Multi Level Marketing (MLM) companies have a bad track record: Amway, Herbalife, even LuLaRue making the news for their various business practices. Despite marketing themselves as legitimate franchise-like opportunities, companies like these can take shameful advantage of their reps.
A quick check of the stats on any MLM company and it is easy to discover their dirty little not-so-secret: most of their believers are on the losing end; very few realize a profit after all expenses. Money is made largely from recruiting other “ambassadors”, “representatives”, “stylists” who are then used as pawns in a pyramid shaped game.
It seems to me many of these MLMs have a strong religious focus and a cult like following. Why?
Maybe the church is the founding member of the MLM community? Let’s compare shall we?
- MLMs – they prey largely on vulnerable members of society, welcoming the masses who are down on their luck, dangling cars and prosperity, promising that if they work “the system” they can achieve all their dreams
- Religion – it sells itself as a sanctuary where are all welcome and can attain eternal life if they follow a specific salvation plan. And those donations and tithes to the church? Well those will be returned twice over!
The Alturistic Mission:
- MLMs – they boast how their mission is to empower women to choose their own path and own their success. They aren’t peddling goods and creating down lines, they are…*dramatic pause*…changing lives
- Religion – they boast about the peace they bring to the world. They aren’t forcing lifestyles, they are…*another dramatic pause*… saving people from burning in Hell for eternity
The Victim Mentality:
- MLMs – I have personally been dragged to many pop up shops to “support” a fellow stay-at-home mom. It is hard to knock someone who is trying to do right by her family, and that is what these companies are banking on
- Religion – it can also be hard to insult, after all, isn’t it just groups of people getting together to sing, celebrate and spread the good word? While you and I may be witness to the darker side of religion, it’s believers do not. That is what the church machine is relying on: it’s not nice to persecute people who are doing what they believe in their hearts is right.
The “Join us!” invite:
- MLMs – “Welcome to the team!” “We only succeed if you succeed!” But if you stop succeeding? Lose your membership and those friends prove fair weathered
- Religion – join the prayer group, come worship at the holiday celebration, hang out around the coffee cart. Leave the church and those friendships become strained
The blind faith:
- MLMs – Nothing will tell their followers their products aren’t good. They will go down with the ship (probably wearing cheeky leggings)
- Religion – Blind faith is a cornerstone of any religion, you can’t believe in those wild Bible stories without it
- MLMs – we all know this story, recruit to earn
- Religion – go door to door, hand out those Gideon bibles, preach on the street, have a pancake breakfast, invite everyone!
The creepy elation:
- MLM – the over the top posts about having found their calling. Sharing their story with tears in their eyes. Saved by leggings and wax melts
- Religion evokes this same response. Who are they trying to convince with their tears? Themselves?
It’s no wonder that the religious are often targeted by and sucked into the MLM lifestyle. The people are primed for it, they are used to the format, it’s comfortably familiar.
Welcome home sweet believers.