Wendy’s — Choice is Good

This Wendy’s commercial picks fun at Soviet economics that were notorious for limiting options available to consumers in the name of efficiency, but monopolistic competition in a capital market thrives on product differentiation and the ability to cater to people’s preferences.

Thanks to Rob Szarka for the find!

Stossel — Diamond Engagement Rings

 

In this Stossel segment, we learn about the history of the De Beers diamond corporation and their control of the diamond market. Stossel interviews guests and asks them to identify diamonds from knock-off rings, but most can’t tell the difference despite claiming to be capable.

Hawaii 5-0 — Product Differentiation

 

In monopolistically competitive markets, sellers offer differentiated products, and this Hawaiian food truck is no different. While some people believe that food trucks should only offer a small range of menus, the chef argues that in order to stand out in such a competitive market that he has to offer variety. Introducing new substitutes will decrease the demand for others and eventually lead to zero economic profit.

Thanks to Hannah Canil for the clip suggestion!

Das Racist — Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell

If you haven’t driven by YUM!’s combination stores, they are a site to see. A family of picky eaters can stop by a location and grab a combination (depending on the pairings) of pizza, tacos, fried chicken, fish, or burgers. The combination of stores varies depending on the area, and some even have three-in-one:

pizza hut taco bell kfc

This song (and accompanying picture) can serves a great introduction to the concepts of product differentiation and economies of scope. The YUM! brands have a large presence in major categories in the fast food market:

4. KFC —  20,404 locations
7. Pizza Hutt — 13,728
11. Taco Bell — 6,500

Thanks to Rob Szarka for the recommendation.

Adam Ruins Everything — Overfishing

 

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

Adam covers the topic of overfishing and how it forces restaurants to market less popular fish as select or premium brands. Adam’s dad (an actual marine biologist) joins the scene to discuss overfishing.

 

South Park — White People Flipping Houses

 

Randy Marsh is a local contractor who flips homes in the area. His TV show, white people flipping homes, has come under bad wrap when local Confederates have decided to use his television show to protest the Amazon Echo stealing jobs in the town. Marsh takes the men to court for damages because viewers negatively associate the local Confederates with the show. He’s asked why he doesn’t change the name of his show, but he lists off a variety of other show titles that were already taken. In a monopolistically competitive market, product differentiation is essential to creating demand. Items must be substitutable, but sellers also must try to convince buyers that their product is somehow unique from the competition.

Saturday Night Life — Toys ‘R Us

When teaching students about the different types of firm structures, we always discuss monopolistic competition and how firms try to differentiate their products to get positive economic profits. This short clip shows how Toys R Us is staying open for 87 hours straight to differentiate itself from other toy stores around the holiday season.

Thanks to James Tierney for the clip and description.

Superior Donuts — Food Truck Competition

A new food truck sets up shop outside the donut store. The clip starts with the new owner coming by and asking how long the shop has been in business and what kind of customers stop by. She quickly realizes that she can setup shop and steal some of the existing customers. This clip does a really good job showing how monopolistically competitive markets function and that even though an imperfect substitute enters the market, the demand for one business decreases.

 

MedicoreFilms — Free Hugs

My students favorite clip when discussing product differentiation is this clip from MedicoreFilms where a guy offers Deluxe Hugs for $2 more. One of his opening lines best illustrates the concept of monopolistic competition:

Deluxe guy: How’s businesses?

Free guy: Mine are free, this isn’t a business.

Deluxe guy: Different people want different stuff, so it’s cool.

Businesses can differentiate their products by quality, style, location, etc. The guy offering deluxe hugs is trying to fill a portion of the market from people willing to pay more for “better” hugs.

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