How to Create a Cult for Your Brand – Marketing Brainwashing

I’ve become quite a bit more active on YouTube recently, creating a series of videos featuring me, little cartoons, and delivering presentations.

Whilst wandering around the favorite videos of some of my newest YouTube friends, I discovered something that reminded me of some of my earliest education in psychology: the “art”, as it were, of brainwashing.

Watch the following video from the creator of a popular MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing) program and notice the unusual use of the word “prompting” at time marker [0:29].  I had never heard this term used in this way prior to watching this video:

Having never heard the term "prompting" used this way before as a noun, I was reminded how interesting it is that each unique culture creates its own terminologies in order to isolate and insulate itself from others.

The Power of a New Language

Like an “inside joke” among friends, this “creation of a new language” is a very common tactic within shrewd marketing programs, such as MLMs and cults alike.  Each group leverages the same psychological and social principles to create their fervent following.

They’ll take a very common concept and create a new term for it. Then, those who use that term "properly" are considered "insiders" reinforcing the bond between members and creating a barrier for “outsiders”.

Once someone learns this new language, they, too, can communicate with this “secret language” to others on the inside, and they now feel a heightened affinity for the group and its members.

Language Controls Behaviour

In marketing , like brainwashing, if you want to control a person’s behavior, you must first control their thought, and the creation of a new language is one inroad to that thought control.  This is why you will see new programs and books constantly being introduced with new words for the exact same things that have been around forever.

Even the big guys, like Microsoft, do this.  They come up with a slightly improved version of a technology, and give that thing a whole new name and all of its tinier parts have different names than the same tiny parts of the previous version.

In the marketing world, this brainwashing concept of relabeling things you already know with a new word or using an existing word in a slightly different way is called “branding” and “differentiation”.

From the book “Cults and New Religions Movements” by Lorne L. Dawson , I’ve found some very interesting passages on human thought control that are very applicable to this marketing concept of “new language” development.

The goal of all of this is your conversion or your remolding… You affirm that you accept and understand the ideology by beginning to talk in simple catchphrases of the group… Using the new language fosters your separation from your old conscience and belief system.

Create Your Own Cult

What is it that YOU do, in such a unique way that someone else could see your unique value through creating a new word or using an existing word differently?

Can you create a community of loyal fanatics using Social Media tools like Twitter , YouTube, and Blogs that use this new language and turn your clients into a horde of raging fanatics ?


#1 Andrea Tannouri (1 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 1:31 pm

LOL Daiv! “horde of raging fanatics?” this made me laugh out loud at the mental picture!

For me, I just transfer my personality, who I am and what makes me, ME onto the internet. I am very transparent and open to a fault, my hubby would say. But I find that this attracts people that like me for who I am and what I love, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My language is Holistic Twitterese and I create/ use new twitter words all the time =)

I am building a community of loyal friends using Twitter, Facebook and my blog and NING site. I love these tools! You tube I haven’t used much yet but I am planning to.

@AndreaTannouri the @HolisticMamma

#2 David Leonhardt (2 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 1:35 pm

Great insight into the psychology of belonging. This is something Rob has been trying to do with his bloggeries concept — have us all say “bloggery” instead of “blog post”. I told him at the time that it was a very intelligent branding exercise.

#3 Joselito Laudencia (1 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:04 pm

Wow, very interesting! I actually am part of SendOutCards. When I first got involved and talked about this with others, I started using that word “prompting” without even thinking about it. Goes to show the power of using & creating words to fit your context!

#4 David Frey (1 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:13 pm

I happen to personally know Kody Bateman. And I happen to know for a fact the he did not invent that word. I know exactly where he learned that word and it had NOTHING to do with Send Out Cards or network marketing.

Kody was using that word years before he ever even thought about starting a network marketing company.

David Frey

#5 Daiv Russell (10 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:22 pm

That’s great! So he was building his brand long before he started building his company. I guess it was destined to be.

#6 Sonja (3 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:33 pm

Daiv I was at teacher training last night and the first thing they told us was that “we have a terminology we use.” Not that the teachers are a cult, but that this is a viable technique across the board. How to create terms for my website? Not sure yet, but at least I know it’s a goal.

#7 Daiv Russell (10 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:38 pm

I’m certainly not implying that teachers are a cult, but they are certainly a “society”. Much like the lingua franca of doctors and lawyers, a professional group works to build the group. By building solidarity and unity of the group, they are, whether intentional or otherwise, excluding others who have not been brought on board with this terminology.

#8 Gael Chiarella Alba (1 comments.) on 02.26.09 at 5:44 pm

I love your insight into the psychology on the use of language, and the visual of the raging fanatics is inspired! Re the context, in the world of meditators, healers and intuitives, it would be immediately understood that “a prompting” would be “an action called for stemming from an insight or intuition.”

A great yogi was once asked if he could have any prayer answered what would it be, and he immediately said “let me not measure what I own or what I have but rather give me the ability to create what is actually needed moment by moment.” Promptings. May we all have them aplenty. Now on to the hordes…!

#9 Lexi Rodrigo on 02.27.09 at 5:52 am

I’ve noticed a lot of marketers talking about the same thing but making up their own names for it. It’s not just for branding, but a way for their tribe members (cult following) to identify with each other while excluding non-members.

I think this can be carried to ridiculous extremes. New t erminology should also bring added value, such as building on existing ideas, and not merely tacking new words on same old concepts only for the sake of being able to claim the new terminology as your own.

#10 Tom L (1 comments.) on 02.27.09 at 11:46 am

Great read on the secret language/cult stuff. The link to the Lorne Dawson book results in a 404 page. You might want to recheck the link

#11 Daiv Russell (10 comments.) on 02.27.09 at 2:44 pm

@Tom – Fixed the 404 error. Thanks for the head’s up. 😀

#12 Kathy Hadley (1 comments.) on 02.28.09 at 6:33 pm

Dear Daiv,
I got to know you from twitter. I notice that twitter has it’s own language as do most professions (as you mentioned) organizations, even geograpic regions, schools, clubs etc.

However, I want to take this a little off topic of the language or the branding to the video itself.

He mentioned that he “was in a hurry” & later found out his brother had died.

That brought tears to my eyes as I had a similar situation with a sibling years ago. And although it took me 2 years to start to live again, it has forever altered me. I now give more, compliment people more, and tell people when I appreciate or love them more.

I accentuate the positive whenever I can & bite my tongue when negative comes to mind.

I never again want to say something or have not said something, I then find out, it is too late.

If you feel that this comment should be deleted. I will understand. And I will still be very grateful for all the help you have given me.

Bless you,

#13 Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach (1 comments.) on 05.01.09 at 2:46 am

Creating your own terminology is key for niche marketing. For example, if you’re in the online fitness biz, you’ll know what

Turbulence Training

is without a second thought.

This is one reason why I created my terminology – Income Fitness. So far, it’s been received rather well….

Data points, Barbara

#14 Mariz@ ms small businesses (1 comments.) on 08.06.09 at 3:53 am

This is very interesting read. The video is equally helpful for me a budding MLM member.

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