Activity 5-1
Corporate Power



  • Learn how many industries are dominated by a few large corporations and that these corporations often are conglomerates that own many product brands
  • Analyze the effect of large corporations on consumers and society
  • Use the Internet to do directed research



Two to four days


Completion of handout and participation in discussion


corporation economies of scale market share market structure, concentration ratio conglomerate vertical integration subsidiary horizontal integration shared monopoly or oligopoly

Suggested Procedure

Note: Students should be familiar with the different forms of business organization and market structure, especially from the vocabulary above, before beginning this activity. This knowledge is necessary in order to answer the discussion/study questions.

1. Ask students what are the names of different soft drink companies. Create a list on an overhead transparency. (They will most likely think that many brands represent different companies when often they belong to the same company.) Announce that they are going to investigate this industry.

2. Have students read over handout and find a partner.

3. Have pairs of students use the Internet to complete handout.

4. Facilitate a class discussion using the discussion/study questions. Compare list generated in Step 1 to findings from research. Find out what other industries students researched and use discussion/study questions to analyze results.

5. To emphasize how many brands, even of the same product, can come from one modern corporation, ask your students the following:

­ What do Biz, Bold, Cascade, Cheer, Dawn, Joy and Tide have in common? All are detergents.

­ What do Camay, Coast, Lava, Head and Shoulders, Ivory, Pert, Prell, Safeguard and Zest have in common? All are soaps or shampoos.

­ What do Crest and Gleem have in common? Both are toothpaste brands.

­ What do Jif and Skippy have in common? Both are peanut butter brands.

­ What do Pampers and Luvs have in common? Both are diaper brands.

­ What do Pro-V, Secret, Sure and Vidal Sasoon have in common? All are deodorants or hair sprays.

­ What do Comet, Mr. Clean and Spic and Span have in common? All are household cleaners.

­ What do ALL of these plus Chloraseptic, Clearasil, Crisco, Downy, Duncan Hines, Pepto-Bismol, Pringles, and Tylenol have in common? All are from one company, Procter and Gamble (#17 on the 1999 Fortune 500 list).

­ What do Tostitos, Cheetos, Doritos and Fritos have in common? All rhyme, are snack foods and come from Frito-Lay (which also has Lay's potato chips).

­Is Frito-Lay an independent company? No, it is a subsidiary of the Pepsi-Cola Company.

6. To emphasize the size of modern corporations, ask your students the following:

­ How much do you think the #1 company by revenue sold in 1998? Where do you think Microsoft ranked?

$161.3 billion-General Motors; Microsoft ranked 137th in 1997 revenue.

­ How much do you think the top 10 revenue companies in 1997 sold combined? Who might they be?

$973.8 billion; see Transparency Model

­ Project transparency to reveal answers and discuss figures. Stockholders' equity is the sum of all capital stock, paid-in capital and retained earnings at the company's year end.

7. To emphasize predominance of concentrated markets, project Transparency Model-Market Share and discuss.

Additional Activities

1. Have students investigate the market structure of an industry or the brand products of a large corporation. Either investigation should reveal the immense size of modern corporations.

One approach could be to tell students to choose one product their family usually buys and to research the parent company. Have the students find what other products the company sells, and its market share with its major product lines. Have each student report their findings to the class and count the number of corporations represented. (This will work best if all students choose a cereal brand, household soap/detergent or type of car.)

2. Have students take an inventory of the products in their house. They should create a list of all the brands. They can look on the labels to find the parent company of each brand and record that next to the brand name. In the end, they should calculate how many brands per company they have in their house and therefore determine which companies their family buys from the most.



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