Zara New York City retail branchYou know Zara. You’ve heard of Zara. You’ve seen Zara around. The mid-range Spanish clothing maker is now the world’s largest fashion retail brand. How big is it? Top rival H&M operates about 2,500 branches around the globe, while Zara’s parent company Inditex has more than 5,900–including more than 2,000 in Spain alone.

In the midst of a recession that’s proven especially severe in that corner of Europe, Zara rose to the very top of the fashion business.

Yet the most interesting aspects of the Zara empire are the things the company doesn’t do. It doesn’t create partnerships with top designers. It doesn’t try to label its products “upscale”. It doesn’t tweet very often, and it definitely doesn’t organize any one-off promotional stunts. Its founder, now one of the world’s richest men, refuses to give interviews.

The company doesn’t even create ads–that’s right, no ads at all. In fact, the PR rep who spoke to The New York Times during an extended magazine profile refused to give her name in keeping with her employer’s “modesty rules”. Not the kind of operation you’d expect from such a massive brand.

So how did the minds behind Zara create such a monster? To put it simply, they followed one rule: listen to your customers and respond accordingly by giving them what they want, not what you tell them they should want.

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