Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley
Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley - 


Procter & Gamble was started by brothers-in-law William Procter and James Gamble, a candlemaker and a soapmaker, respectively, in 1837 in Cincinnati. Two decades later, the company would reach $1 million in sales. The Civil War further boosted the company's fortunes, when the Union Army awarded two contracts to P&G to supply soldiers with soap and candles. It was an unwitting way to build brand loyalty -- after the war was over, returning soldiers continued to buy P&G products.

P&G scored another coup in brand building with the launch of Ivory soap in the 1890s. In the years after, P&G would go on to invent and produce some of the most common products in American homes. In 1911, Crisco was introduced. In 1946, it was the detergent Tide. Pampers, the disposable diapers that changed the industry, debuted in 1961. The list of successful products goes on and on.

The consumer goods behemoth also serves as an example on how to get the word out about the things it sells. The Fortune 500 company was the first to advertise nationally. In 2007, it spent more on advertising in the United States than any other company.