By Len Clements © 2000
Network marketing doesn’t have the greatest reputation. Indeed, it’s considered by many to be ripe with pyramid schemes and snake oil salesmen. Yes, I actually said that, right here in the pages of a popular network marketing magazine. Why? Well, because it is, God forbid, the truth! And when the MLM media tries to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by hiding such dirty little secrets and presenting a glorified, Polyannish, everything-wonderful facade, nothing gets fixed. Like a drug addict in denial – we have to first accept that there is a problem before we can take action to cure it. So enough of this “everything’s wonderful” propaganda.
We have a problem.
We’ll deal with the pyramid issue in a future issue (and, oh, we will), but since we’re on the subject of “cures” let’s tackle this challenge first. You see, we have an industry bursting at the seams with wonderful, healthy, effective, high quality products that we should be so proud of. The goods that we sell should, for the most part, be our very claim to legitimacy, respect, and acceptance. However, due to a very high profile minority, we are often looked upon the same way as those dusty ol’ pushers of “Doctor Jack’s Cure All Elixir.” Indeed, the claims being made by some today are even more outrageous than those that were attributed to snake oil itself!
I held a contest in my newsletter recently where I described the basic pitch behind several MLM products. All but one was real, the other I completely made up. The readers were to then guess which was the bogus product. Among the possibilities was a topical gel that helped the body heal by emitted inaudible sound waves; a supplement that contained water with oxygen in it (so you could consume more oxygen that you breath); some capsules that, when consumed, align your body’s electrical matrix; another that introduces glowing phosphates into the bloodstream causing viruses to go dormant (their growth is inhibited by light); an antibody trainer that teaches your good bugs to recognize virtually all viral infections; a perfume made from sour milk; a product that boosts “longevity signals” to the brain causing a 50 year old man to turn 34 within 6 months; shoe insoles with strategically placed bumps that can heal numerous ailments by massaging specific parts of the foot; and even a breast enlargement pill that doubled as a treatment for PMS and hot flashes. Also on the list was some amazing little water crystals that; increased your car’s mileage and power, made water freeze at room temperature, made skin care products work 85% better, and cleaned your clothes for seven years without laundry detergent. Incredible!
There’s yet another amazing product sold via several MLM companies today that allegedly treats practically every ailment imaginable. It comes from a common tropical fruit and has been used for over 2,000 years for it’s miracle properties, yet has only just now been discovered by modern scientists (yes, this one’s real). I’m picking on this particular product not only because of it’s current popularity, but because, well, it’s just so darn easy. After reviewing several distributor web sites, numerous display ads, informational cassettes, and listening in on a couple of live, national opportunity calls, it does indeed appear as if this not-so-pleasent tasting juice will not only fix any ailment, it will grow hair, increase your IQ, lower your golf score and make you lose all memory of the 70’s! Okay, I made up the part after “fix any ailment,” but sheesh, give it time…
The testimonials for this product, like many others, seem to always fit whatever the prospect want’s to relieve – even if they are in direct contradiction. In one recent live call, a testimony was given claiming the juice helped with the subject’s insomnia. The moderator then called upon another user who gave this, verbatim, testimonial: “I’ve been on the juice for 2 weeks. Energy! That’s definitely the number one thing you notice. I mean, there’s no sleeping – if you want you could go 24 hours a day, but the main thing is there’s so much energy. I was having sleeping problems through the night too – you sleep like a baby.” No, I didn’t make that up.
Yet another popular product was marketed for most of last year with the catch phrase “Stop Sickness and Disease Forever!” That was the antibody trainer listed above. According to the numerous testimonials and fax-spam I received, no matter what you had, this product fixed it. Tired? It gave you energy. In pain? It stopped it. Cancer? No problem. AIDS? Piece o’ cake. Common cold? Gone.
Folks, think about it. Let’s use some common sense, logic and rational thinking here. If the water crystals, the antibody trainer, or the juice, or any products making similar claims really produced the results claimed, it would literally be the single greatest scientific breakthrough in the history of the human race. It would be the lead story of every newspaper and television station in the world, the inventor of the substance would by honored with a ticker tape parade on the way to picking up his Nobel Prize, it would be on the store shelves of every supermarket with lines extending out the front door to buy it, and the pharmaceutical industry would be spending billions to have it regulated as a drug! Not to mention the average human life span would double, with all that that entails. And, quite frankly, the product would not be introduced by a small, start up network marketing company, but rather by the major mainstream corporation that won the multi-billion dollar bidding war for the rights to it!
You don’t always have to be a nutritionist or doctor to see what’s wrong with the picture either. Again, it just takes a little logic and common sense. Case in point: A marketer of a spray vitamin product claimed that a liquid vitamin dropped into the mouth would result in 80% adsorption. If introduced into the mouth as a spray, 90% absorption. Okay. So, isn’t the spray only a spray while it travels through the air? Once it hits the surface of your mouth doesn’t it become – a liquid? Or, what about this Human Growth Hormone craze? When the marketer begins to describe results similar to the swimming pool in the movie Cocoon, where 75 year old men become biologically 50 again, it only takes ten minutes on the net to discover that these results are related to controlled test subjects who were injected with pure HGH (at $300 per dose) – not from any over-the-counter HGH product that contains no HGH. No, they don’t have “Bovine derived” or “plant derived” Human Growth Hormone. Cows and plants don’t have human hormones in them. What’s being sold is a “precursor,” not the real stuff. To market a product in this manner is tantamount to selling a Hugo based on the performance data of a Porsche. And didn’t ya’ just know that an MLM company would suddenly discover an “Herbal Viagra?” I mean, with three billion guys on this planet, and millions of years of searching, I’m pretty sure that if a common plant could do the same thing as Viagra we would have discovered it by now. And the Earth would either be completely depleted of it, or completely covered with it.
And here’s the real disturbing part – even if the product really does do what they say it does, you can’t say it does it! The FDA and FTC have very strict rules about this. The FTC is concerned with “substantiation” of the claims. They’ll want you to prove the claims are true, and a study by a doctor or two, or a gazillion testimonials, is not scientific substantiation. What’s more, even if there was substantial scientific data to prove the claim (and again, if there was, see two paragraphs up) and the FTC was satisfied, then the FDA steps in and says, What you’ve just substantiated is that you’re selling an unapproved new drug! The FDA cares about how the product is classified, and to be classified as a drug, thus allowing for the miracle claims, requires many years of research, double blind studies, and millions of dollars. So, if one doesn’t getcha’ the other one will.
Many multilevel marketers have tried to be sly with their language, thinking if they make the claim without really saying it, they can fly under the radar. For example, “Cardiologists use our product” instead of “our product treats heart disease,” or “Stick your tongue out at the Flu” rather than “prevents the flu” or “Bolsters the body’s own defense” rather than “antiviral.” However, both federal agencies go by the “net impression” of the claim. In fact, all examples above are those used by these agencies in their published marketing guidelines (see “Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry” at www.ftc.gov, or the list of Warning Letters atwww.fda.gov). Also, you’ll find that personal testimonials are not safe haven. The company is fully responsible for the claims made by their independent distributors.
So… which was the fake product? It wasn’t the antibody trainer, water crystals, or soundwave gel (the top three vote getters), alas, it was one of those that received zero votes… the luminescent blood product. But then, one reader has since informed me that she has heard of such a product! Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
As an industry, network marketing can take a giant step up in respectability by toning down the outrageous claims being made about some of our products by some of our more over-zealous participants. We don’t need to do this to sell our goods. They’re good goods! So many of our products can easily sell on their own merits. Rather than making ridiculous claims, let’s just use the same method alkaseltzer successfully used in the 70’s…
Try it, you’ll like it!