Rebecca Hagelin

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 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.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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