Multi-level marketing groups work a lot like cults

Multi-level marketing groups work a lot like cults


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Most people know that some religious and political groups manipulate and control members. In addition, there are groups of other types that recruit millions of people around the world who use deception and coercive influence with cult-like features. Many multi-level marketing plans (MLM). It is important to recognize the warning signs to avoid falling into their trap.

MLMs have been called by many names, including network marketing, social marketing, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, product-based sales, referral marketing, and direct sales. MLM are pyramid schemes that focus on recruiting people to recruit others, and are supposed to give a portion of the income in the chain.

According to research by the Federal Trade Commission, 99% of hired sellers lose money on an MLM project. This means that only 1% have actually made a profit. An article on, reporting on a survey of 1,049 participants in a multi-level marketing scheme from a variety of MLM, found that most people were earning less than 70 cents an hour (before deducting business costs), and 60% of respondents said they They did. He made less than $500 in the past five years. Anyone staying in MLM for five minutes, let alone five years to make an annual profit of about $100, seems absurd.

MLM Adopts Cult Techniques

To understand how MLM recruits and retains participants requires examining them as fads. Most MLMs use hiring tactics, financial manipulation, and the promise of big profits. But, like all cults, they use thought control, magical thinking, stop thinking, and self-blame. The failure is directly blamed on the consultants, due to a lack of hard work or competence. The group is not accountable, and the leaders do not allow questions or criticism.

Douglas Brooks, a Massachusetts attorney and an expert on marketing fraud, said of MLM, “…You are trained to avoid people who question whether or not this is a viable business. It is exactly the same technique that cults use—they try Isolate you from people who question your belief system.”

Recruits can be very persuasive. They use deception in all its forms (withholding vital information, distorting information, outright lying) to trap people who haven’t learned mind control techniques. There is no cultural recruiting into a regular sales job.

Direct selling to consumers is not in itself a passive business model. Seller-buyer relations, a feature of direct selling, are often very positive. Direct sales, in person or online, can be especially important in reaching underserved communities.

Multi-level marketing has been an issue for a long time, but the scope and intensity have grown over the past several years. Fear and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have restricted in-person shopping, resulting in a significant increase in direct-to-consumer sales online. Products such as essential oils and nutritional supplements have been advertised as effective against COVID.

How do multi-level marketing groups recruit and retain?

Direct selling depends on social interaction and developing relationships. The appointment of new distributors depends more on the perception of friendship, care, and other socially positive images.

The social aspects of recruitment often include large seminars or other types of written events. Successful distributors – a very small minority – offer their inspiring stories from poverty to riches. Couples may appear together; The husband proudly speaks of providing for his family, and his wife, who swears by their marriage, has become more pleasant and loving.

One employment event was held in a casino, full of loud music and good food. All hiring takes place in small, tailored increments. The recruiter becomes “hooked” before he fully realizes what he is buying.

When product distributors feel suspicious and ask questions, they are subject to emotional manipulation. The pressure to stay in the MLM group comes from within, too. Social media plays a huge role in the selling and hiring process. Distributors spend a great deal of time, effort and money to establish their presence on social media sites. The social media “community” is the source of support. Giving it up is scary. People have often recruited close friends and family into the organization and experience a great deal of shame and guilt when it breaks down. There is a legitimate fear of retaliation from the organization itself.


I think everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Individuals and organizations should be free to hire. What is clearly wrong and should be illegal is the undue influence on a recruit’s decision-making process. Recruitment and MLM techniques are prime examples of undue influence. They rely on false representations, appeals to emotion, and very limited disclosure of the truth of multi-level marketing. Informed consent should be the driving force behind the development and enforcement of regulations. Only then can free decisions be made.

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