cola currently offers more than 500 brands ranging from soft drinks to fruit juices to water. Additionally, it sells its products in over 200 nations.

Nokia’s Market Shift

Not so long ago, Nokia was one of the leading makers of cell phones. But technological innovations like the iPhone left Nokia struggling to compete. The solution? Get out of the business of cell phones. In a bold move, Nokia sold its cell phone division to Microsoft and shifted its focus to its other technological endeavors. This helped stabilize the company and prevent greater losses. In an interesting twist, Microsoft recently announced that it’s selling the cell phone business it acquired from Nokia to Foxconn Technology. Foxconn has, in turn, struck a deal with Nokia to use the Nokia name on future cell phones.§ Nokia will earn revenue by licensing its name to a product the company was smart enough to stop making.

How Can You Learn More About Successful Businesses?

Case studies are a great place to start when learning about the ways businesses build success. However, if you’re interested in a career in business management, you may want to consider earning a business degree, specifically a bachelor’s in business administration. A BS in Business Administration can give you the foundation of knowledge you need to succeed in business.

Thanks to online learning, you don’t even have to give up your current job to earn your business administration degree. Through an online bachelor’s in business administration program, you can learn from home on a flexible schedule that makes it possible for you to work full time while earning your degree. With an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, you can gain the skills you need to one day make the kinds of great decisions that end up in a case study.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online BS in Business Administration degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*C. Fairchild, The Worst (and Best) Company Name Changes, Fortune, on the Internet at www.fortune.com/2013/12/06/the-worst-and-best-company-name-changes.

†M. Ingram, Print Readership Is Still Plummeting, and Paywalls Aren't Really Helping, Fortune, on the Internet at www.fortune.com/2015/06/01/print-readership-paywalls.

‡Statista, Leading Airlines in the United States in 2016, by Buzz Score, on the Internet at www.statista.com/statistics/507556/airlines-buzz-score-usa.

§A. Kharpal, Nokia Phones Are Back After Microsoft Sells Mobile Assets for $350M to Foxconn, HMD, CNBC, on the Internet at www.cnbc.com/2016/05/18/nokia-phones-are-back-after-microsoft-sells-mobile-assets-for-350-million-to-foxconn-hmd.html.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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