Recently, Apple Inc. was required to spill some of its carefully-guarded development and operating secrets as part of its legal action against Samsung. The disclosure provided the tech world an unprecedented look into a company that was built on proprietary information and intellectual capital. Apple is not the only company that takes pride in its secrets. Here are five companies that are closemouthed about some of their business practices.

Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1939 after he developed a unique method of pressure frying chicken. KFC is now one of the largest fast food franchises in the world. The company's claim to fame is Sanders' secret 11-herbs-and-spices recipe. To this day, the recipe is locked in a vault in KFC's Louisville head office. According to the company, only a few people in the world know the entire recipe. However, many copycat versions appear all over the Internet. The spice blend is made in separate parts so that those putting it together don't know the whole recipe. Although competitors claim to know the recipe, no other fast food chicken tastes just like KFC.

The Coke recipe is one of the all-time most protected formulas in food history. The Atlanta-based company dates back to 1886, when a local pharmacist created the beverage and sold it at Atlanta soda fountains. Although there have been many competitive cola products on the market over the years, most notably Pepsi, none have been able to crack the Coke formula. In February 2011, a radio show announced that the recipe had been "hidden" publicly in an old issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the 1970s. The recipe included several types of essential oils and coca, a derivative of the coca leaf stripped of its cocaine content.

Coca-Cola tried to substantially alter its recipe in 1985 by developing a product it called New Coke. The public backlash was immediate and severe. The company eventually returned to its original formula and has not tried to make big changes to the recipe since.

Today, you can't go into any mattress store in America without seeing several "memory foam" mattresses. Tempur-Pedic was the original, and the company still retains secrecy over the manufacturing process of its products. In the 1970s, NASA developed a cushioning material to support astronauts during the severe backwards pressure when lifting off. The agency stopped working on the project when it could not overcome the offgassing problem the material had. In the 1980s, a Swedish-led team of scientists continued to develop it, and the technology was sold to a U.S. businessman who started Tempur-Pedic. The mattresses are sold throughout the world to both retail customers and hospitals. The company states that it continues to develop new versions of the material.

Research In Motion
RIM, the producer of the Blackberry, has had its confidential developmental processes analyzed more than most companies. The Blackberry is considered the grandfather of the smartphone. It was the first commercial cellular phone to provide email access, and it was quickly embraced by the military and by business users. RIM's protection of its technology may ultimately result in its downfall. Initially, it did not allow other companies to develop third-party applications on the Blackberry, and the retail market eventually lost interest in the product in favor of the flashier new products on the market.

Everyone has been exposed to Cadbury commercials that suggest that the company has a highly-secret technology to get the caramel into the center of the chocolate squares in its Caramilk bars. Far from being an actual technological advantage, the 'Caramilk secret' is a clever marketing campaign developed by the company's advertising agency over 40 years ago. The candy bar is made at only one Cadbury facility, in Toronto, and the company reports that the 'secret' is carefully guarded in a vault there. The ad campaign continues to this day, with new commercials hinting that fans can unlock the secret.

The Bottom Line
Keeping a company's formulas, methodologies and other intellectual capital close to the vest can give the business an advantage over its competitors. It also creates a mystique that can be used to help build a loyal customer base.

Related Articles
  1. Entrepreneurship

    3 Ways You Can Support Small Business Growth

    Discover a number of different options available to support small business growth, including crowdfunding campaigns and shopping locally.
  2. Professionals

    Advisors: Do You Need to Tweak Your Marketing?

    Advisors use a variety of marketing techniques to attract clients, but they don't all work. It may be time to evaluate what is, and isn't, successful.
  3. Stock Analysis

    Are the Brands Millennials Love a Good Buy?

    Millennials make up a very big — and thus important —c onsumer generation. So if they love a brand, its stock is likely to outperform, right?
  4. Entrepreneurship

    10 Ways You Can Make Money as a Blogger

    Obtain helpful information about the top 10 techniques that professional bloggers utilize to generate their incomes from blogging.
  5. Professionals

    7 Careers That No Longer Exist

    Learn how technology and innovation has led to the near-extinction and elimination of seven careers that once employed hundreds of thousands of people.
  6. Economics

    Understanding Electronic Commerce

    Electronic commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over an electronic network.
  7. Economics

    Management Strategies From A Top CEO

    Jack Welch is a legend in the business world: during the two decades he was CEO of General Electric, the company’s value rose by 4000%.
  8. Economics

    Explaining Quality Control

    Businesses use quality control to ensure their products and services meet a certain standard, as well as any industry regulations.
  9. Professionals

    Consider A Career As A Financial Communications Professional

    Regulators, sales people and clients all look to communications professionals to help them navigate the markets.
  10. Investing News

    Betamax, International Symbol Of Bad Marketing, Is Finally Dead

    Sony Betamax is the business textbook case study of a company's spectacular oversight in assessing consumer demand. Now, Sony is finallly discontinuing it.
  1. Is a financial advisor allowed to pay a referral fee?

    A financial advisor is allowed to pay a referral fee to a third party for soliciting clients. However, the Securities and ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does a long tail become profitable?

    A long tail becomes profitable because the costs to produce, market and distribute a product or service in a niche are low, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do companies with a large product portfolio use BCG Analysis?

    BCG analysis is used to evaluate an organization's product portfolio in sales planning and marketing. It is specifically ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the similarities between product differentiation and product positioning?

    Product differentiation and product positioning are important elements in a marketing plan, and most marketing strategies ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Why is product differentiation important in today's financial climate?

    Product differentiation is essential in today's financial climate. It allows the seller to contrast its own product with ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the major categories of financial risk for a company?

    There are many ways to categorize a company's financial risks. One possible perspective is provided by separating financial ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  2. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  3. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  4. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
  5. Monetary Policy

    Monetary policy is the actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and ...
  6. Indemnity

    Indemnity is compensation for damages or loss. Indemnity in the legal sense may also refer to an exemption from liability ...
Trading Center