I'm not sure this article represents the situation correctly. For example, by the 1930s there were more than 30,000 coffee houses operating in Japan, which implies a great many Japanese adults were accustomed to the taste and emotional connotations long before Nestle arrived on the scene. Furthermore, the notion of "imprinting" in complex organisms such as humans has long been discredited, so it seems implausible that the "long game" strategy would have resulted in any meaningful advantage decades later. It's far more likely that multiple factors were at work, reinforcing each other in an accidental but ultimately effective manner. MBA case studies tend to be more fiction than fact, which is one reason why I abandoned HBR decades ago.