Friday, April 06, 2007

Dressing Up With Words

Frank Luntz argues that a single word choice can make a profound difference in perception-such as the word 'spirits' replacing 'liquor' or the word 'gaming' replacing 'gambling':

"One of the best examples of an industry tackling its greatest image weakness and turning it into its most beneficial strength just by changing a single solitary word is the 'gaming' industry--formerly known as the 'gambling' industry. ... Turning gambling into gaming wasn't [industry association president] Frank Fahrenkopf's idea ... [but he] intensified the effort. ...

"What's important to understand is that the underlying products and services changed not a whit. Same slot machines. Same deck of cards. Same dice. Same casino advantage. But the switch from 'gambling' to 'gaming' in describing one's behavior contributed to a fundamental change in how Americans see the gambling industry. ...

"All the old, unsavory associations (e.g., organized crime, pawnshops, addiction, foolishly losing one's fortune) gave way to a lighter, brighter image of good, clean fun. 'Gambling' looks like what an old man with a crumpled racing form does at a track, or sounds like the pleas of a desperate degenerate trying to talk a pawnshop punter into paying a little more for his wedding ring, or feels like the services provided by some seedy back-alley bookie in some smoke-filled room. 'Gaming' is what families do together at the Hollywood-themed MGM Grand, New York, New York, or one of the other 'family-friendly resorts' in Las Vegas. 'Gambling' is a vice. 'Gaming' is a choice. 'Gambling' is taking a chance, engaging in a risky behavior. 'Gaming' is as simple as playing a game with cards or dice or a little ball that goes round and round and round."

Dr. Frank Luntz, Words That Work, Hyperion, 2007, p. pp. 129-130.

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Image: Gaming Table or is it a Gambling Table?