Instagram has been gaining massive popularity in the past decade, especially when it comes to food blogging. As of June 2018, 1 billion people use Instagram and according to The Washington Post, a Maru/Matchbox study found that 69 percent of millennials take a picture or a video of their food before eating. As the trend for food blogging on Instagram has skyrocketed, millennial food culture has undergone major changes.


Instagram has been discriminatory with certain foods, particularly colorfully saturated snacks. Users can choose to follow channels like @foodys and @foodporndaily1 to get their dose of saturated, sinful bites that might look too good to be true. Despite these irresistible-looking treats, a subgroup of food lovers has become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality and taste of these items. A glittery, pink and purple Starbucks drink labeled the “Unicorn Frappuccino” went viral on Instagram during its limited period in April of 2017. Despite the drink’s aesthetic appeal, Chris Riotta, a reviewer at Newsweek wrote, “To be clear, this is the worst drink I have ever purchased in my life.” In 2014, New York Times food critic Pete Wells coined the term “camera cuisine,” referring to expensive restaurants drawing customers from their picturesque dishes. Wells noted that the rise in plating aesthetics appeared to be intrinsically connected with a decline in taste, finding that camera cuisine’s “purest form…is both exquisitely photogenic and peculiarly bland and lifeless.”


On the other end of the spectrum, healthy eating has made a huge wave in the online social media community. According to The Guardian, chia seeds, grains, cactus water and more all emerged as top food trends of 2016. Interestingly, social media has also helped eaters be accountable for their diets. Interviewees who kept track of what they ate for a University of Washington research paper found that Instagram helped them stick to their own tracking and healthy eating goals, made them more honest about their eating habits and allowed followers to show support.


Restaurants recognizing the potential nascent advertising benefits of Instagram have gone to great lengths to keep up with the social buzz. The owner of Grind, a London café-bar chain, has spent the last five years trying to make his entire company more “Instagrammable” and as culture savvy as possible. In 2016, Grind replaced every table in the company with white marble to improve customers’ Instagram pictures.


Restaurant tactics appear to run the gamut in order to please their photography-oriented customers, and there is evidence of their financial success. The one-day Square Shake campaign by Sonic increased their follower base by 11,000 users. Starbucks, a marketing giant on Instagram, has averages over 200,000 likes on each post according to a study conducted by JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. With the release of the Unicorn Frappuccino, global same-store sales increased by three percent for the second quarter.


Other businesses, however, dislike the idea of catering to Instagramming millennials. James Lowe, head chef and owner of Lyle’s in London has noted that this photogenic food culture has led to chefs “cooking for pictures”–putting a dish together without concern for taste and focusing exclusively on aesthetic. Japanese deli Auradaz in Leamington Spa has banned diners from using their mobile phones in his restaurant, citing that eating is a social experience and not one to be saturated with social media.


The rise in Instagramming food altered business strategy has changed consumer behavior. The Waitrose survey states that nearly 40 percent of consumers worry more about presentation compared to five years ago. According to research by Zizzi, the average 18-35-year-old spends five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 percent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.


In the future, restaurants can expect to see a spike in millennials willing to expand their palate and try more adventurous foods. With the rise of both sugary foods and healthy eats, polarization in diets among the millennial population may be on the horizon. Restaurants who do not take advantage of the growing social media platform may risk a decline in younger customers. Meanwhile, hearty foods with less visual appeal could disappear depending on whether epicures and food critics grow in number. Instagram has undoubtedly revolutionized the types of food we eat, the restaurants and vendors who sell them and food culture as a whole.


Founded in 2008, Beats is a relatively young brand within the audio space. According to Billboard charts, the headphone market spiked from 59 million units sold and 490 million dollars in revenue to 68.7 million units sold and 648 million dollars in revenue the year after Beats started selling. This marked increase begs the question: what did Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre do to make Beats so popular?


Beats continuously grow in sales because of two key factors. First, its business model lends itself to marketing and industry fame, rather than true research and development. Second, its major acquisitions and partnerships give the firm industry exposure unreachable by any other competitors.


Though Beats headphones operates in a large sector, the company attacks and capitalizes on a niche, golden segment–one that is more willing to spend on perceived popularity rather than sound quality. In general, the company succeeds through two marketing methods: guerilla marketing and perceived popularity. Guerilla marketing is the process of calling attention to a brand. The London School of Marketing finds that Beats Electronics has implemented it well. Perceived popularity comes through the sleek headphone design and everyday use by international celebrities like LeBron James, Neymar Jr, Nicki Minaj, Serena Williams and Priyanka Chopra. In addition, Olympians used the headphones in London despite Sony sponsoring the event, giving Beats even more credibility by outperforming competitors on a large stage.


In addition to the immense talent of its celebrity marketers, Beats has continuously partnered with other companies to push its products. According to Forbes, Beats first worked with retail giant Best Buy to develop a company goal and market base. In 2009, Beats partnered with HP to add Beats audio to computers. In 2011, Beats worked with Chrysler to place studio-quality audio into automobiles. Most notably, as of September 2018, Beats is the official sponsor of the NBA.


Strategic partnerships allow for key generation of revenue through market expansion and product awareness. They also give firms exclusive opportunities for marketing. After its acquisition, Beats sells products through the Apple Store. Given that computers and headphones are complements, the products’ juxtaposition in stores can dramatically improve sales.


The business model of Beats lends itself to a base in marketing and recognition rather than research and development. According to Forbes, Beats Electronics captured nearly a third of the market in its first year, generating 180 million dollars in revenue because of the marketing tactics they employed.


Despite their popularity, many critics and consumers truly believe Beats produces poor quality audio. In a 2014 analysis of the top 18 premium headphone brands, Time ranked Beats 17th. This stark contrast should not be surprising. Due to Beats’ target market, the brand does not compete against the quality of other companies. Beats’ customers gain more utility from wearing the brand’s headphones than from the higher audio quality from other audio companies.


According to The Home Theatre Review, Beats Electronics had 32 percent of annual headphone revenue in 2015, with Bose the closest competitor at 11 percent. Beats led Bluetooth headphones with 46 percent of sales and 60 percent of premium headphones. Regardless of the comparative sales, the Consumer Technology Association cites national headphone revenue continues to grow to an estimated 2.2 billion in 2015 from 1.7 billion the year earlier.


Beats has made a lasting impact on the audio sector by drastically expanding the headphone market and providing product awareness. The brand has changed the consumer trends surrounding premium headphones. The NPD Group reported that headphone sales over 100 dollars increased 73 percent year-over-year in 2012, outpacing sales in the headphone market overall.


The new developments in the headphones industry also have ramifications for the music industry at large. Increased demand for headphones is correlated to consumer desire for the Beats logo, and the company has taken notice. Products like the Beats Pill and Pill+ are showing early signs of stimulating the speaker market.


The upward trend of Beats sales is expected to stay the same with dips over time. Apple’s 2014 three billion dollar acquisition of Beats has tempered company’s hot streak by inhibiting the flexibility of founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.


According to Slate, Iovine left Apple in August, and now works as a consultant for the company. At the time of its acquisition, Beats was reportedly working on a new smart speaker that would rival Sonos. As soon as Apple took control of the company, new research and development was eliminated. In 2015, Apple pulled Beats Music, a music streaming service, from mobile app stores to reduce competition for iTunes radio.


Beats’ lack of innovation will lead to a reduction in brand recognition and sales. According to The Verge, signs of this slowdown are beginning to show, with Beats ending 2018 without releasing a new product.


While Apple reduces the number of new Beats’ products, other firms will continue innovating at a rapid pace, saturating the audio market. Through this saturation and elevated consumer demand, the companies with the most diverse product offerings will find success.


The success of Beats’ business model begs the question as to whether companies will be willing to adopt similar strategies. The problem with replicating Beats is that the company itself was the perfect storm: Dr. Dre, sleek design and high initial capital were all unique, key factors in brand development.


It won’t be possible to copy Beats Electronics because it had a unique culture–a way of approaching headphones and music that was radically different to any other brand.


Over the past half-century, fast food giants such as McDonald’s and Yum! Brands Inc. have succeeded in entrenching themselves in American culture and establishing strategic positions within the American market. However, the economic downturn in the United States over the past couple of years, coupled with steep commodity and energy prices, the housing crisis, and increased unemployment, have collectively diminished consumer spending and increased production costs. These factors stunted the growth of the fast food industry and stifled corporate profits. The ensuing stagnation has since been compounded by recent health-related initiatives promoting healthier eating, which draw consumers away from fast food and towards healthier alternatives. In turn, the entire situation prompted fast food chains like McDonald’s and Yum! Brands to change their approach. Fast food chains have refocused their attention on international expansion, particularly in the emerging markets.The term “emerging markets” encompasses rapidly industrializing nations like China, India, and Russia. These economies feature explosive growth and an expanding middle class with greater disposable income. In addition, these nations contain significant urban populations and largely unsaturated markets. Jointly, they present rather promising growth prospects for fast food chains. Eager to take advantage of such favorable economic conditions, companies like McDonald’s and Yum! Brands have consistently remained at the forefront of establishing hundreds of new stores in these locations.

Although McDonald’s, which boasts over 32,000 locations in 117 countries, may be the world’s largest hamburger fast food restaurant chain, it is struggling to keep up with its competitor, Yum! Brands Inc. The rapidly expanding and innovating corporation, which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has created a tremendous presence overseas, arguably more so than McDonald’s. It operates an impressive 38,000 restaurants in 110 countries, earning the title of the world’s largest restaurant company.

The two juggernauts together have sparked an industry-wide search for new markets, which has in turn fostered intense competition among opposing chains. This phenomenon is nowhere more evident than in China. With a middle class of over 300 million people and estimates that the figure could reach 500 million within a decade, China is potentially a very lucrative market.

Even though Yum! Brands has already established itself as the prominent fast food company in China, it is constantly seeking to expand its reach. In order to increase brand recognition of KFC in China, Yum! Brands has been opening the equivalent of a new KFC location almost every day. Of its 1,400 new restaurants in 2009, Yum! Brands opened 509 in China alone. In an effort to keep pace with Yum! Brands, McDonald’s has been forced to constantly innovate and expand.

McDonald’s expects to increase spending in China by 40% in 2011, as well as remodel 80% of its existing locations by 2013 as part of its $1 billion global investment project. This comes in response to Yum! Brands’ current domination of the Chinese sphere with 4,000 outlets in the country and 40% of the market share. As of now, McDonald’s clearly lags behind, possessing only 16% of the market share and having just 1,900 restaurants in China.

In addition to trying to outpace the local competition, fast food companies like Yum! Brands have begun to buy out these smaller companies. In April of this year, the company made a preliminary offer to acquire a larger share of the Chinese company Little Sheep Group Ltd., a casual-dining chain that specializes in “hot pot” dishes.

It is important to note, however, that the transition to a more global outlook is not solely limited to the two biggest players in the industry, nor is the growth limited just to China. Other chain restaurants, including Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, and Domino’s, all have plans to enter and expand their number of stores in China as well. Fast food chains have also sought out various markets in Eastern Europe, especially Russia. In fact, McDonald’s recently announced its plans to increase its store count in Russia by 15%, which amounts to building 40 new restaurants. This would be in addition to its $174 million investment and 30 new restaurants constructed in 2010.

Despite the massive penetration into these developing economies already, the most significant growth has yet to come. In an attempt to gain larger footholds in regions like India, the two fast food mammoths have made ambitious long-term investments that will likely materialize within the next few years. Most notably, Yum! Brands has plans to quadruple the number of its restaurants in India by 2015, which would bring its number of locations in India to a grand total of 1,000. Already a major contributor to the company’s revenues, Yum! Brands expects that Indian operations will bring in $100 million in net income in that same year. What’s more, the fast food company hopes to derive as much as 60% of its earnings from emerging markets by 2015, which would constitute double what these very same markets earned Yum! Brands just five years ago. To accomplish this, Yum! Brands expects to invest over $120 million to fund this additional expansion, on top of the $100 million invested in 2009. In an effort to keep up, McDonald’s expects to open 30 new restaurants in India in 2011 alone as part of its $1 billion global investment project that is currently underway.

With over 245 million people and a large urban youth population, Indonesia is rapidly becoming an attractive market as well. Yum! Brands recently opened its 400th KFC  in Indonesia, just 32 years since the first one opened there in 1979. And the company shows no indications of stopping at 400. According to the Managing Director of the Asia Franchise Business Unit of Yum! Restaurants International, Yum! Brands plans to have over 1,000 KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in Indonesia by the year 2015.

However, gaining entry into new markets can be difficult, and requires more than merely constructing the physical plant. Rather, it entails tailoring the operations to the specific region, and more specifically, adapting to the needs of the new clientele. In order to stimulate demand for their products, fast food chains have developed unique food options to cater to the differing tastes endemic to that particular nation. Although such menu alterations may be costly, they are integral parts of capturing market share from local restaurants. For example, McDonald’s removed its iconic hamburger from its menus in India because there, the cow is considered a sacred entity. Instead of beef, McDonald’s offers an extensive vegetarian menu, which features 100% vegetarian patties consisting of potatoes, peas, carrots, and Indian spices. McDonald’s has also launched new additions to its McSpicy line, in hopes of attracting a larger number of customers. Beyond India, the company offers shrimp burgers in Japan, a rice and bean dish in Costa Rica, Big Macs wrapped in pitas in Greece, and burgers with rice patties rather than buns in China.

In the case of China, the fast food giants didn’t stop with simply diversifying their menu options.They have also altered operations in order to adapt to the new environment. McDonald’s has employed a strategy to broaden its reach, increase accessibility, and ultimately bolster ales. To do so, the fast food chain plans on renovating existing locations, increasing the number of drive- through outlets in big cities, and expanding the number of restaurants that feature delivery services, 24-hour service, and McCafés. Yum! Brands has similar ideas to stay competitive, hoping to offer breakfast, home delivery, and 24-hour service in its KFC and Pizza Hut chains. Moreover, Yum! Brands has hired Chinese managers to run its operations in China to gain insight into how the Chinese market works. The fast food company has also taken steps to enhance its perception as a more upscale dining experience by offering menu options like wine and escargot at its Pizza Hut locations in China.

While investments in developing economies have the potential to be incredibly profitable, emerging markets like China also pose potential problems for fast food chains. Such high growth environments often bring high levels of inflation, which translates into higher commodity prices, rent, and labor costs. Despite the elevated costs, the move to emerging markets appears to already be paying dividends. Yum! Brands’ recently released a quarterly report indicating a 13% increase in same- store sales, coupled with a 15% rise in transactions in its Chinese restaurants. Furthermore, 54% of its total profits came from China. McDonald’s appears to be trailing a bit, but still posted a 3.2% increase in sales in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa region. Evidently, with so much room for expansion in these developing markets, the possibilities seem limitless.