NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- How does a big, scary corporation make itself look gentler to a nervous populace? By buying and putting on a mask.
Sometimes it's hard being a multinational corporation. Competitors are always gunning for you, regulators henpeck you about your every move and those underfed little activists think you're out to turn the world into a Dumpster and grind the mountains into your private parking lot. Sometimes you just want to hide out and remind people what they liked about you in the first place -- what good thing made you into the big bad creature that you are.
This is why Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) lovers chuckle a little bit when friends say they prefer Seattle's Best -- which Starbucks bought in 2003. This is why Bud drinkers don't get too upset with beer snobs who sneer at them from behind pints of Boddington's or Bass -- which Bud maker Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD) also owns. It's why someone who offers a coworker a Life-Savers mint and is rebuffed in favor of another coworker with a can of Altoids can hold their head high, as their halitosis-stricken workmate just turned down one Mars mint for another.
With Halloween little more than two weeks away, TheStreet took a quick stroll among the retail shelves and found 11 big bad companies hiding in the cutest little costumes. As is the case with most store-bought Halloween disguises, some do a better job of hiding one's identity than others:Costume: Tom's of Maine
Company: Colgate-Palmolive (CL - Get Report)
For starters: Yep, Colgate-Palmolive makes vegan toothpaste. The bucolic back story features Tom and Kate Chappell starting up Tom's in Kennebunk, Maine, in 1970 with $5,000 in seed money. They made toothpaste, soap and deodorant without animal testing and without animal product. They also took $100 million from Colgate-Palmolive for an 84% stake in the company, but kept the remaining 16% to ensure the products and formulas would remain intact. The Chappells get a nest egg and their integrity, Colgate-Palmolive gets to put some polish on its environmental image. Consumers seem none the wiser.