Teaching Resource: Product Differentiation

The following activity uses a scene from Breaking Bad to help students understand characteristics of monopolistic competition and product differentiation. The project is based on guidance from Al-Bahrani et al. (2016) on incorporating artistic skills in assignments. Given the topic and project outlined below, we believe this could be a strong final project for a principles-level or survey-level economics course.

Episode Title: Chicken and Drugs
Season: 3
Episode: 9
Episode Title: “Kafkaesque”
Timeframe: 00:00 — 02:27)
Concepts: qualityfixed costsproductiontotal costsunderground economyprofit maximizationfixed inputsvariable inputsvariable cotsdifferentiationadvertising

Clip Summary

At the start of this episode, a narrator introduces a commercial for Pollo Hermano, a regional fried chicken provider. The narrator highlights how a cultural background helped to set apart two brothers who prepared delicious fried chicken. The commercial segues into the underground production of Walter’s famous blue meth, which is funded by the fried chicken chain.

Project Summary

Have students create a 1 minute advertisement for a fictional business that highlights various aspects product differentiation. When students are asked to create projects, they often involve a high level of engagement, supports individual learning, and is collaborative in nature (Yowell and Rhoten, 2009). Having students create media provides an opportunity for students to reflect and communicate to a wider audience. As a final assignment, present completed videos similar to a film-festival, where students can provide peer reviews to ease the instructor’s grading load. A rubric is provided below as a guideline for students and faculty.

Project Guidelines

  1. Create a YouTube commercial for a fictitious company lasting no more than 90 seconds.
  2. The video must have captioning and resemble a commercial encouraging purchase of the product.
  3. The commercial must include at least 3 non-pecuniary aspects of the product that attempt to differentiate your company from competitors.
  4. In the grading, completion of the assignment according to the instructions counts the most, following by content of your video, followed by the quality of your video

Project Rubric

FormatMeets all criteria
(10 points)
Meets some criteria
(7 points)
Meets few criteria
(4 points)
Meets none of the criteria
(0 points)
Organization and styleClearly organized and well thought out. Commercial is clear and easy to follow.
(10 points)
Commercial is organized and planning occurred. There may be some uneven of lapses in development that could have been easily improved.
(7 points)
Commercial has some elements of planning, but could use considerable more work. The commercial was a bit hard to follow.
(4 points)
The commercial was unorganized and confusing. There should have been more work put into the planning stage
(0 points)
Economic ConceptsConnects concepts together in a cohesive theme for the entire commercial. Connections are mostly accurate.
(15 points)
Accurately describes concept(s) in own words. Concepts are tied together, but only occasionally.
(10 points)
Accurately describes concepts in own words, but concepts are not tied together in any way.
(5 points)
Describes concepts in own words, but not accurately, nor in a way that ties everything together.
(0 points)
CreativityExceeds expectations
(5 points)
Meets Expectations
(4 points)
(3 points)
Below average
(2 points)