October 4, 2005
When you think of "marketing," what images come to mind?
Chances are, you're thinking of a large company that makes a certain product -- food, cars, computers, you name it. In other words, a physical thing you buy with money.
But what about ideas? Few people realize it, but the same marketing techniques that companies use to induce us to buy a particular product are just as useful when it comes to selling us an idea. And just as companies can trick us into thinking a product is more appealing than it really is, so companies (and others, from politicians to the media) can fool us into believing an idea that is false.
Don't believe it? Consider an example that David Kupelian, managing editor of WorldNetDaily.com used when he spoke at The Heritage Foundation last week. When you refer to people who have entered our country illegally, what do you call them? Not long ago, they were labeled "illegal aliens." This term, with its two negative words, accurately conveyed two things: 1) the fact that those who enter our country illegally have committed a crime and 2) that they weren't one of us, i.e., American citizens.
But as David noted, the terms of the debate began to shift. First, the phrase became "illegal immigrants" -- a negative and a positive. After all, America is a nation of immigrants and their descendants, so the term "immigrants" evokes positive images and makes us feel more warmly toward these lawbreakers (although it happens subconsciously, so we're hardly aware of it). Since then, still nicer substitutes have emerged, such as "undocumented guest workers." Hey, they're "workers," so that's good, right? And, my goodness, a "guest" is someone we treat with hospitality and warmth. The term "undocumented," meanwhile, leaves the impression that they simply forgot to fill out some silly government-mandated form. Who could be against hard-working guests who have a problem with paperwork?
But you've been sold a bill of goods. The fact is, those who hope we'll ignore the crime committed by illegal aliens used proven marketing techniques to sell you something -- and if you weren't paying attention, you bought it.
This pernicious practice doesn't stop with border security. We're bamboozled daily on a wide variety of subjects, from abortion on demand for any reason to same-sex "marriage." As David notes in his new book, The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom: "The plain truth is, within the space of our lifetimes, much of what Americans once almost universally abhorred has been packaged, perfumed, gift-wrapped and sold to us as though it had great value. By skillfully playing on our deeply felt national values of fairness, generosity and tolerance, these marketers have persuaded us to embrace as enlightened and noble that which all previous generations since America's founding regarded as grossly self-destructive -- in a word, evil."
What makes David's book so useful is the fact that he steps back and allows the other side to explain their game plan, their efforts to change the way you and I think. Take homosexual activists. It looked as if the AIDS crisis of the 1980s would set their cause back, but the activists weren't about to let that happen. Some 175 of them met at a conference in February 1988 and hammered out a master PR plan. Two Harvard-educated researchers, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, laid it out in book titled After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the '90s, noting that they would counter negative publicity with "a program of unabashed propaganda, firmly grounded in long-established principles of psychology and advertising."
That meant relying on established manipulation techniques such as "desensitization" (inundating the public with positive, gay-related advertising) and "jamming" (attacking and intimidating critics in order to silence them). As marketing expert Paul Rondeau of Regent University explained, "If you can get [straights] to think [homosexuality] is just another thing -- meriting no more than a shrug of the shoulders -- then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won."
David views several other controversial topics from a marketing perspective and illustrates the techniques used behind other big lies, from the myth of church-state separation to the dumbing-down of our schools. His highly readable style, combined with a plethora of research and hard evidence, will convince many skeptics.
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.
First appeared on World Net Daily.