The Illusion of Choice

The illusion of choice.

If you haven’t heard of the previous sentence, it is likely that you are living under a fog established by the corporate-driven media. The phrase refers to the sad fact that most of the companies that we buy our household products from are all owned by a 6 major companies. Makeup brands, clothing brands, candy brands, food brands, high end, low end, you name it. The ice cream you curl up with at night while watching Netflix may or may not be produced by the same company that makes the mascara or cologne you’re wearing (Unilever owns Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers, Dove, Axe, St. Ives, and Vaseline).

If you have the time to look over this image…you’re bound to be amazed.

Basically, everything that you use daily is owned by one of the following corporations:

  • Mondelez: fomerly known as Kraft, which, to many people’s surprise, don’t just make that macaroni and cheese that you can’t stop eating despite its overly-processed, fresh out of the microwave, this-isn’t-real-cheese taste
  • Coca-Cola: yeah, they don’t just produce that drink that makes your teeth decay
  • Pepsico: similarly, they don’t just produce the drink that turns your teeth into nothing and give you diabetes and probably an early onset to terminal cancer
  • General Mills: nope, not just cereal
  • Kellogg’s: likewise, they don’t just produce the early morning breakfast American’s love, because who doesn’t love pouring diabetes into a bowl and spooning it into their mouth?
  • Mars: no, they don’t just make the candy that kids scarf down by the pound after Halloween
  • Unilever: who knew they had a monopoly on both the deodorant and cologne pubescent girls and boys use before they reach college?
  • Johnson & Johnson: I thought they just made the stuff Kim Kardashian uses in her photo shoots…
  • P&G: maybe I’m extremely ignorant, but I had never really heard of this corporation
  • Nestle: they don’t just make the foods that put holes in your teeth and are probably responsible for so many people in America succumbing to obesity and type 2 diabetes?

This image primarily fascinates me because I didn’t realize that much of American society is controlled by so few corporations: from the shower, to the closet, and especially to the kitchen. In my opinion, this phenomenon was incited by the wants of certain companies, private individuals (nowadays probably a board of directors) if you will, to expand customers and generate more revenue because humans are innately greedy. In short: free enterprise.

This is similar to a country wanting more land or imperial colonies. Say you’re Unilever, and you’re starting off small, maybe just a simple company that produces body wash targeted towards women. You merge with a company that maybe produces body wash for men, but you keep the name (similar to a country letting its conquered territories keep its religion, so the people don’t get upset) to keep the customers. Then you expand, maybe, to the frozen foods industry. Move on to the cleaning industry. Move on to the candy industry. Keep expanding until you’re a multi-billion dollar company that generates a net income of 6 billion dollars a year. Yet, you manage to keep your company generally on the down low; I bet if we took a poll around a regular high school, more people could name the logo of Victoria’s Secret than Unilever. If you ever inspect the labels of all of the products you use around the house, you’ll catch a glimpse of the major corporations’ logo on the back, probably very small, easily overlooked.

See the Unilver logo? Tiny, compared the the Olay logo, huh? Link

Another reason why corporations choose to have an umbrella over so many companies instead of absorbing them into one name is to give customers, well, the illusion of choice. Customers like thinking that they have a variety to choose from. There are also different types of customers. The hipster, vegetarian, romantic-comedy loving person that goes for Ben & Jerry’s might not also go for the ice cream brand named after a condom company (Magnum)… Similarly, having different company names enables large corporations to market to different audiences; the women-empowering, everyone-is-beautiful campaign of Dove is shamefully juxtaposed by the hyper-sexual, embody-the-MAN-inside-of-you advertisement strategy of Axe (both are owned by Unilever). Media hypocrisy is one byproduct of the illusion of choice.

So how can you avert the oppressive dominance of blood-lusting companies who just want to shake the hard-earned money from your pockets? Well, in my opinion, you can’t. Without running into the middle of the country and being a self-sufficient hermit. There really is no way to prevent the influence of such large corporations that are found in every nook and cranny aspect of just about everyone’s lives. If you just walk down your local grocery store, you’ll see hundreds of brands, many basically making the same thing, owned by just a few companies. There’s no way to negate this effect. The best you can do is be aware that it exists around you and manipulates your entire life.

In this article, I talked about the illusion of choice among organic industries, but here are some other cool pictures I found of the illusion of choice in other industries. Another big one is media.

In media…90% of the news you read, watch, and listen to are controlled by 6 companies…SIX!! The magnates of these companies are the Genghis Khan of media! Link
Car industry

6 thoughts on “The Illusion of Choice

  1. Jessie, your posts are great. I never realized how we are controlled by such huge companies, and it’s a little disturbing. I also found it funny when you were describing each company and what they make. lol. Good job!


  2. Wow, this was really interesting. I never really thought about this, but now I’m looking through some of the products I have in my bathroom and I am noticing the logos you were talking about. I think you brought up some really legitimate points in that post, especially about advertising. And I thought the part where you broke down the companies was very funny and I really read that in your voice. Awesome post!


  3. I found this very interesting. We are sometimes so engulfed by products being shoved down our throats that we fail to realize where we are getting it from or who we are getting it from. I found it very interesting how 90% of the news is controlled by 6 companies. It seems like we need to distribute the power to some of the lesser companies to prevent them from becoming too influential in the news.


  4. As dramatic as it is to target these massive, scary corporations, it’d be wise to brush up on a bit of economics beforehand; not to attack your argument, of course, as you certainly had some valid points, but there are numerous benefits to the subsidiaries owned by larger corporations. While on its face, conglomerates seem imperialistic and sinister, a great majority of brands that join larger companies do so in order to receive any number of boons, chiefest of which being tax breaks and a higher potential market cap. Any well-versed student of capitalism would know that smaller business flock to larger, multinational corporations for their own sake. And, although you claim that there is an “illusion of choice”, this isn’t entirely true. Subsidiary companies exist with the express purpose of providing choice; otherwise, a single company would simply sell all of their products directly. Instead, by breaking a larger corporation’s holdings into separate divisions, this allows the parent company to appeal to a broader part of their respective consumer market. In short, it truly isn’t an “illusion” of choice– it is, truly, choice.


  5. Great post and comments, everyone! Jessie, I really enjoy your passion and interest in media, and, as always, I love the sharp voice that comes through in your work. Great use of images to help with the flow of your post. I think you’ve heard of P&G- it’s Proctor and Gamble. Maybe just the acronym doesn’t sound familiar? They’re pretty prevalent (and I have stock in them! Haha). As with your past posts, this could be a good starting point for a language study or written task (or possibly your EE if you really want to dig deeper into a media topic).


  6. This is a really thought provoking post. Whether it’s a good thing or not that all of these mega-companies control many of the products we use or consume in our everyday lives, it’s so strange how it’s such a “hidden fact.” I was vaguely aware of most of the large companies mentioned here, but I had no idea how much they really controlled. This is a really interesting topic and it makes me want to do more research. Great job!


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