This Video Explains Which Statement is True: Celebrity Endorsements Improve Marketing or Celebrity Endorsements are a Double-Edged Sword.

In the conventional advertising world, celebrity endorsement is very effective. Among the factors for effectiveness includes the fame of the celebrity, the connection with the product or service, whether or not the celebrity is a user and whether or not the statements of the celebrity appear as truly authentic or merely a “pay for endorsement.”

The use of celebrity endorsement is far less successful in the direct selling industry. In fact, the advertising model for MLM is quite different than conventional advertising. In conventional distribution, such as retail stores, internet or broadcast media, companies pay advertising dollars and endorsement fees to promote the brand. However, in direct selling, the commissions and rewards paid to distributors are effectively the advertising

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There are a lot of outspoken bloggers and critics online, as well as negative opinions floating around the social networks, but the positives drown out the negatives. It’s not hard to find a loud voice criticizing the direct selling industry through a quick Google search. And it is true… there are many pyramid/Ponzi schemes, primarily internationally based, that parade themselves as MLM/direct delling… and they are not. They are merely pyramid headhunting recruitment schemes that often use bogus products and services as an excuse to move money. The entire emphasis of such organizations is to cause investors to pay money and cause others to do the same, with a thin veneer of an actual product or service. In fact, the revenue to pay commissions instead comes from distributor payments and not sales to the ultimate user.

Despite this, the facts remains MLM and direct selling are a major part of the fabric of commerce. Statistics on 2014 sales, compiled by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, indicate global sales of $183 billion and 100 million distributors. In the U.S., there are 18 million distributors posting $35 billion in sales. Numerous direct selling companies are traded on the NYSE.

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No one can control all of the challenges that face the direct selling industry, but education and transparency is the best approach to discuss issues.

No one can control all of the challenges that face the direct selling industry, but education and transparency is the best approach to discuss issues.

We have a long-term perspective as a law office that has had three decades of experience in the MLM industry. In the last three years or so, developing trends have posed both opportunities and challenges for network marketing companies. Mr. Babener discusses a few of these opportunities and challenges (paraphrased from the DSWA interview with Nikki Keohohou) in this post.

As far as industry-wide opportunities are concerned, there has been an explosion in party plan companies. The party plan companies that we know and represent are doing quite well. There has been growth in the public recognition of these companies. This is due to large-scale events such as the 2009 Super Bowl where Avon was a primary sponsor. At the 2009 Super Bowl, Avon advertised their opportunity, not just their products, which was really a message to the country that our industry has something special to offer to everyone.

The internet has also helped push the industry in a positive direction in recent years. Social media and growing internet technology has enabled many companies to expand internationally.

However, this also means that the industry has a new challenge: coping with internet technology. Companies have to recognize the creative power of Facebook, Twitter and all of the other social media platforms. Companies have to find a balance between enabling their consultants the ability to be creative and protecting the brand. Protecting the brand presence in search engines, protecting against inappropriate medial/earnings claims and allowing consultants to work with social media, providing basic tools for distributors, are industry-wide challenges that require delicate balance.

In addition, we’ve seen some tension between new companies and distributors in recent years. There are some consultants who are too willing to jump ship and bounce from one company to another. Distributor raiding is undermining to the company and the opportunity, as well as to all of the consultants left behind.

On the other hand, we’ve seen some overreaching companies who’ve been bullying distributors, telling them what they can and cannot do. There will have to be a dialogue to figure out the common ground for what are reasonable expectations for distributors and what control companies can have over distributor actions.

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Jody (Coughlin) Greene argues in her Forbes article titled “Is MLM a Bad Word?” that MLM has had a bad reputation because its structure is similar to pyramid schemes and its negative image isn’t deserved.

Not only is network marketing a proven business, being one of the longest-running business models in the United States, but its marketing strategy has also proven successful. Distributors create income through their personal sales and the sales of those who they’ve recruited in their downline. Because of its pyramid-like structure, MLM has in some cases gotten a bad name.

Ms. Greene explains just some of the criticisms faced by network marketing companies:

Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes (hence the “scheme” reference), price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company’s products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members’ enthusiasm and devotion.

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According to an article at MSN’s website titled “Queen Elizabeth’s eating habits revealed,” former royal chef Darren McGrady states that Queen Elizabeth enjoys a bowl of cereal every morning topped with fruits or nuts from her garden, which are stored in one of the most popular direct selling products, Tupperware. Perhaps even the Queen of England owning and using Tupperware products shouldn’t be a surprise considering Tupperware was ranked the seventh largest direct selling company in 2010, with $2.3 billion in net sales.

As one of the largest MLM companies in the world, Tupperware operates in over 100 countries and has over two million salespeople. Tupperware’s top five consumers are Germany, America, Mexico, France, and Australia. The company itself was founded in 1945 by Earl Tupper and grew to be quite competitive with its “burping seal” technology.

The top ten largest global direct selling companies include 1) Avon Products, Inc., 2) Amway,

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The question below is taken from one of Mr. Babener’s client’s distributors’ Q&A pamphlets:

Q: My friends and relatives often ask me if direct selling/MLM/network marketing is a “real business”… I would like to give them something meaningful to consider … your take?

A: People have always asked that question… and it is a fair question. Keep in mind we have nearly 16 million people in the United States selling consumer products and services in the range of $30 billion and more than 90 million people around the world doing this with sales exceeding $150 billion. This activity penetrates the fabric of our society. Earlier statistics, presented by the Direct Selling Association, have indicated that, perhaps, one in ten households have somebody who is doing this part-time.

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People have always asked the question, “Is this industry for real?” “Is MLM a real option for individuals out there?” Keep in mind we have about 15-16 million people in the United States, and more than 60 million people around the world involved in MLM.  Statistics have indicated that perhaps one in ten households have somebody who is doing multi-level marketing part-time.  Again, 90 percent of the people who are in network marketing are looking for auxiliary income.  This isn’t the industry to be looking for a full-time job, although many people have been successful in that way.  What we noticed recently is a change in the industry.

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Can you make it just by starting small, or do you have to start big? The fact is that the most successful direct selling companies all started out small. That’s why we have hosted more than 60 Starting and Running the Direct Selling Company Conferences, with over 5,000-6,000 attendees who have attended our event.

We’ve worked with companies that have started with nothing to companies that are now doing $5 billion or more.  Look at the history of some MLM leaders, perhaps a company like Amway, which does five, six, seven billion dollars a year around the world.  This company was started by owners who began by mixing biodegradable soap in their bath tub.

Doris Christopher started Pampered Chef, spending the first few years in her basement.  Of course, later on it bought by Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway for a fortune.

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