May 19, 2020

Brands which dominate their niche

whole foods
Sumit Modi
3 min
Brands which dominate their niche

Some brands are fortunate enough to develop a niche which differentiates them from the competition, allowing them to dominate their corner of the market. Here are five brands which have achieved this envious status.


Whole Foods Market

America’s healthiest grocery store has remained so since 1980, only selling food items that contain no artificial colorings, flavors, or preservatives. This niche, alongside savvy marketing and forward-thinking, allowed the company to grow internationally, with around 430 stores in the US, Canada, and UK. The promotion of a greener lifestyle is eternally popular; Whole Foods ceased the use of plastic bags in 2008, and ensures that its stores feel more like a marketplace than an impersonal supermarket.

There’s niche, and there’s focussing on one single item of clothing – and becoming a big name because of it. Based in California, has been a market leader for 15 years, priding itself on its personal touch. Deliveries are hand-packaged, and real, human team members answer the telephones. The company creates every type of tie imaginable, plus unique tie bars, pins, racks, socks, and even pocket squares. Shipping within the US is free, making it the go-to tie authority on home soil.


This UK-based company started off as a small project to produce all-natural beauty products, and grew into a cult phenomenon across the pond. Everything it sells is vegetarian and 80 percent of it is vegan; it heavily advertises the fact that it does not test any products on animals, and it has even phased out the use of palm oil. The company is especially well-known for its fun and colourful bath bombs, shower jelly, and heavy perfumes. Despite having existed for over 20 years, it still corners its market and has no serious competitors.


Lehman’s tagline is ‘for a simpler life’, and that’s precisely what the company works towards. The company began creating and selling non-electrical tools and furniture for the Amish community, and has built up a huge following of people looking for simple, rustic solutions for the home. Due to its popularity, Lehman’s now sells across the US via the internet and catalogs. It has also built furniture and other items for many huge Hollywood movies, such as The Gangs of New York and Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.


Chewing gum is notoriously difficult to remove from any given surface, and power washing can use up to 8,000 gallons of water per day. The creators of GumBusters came up with the Gumcart, which can remove gum and graffiti from carpet, furniture, cement, and sidewalks using just four-to-eight gallons and no harsh chemicals. It is an eco-friendly options which has become popular with businesses and schools alike, as well as the Long Island Rail Authority and Smithsonian Institute. The Gumcart is used across the US and is the top choice for power cleaning.


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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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