On Dec. 7, Nikkei Marketing Journal hit the newsstands with its popular hitto shohin banzuke, the annual listing of product hits that has been a cover feature every year since 1971.

Nikkei's annual list appeals to the public because it's cleverly presented in the same heavy calligraphic brush style traditionally used for sumo rankings, with the year's standout products and services arranged in a hierarchy, working down from yokozuna (grand champion) to ozeki (champion), sekiwake (junior champion) and so on, followed by 30 maegashira (rank and file).

Nikkei is generally credited as having popularized the term “hit products.” Of course, sales success is a prerequisite but, to warrant inclusion in the rankings, a product, service or other commercial entity should also be acknowledged as having altered the direction of the market, or even opened up a completely new business channel that hadn't previously existed. Success might be achieved by an innovative ad campaign, endorsement by a celebrity or, in recent years, by going viral online via social media.