Propaganda Techniques & Other Manipulative Tactics in Mary Kay Cosmetics

“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

–attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany

Propaganda. What is it? What are Propaganda Techniques? Can you recognize Propaganda Techniques when they’re being used? Have you or your loved one fallen pray to Propaganda Techniques that are used by Mary Kay Cosmetics and its sales force?

These are a few of the questions raised and addressed in this article. After you’ve learned about Propaganda Techniques (and other manipulative tactics), you can decide for yourself if you’ve become another victim of of Mary Kay Cosmetics’ predatory tactics.

As has been pointed out elsewhere on F.A.C.E.S., Mary Kay Cosmetics’ sales forces uses predatory tactics to lure women into buying or becoming part of Mary Kay. If a person knows how to recognize the techniques as they’re happening, Propaganda Techniques and other manipulative tactics are easy to spot.

Manipulation Puppet

What is Propaganda?

Propaganda - Define Propaganda at

According to, Propaganda is defined as:

  1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Propaganda, in varying forms, has been around for a long, long time–as far back as ancient Greece. By today’s standards, early forms of propaganda were rather crude and were used for both positive and negative purposes–for good intent, as well as ill intent.

Today, with the advent of technologies like mass media, radio, TV and the internet, we are constantly exposed to both good and bad propaganda, day and night. We get it from politicians, from advertisers, and from the media. We hear it on the radio, we see it in movies–we are bombarded.

While we see and hear propaganda techniques every day of our lives, we may not always recognize them for what they are.

In late 1930s, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) identified seven basic propaganda devices (or techniques) that are used in the dissemination of propaganda.

While not all forms of propaganda are used all the time by the propagandist, usually there is at least one or two deployed from the propagandist’s arsenal at any given time to influence opinion.

Here are the seven Propaganda Techniques, as identified by the IPA:

  1. Name-Calling
  2. Glittering Generality
  3. Transfer
  4. Testimonial
  5. Plain Folks
  6. Card Stacking
  7. Band Wagon

Do you recognize the propaganda techniques Mary Kay Cosmetics’ sales force uses on its targets?

If you recognize Glittering Generalities, Testimonials, Card Stacking and Band Wagon as the primary techniques Mary Kay’s propagandists use, you’re right.

Glittering Generalities

  • Defined as:
  • Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. [Source, Emphasis added.]

    “We believe in, fight for, live by virtue words about which we have deep-set ideas. Such words include civilization, Christianity, good, proper, right, democracy, patriotism, motherhood, fatherhood, science, medicine, health, and love.

    For our purposes in propaganda analysis, we call these virtue words “Glittering Generalities” in order to focus attention upon this dangerous characteristic that they have: They mean different things to different people; they can be used in different ways.

    This is not a criticism of these words as we understand them. Quite the contrary. It is a criticism of the uses to which propagandists put the cherished words and beliefs of unsuspecting people.

    When someone talks to us about democracy, we immediately think of our own definite ideas about democracy, the ideas we learned at home, at school, and in church. Our first and natural reaction is to assume that the speaker is using the word in our sense, that he believes as we do on this important subject. This lowers our ‘sales resistance’ and makes us far less suspicious… [Source.]

  • How Mary Kay uses Glittering Generalities:
    • The most egregious use of Glittering Generalities within Mary Kay is its heavy emphasis on “God first, Family second, Mary Kay third.”

      Immediately, Mary Kay’s victims are placed off guard because, if company like Mary Kay espouses such “Christian” values as ‘God and Family’ ahead of career, it must be a good company, right?

      What many of those who have been exposed to and lured into Mary Kay by this Propaganda Technique often realize quickly is that Mary Kay becomes the primary focus in their lives–beyond God and beyond Family.

      What they don’t realize is that, while God may be frequently mentioned–even in Mary Kay scripts–He is always tied into the business of Mary Kay.

  • Related:


  • Defined as:
  • Testimonials are quotations or endorsements, in or out of context, which attempt to connect a famous or respectable person with a product or item. Testimonials are very closely connected to the transfer technique, in that an attempt is made to connect an agreeable person to another item. [Source, emphasis added.]

    There is nothing wrong with citing a qualified source, and the testimonial technique can be used to construct a fair, well-balanced argument. However, it is often used in ways that are unfair and misleading.

    The most common misuse of the testimonial involves citing individuals who are not qualified to make judgements about a particular issue. [Source, emphasis added.]

  • How Mary Kay uses Testimonials:
  • Mary Kay “testimonials” are a strong staple in the Mary Kay propagandist’s arsenal used on Mary Kay targets.

    • Most often, Mary Kay sales force relies upon the testimony about “income” from one of the top few within the company. The problem is, even when relying on commission figures, it is highly selective: “Her highest monthly commission was $________.” The assumption of the Mary Kay propagandist’s victim is to multiply the amount by 12 months and assume the Mary Kay “success” is making a yearly income based on that one monthly commission that amount.
    • “Mary Kay is taught at the Harvard Business School.” [No, it’s not.] The Harvard Myth leads people to think that Harvard University has tacitly endorsed Mary Kay Cosmetics.
    • One National Sales Director boasts on her website that her highest monthly commission “has been $39,000.” This leads her intended targets to believe that she is making around $480,000. From there, though, her story begins to crumble.

      A paragraph later, her website boasts that she has made over two million in commissions since she began her Mary Kay career. While that sounds astonishing, it is–until you do the math.

      At the top of her bio, she gives how long she has had her Mary Kay career–since 1990. Two million dollars divided by the more than 22 years she has been in the business only averages $90,000 per year. That’s gross income, not net income.

      Bearing in mind, this is a woman who is in the top 1% of Mary Kay Cosmetics. Her average gross income (commissions) over 22 years is $90,000–and that does not count her inventory order, federal, state, or local taxes, health care benefits, or any other related Mary Kay expense like travel, personal assistants, or wardrobe.

    • More on the Myth of “Executive Incomes in Mary Kay” here.

Card Stacking

  • Defined as:
  • Card stacking, or selective omission, is one of the seven techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. [Source, emphasis added.]

  • How Mary Kay uses Card Stacking:
    • The essence of Mary Kay Cosmetics’ (and many other Multi-Level-Marketing companies) predatory sales tactics centers on Card Stacking.

      May Kay sales recruiters focus on what “can” be made while omitting the fact that the vast majority of women in Mary Kay do not make what is hyped.

      The quickest and easiest way to see through this tactic is to recognize it, then ask to see actual net earnings break downs.

      For example, in Canada (where Mary Kay actually reports consultant income), only 19 out of more than 33,500 made more than $100,000 in 2012–that, of course is not counting their taxes, inventory or any other business expenses.

Mary Kay   Earnings Representation

Band Wagon

  • Defined as:
  • Bandwagon is an appeal to the subject to follow the crowd, to join in because others are doing so as well. Bandwagon propaganda is, essentially, trying to convince the subject that one side is the winning side, because more people have joined it. [Source, emphasis added.]

    The basic theme of the Band Wagon appeal is that “everyone else is doing it, and so should you.” Since few of us want to be left behind, this technique can be quite successful. However, as the IPA points out, “there is never quite as much of a rush to climb onto the Band Wagon as the propagandist tries to make us think there is.” [Source, emphasis added.]

  • How Mary Kay uses the Band Wagon:
    • Use of the Band Wagon is another way the Mary Kay propagandist sells Mary Kay to women who are unaware of this propaganda technique.

      Indeed, the tactic is widespread in much of the company’s own materials.

      Mary Kay claims to be the top-selling skin care company in the world. However, this is a half-truth.

      The company, which only tracks sales to Mary Kay consultants, does not track its sales to end users (consumers).

      As a result, it has no idea whether its consultants are selling their inventory directly to consumers on eBay.

      This means that, using the Band Wagon technique, a consumer hears (and is led to believe) that women everywhere are using Mary Kay when, in actuality, the company can only claim the sales it makes to its consultants. Many of these consultants are sitting on tens of thousands of dollars worth of inventory in their homes–on shelves, in their basements, or in their attics.

    • Related: Pink Truth: Mary Kay Truths

Fear and Proof by Assersion

There are two other areas that some propagandists use that are not included in the IPA’s seven Propaganda Techniques. In addition to being used by propagandists, these two additional techniques are often used by cult leaders as well.

The first is ‘Fear‘ and the other is commonly referred to as ‘Proof by Assertion.’

Fear as a Manipulation Techinique:

When a propagandist warns members of her audience that disaster will result if they do not follow a particular course of action, she is using the fear appeal. By playing on the audience’s deep-seated fears, practitioners of this technique hope to redirect attention away from the merits of a particular proposal and toward steps that can be taken to reduce the fear. [Source. Emphasis added.]

Fear, Guilt and Intimidation. Leadership is feared, and disagreeing with the leadership (or even just questioning it) is akin to disagreeing with God. Breaking sessions are used to destroy resistance, where members have their motives and character attacked until they fall into line again. Some cults keep “sin lists” which are used in these sessions. Even in day to day interactions outside of breaking sessions the leadership can use sin lists and similar knowledge to intimidate and control. [Source. Emphasis added.]

How Mary Kay uses the Fear Technique:

    Some Mary Kay recruiters use Fear as a means of recruiting women into Mary Kay.

    In fact, at least one National Sales Director uses such tactics as suggesting that women will be left penniless and broke if their husbands ever leave them.

    Women who have left Mary Kay often comment about the ‘fear’ they felt about disappointing their Directors or National Sales Directors, of being ostracized from their “friends.”

    In cases where debt caused by Mary Kay has caused marital difficulties, the fear of ‘losing’ Mary Kay is used as a tool to keep women in Mary Kay. It is not uncommon for Mary Kay’s victims to become convinced that it is better to divorce than to leave Mary Kay. Unfortunately, divorces do happen as a result of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

    In other cases, according to Mary Kay whistleblowers, when Mary Kay consultants (or higher ups) begin to express doubts about Mary Kay to their superiors, the superiors use personal information gleaned from “I-Stories” and other interactions to subdue the victim-consultant’s doubts about leaving Mary Kay.

Proof by Assertion

Simply put, Proof by Assertion is the concept that, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

    Proof by Assertion as defined:

    An assertion is an enthusiastic or energetic statement presented as a fact, although it is not necessarily true. They often imply that the statement requires no explanation or back up, but that it should merely be accepted without question….The subject, ideally, should simply agree to the statement without searching for additional information or reasoning. Assertions, although usually simple to spot, are often dangerous forms of propaganda because they often include falsehoods or lies. [Source, emphasis added.]

    Many within Mary Kay Cosmetics’ use Proof by Assertion in selling the company to those they are recruiting and, sadly, they repeat the falsehoods to themselves when objective facts–like mounting debt–are staring at them in the face.

    This article on Pink Truth by a former Senior Sales Director explains how Mary Kay’s Proof of Assertion helps those within Mary Kay to mask the truth from each other and, more importantly, from themselves:

    I learned that united in identical speech, parroting the same information, regurgitating the same objection covering devices, and always talking “upward” to the one that has the position you want, were some of the ways that National leadership prevents the premature crumbling of their empires. Evaluating results is equal to negativity and negativity unchecked can be a very seductive draw, that causes the skid into consultant heaven.

    And all the while I believed this, it never occurred to me to evaluate that concept. We Directors were a united wall of truth, saying the same things, believing the same things, avoiding poor performers who might complain, and silencing our own doubts with constant tapes and affirmations. By only allowing the “positive” in, we kept the RAH RAH strong and thwarted any attempts by objective voices to crush our belief. Mary Kay Cosmetics was the best opportunity for women, period. And nothing you can say can pop that pink bubble.

    As long as no one knew what was happening in each other’s business, we could pretend that while we were drowning in inventory and credit card debt, we would find a way out, because “So and so” just won her caddy… or “so and so” just had her best month ever. Success was possible, even if nobody ever told you how. Believe and achieve! [Emphasis added.]

While society at large is inundated with Propaganda Techniques on a constant basis, there are few companies that use Propaganda Techniques and other manipulative tactics so effectively on so many of its own sales force.

Although many within Mary Kay will not see the techniques that have been used on them until it is too late–and many never will–it is just as important for others to understand Mary Kay Cosmetics tactics before they get in too deeply.

  • Related: Pink Truth: A Mary Kay Sales Director Faces Failure After 30 Years
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