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Great perspective on something I have always wondered about, Sasha. Those figure skaters are impressive! The first two questions that come to mind are 1) why other countries are not able to as effectively imitate the model of maximizing sourcing quality, minimizing variability and driving innovation, and 2) whether Russia can do this as effectively for other sports (e.g. gymnastics). I wonder what specifically it is about figure skating or about Russia that makes this so repeatable yet not so replicable. Also, I wonder whether this will continue over time as there is increasing scrutiny around eating habits, body image issues and professional sports. Regardless, thanks for your insights and for sharing!

On December 14, 2015, YG commented on Red Bull doesn’t make anything… except money :

First of all, I did not know Red Bull was a Thai jetlag antidote and the translation for the Thai words for that, so thank you for educating me. Second of all, I think it is quite clever that the company has managed to build this massive business and brand around something they do not manufacture without anyone being any the wiser. I think you have effectively laid out how the Red Bull brand and extreme sports image are intricately linked and how, in fact, the actual business model of the Red Bull company licensing the drink is driven by the Red Bull brand perception driven by the sponsorships, etc. that they are known for. What I wonder at this point is whether Red Bull has any plans to expand into other drinks within this niche extreme sports category or even leverage their business model in other markets. A question related to that would be whether the licensing agreement with the Thai manufacturer would allow them to do so. Great post!

On December 14, 2015, YG commented on Patagonia: A Focus on a Sustainable Model :

Great post Mark. In my opinion, Patagonia is a poster-child for the type of business that stands on its own merits (e.g. fantastic jackets, superb quality, etc.) while embodying the essence of sustainability from the perspective of long-term competitiveness. Namely, we would not see Patagonia jackets and fleeces all over HBS if they were made in a socially and environmentally conscious way but of lower quality materials. My question with businesses that broadly fall into the category of “sustainable” is always how much do people care about the social and environmental impact that a business has vs. the actual product they are buying, and how does the potential negative perception of sustainability (i.e. in terms of quality) impact a consumer’s purchasing decisions? Does that change in a B2B vs. B2C setting? Also, is there a market for a consortium of socially and environmentally responsible consumer-facing businesses that make high quality products that are still affordable, and would consumers turn to it as a source of guidance for when looking to make their purchasing decisions? Perhaps somewhat predictably, I am a big fan of Patagonia and lots of other outdoor brands that have a similar mission and model, including REI, which is where I would most likely come across most of these products. Another thing this made me think of is how important the distribution channel is for these types of products. For instance, there are also tons of flash sale sites that sell outdoors stuff (e.g. steepandcheap) so I wonder whether the distribution channel through which these products are sold impacts consumer behavior.