I cannot quite remember when we last talked about sellers having more control over consumption than buyers. Was there ever such a time? Or am I just dreaming it?
But I recall there once was a time when going to retail stores was the only way we could purchase things except for the few door to door salesmen that we had visiting us.
Back in those days, they were educational books and encyclopedia sellers, pharmaceutical salesmen, insurance saleswomen (it has always been the women who do the most selling of life insurance in this country), and maybe the Avon ladies...
But then, the Tupperware home parties came along and Multi-Layered Marketing (MLM) or network marketing businesses like Amway happened, and before I knew it, I was receiving more direct mail and mail order catalogues in my letterbox than actual mail from friends, family, and acquaintances.
I do remember as a child, how excited my mother was about going to the Sears Catalogue store where she could see samples of the goods that are in the catalogue and sometimes pick purchases up (I think).
But ever since I came of age some 25 years ago, there have been products that can only be purchased through mail order or online, and not through retail stores. And as the years go by, there is more and more talk about how consumer behavior and choices drive the market.
I recently learned that MLM has been around for half a century now, and after some encounters - both pleasant and not - with distributors of one MLM company or another and trying some products somewhere down the line, I have come to accept MLM as another distribution channel.
Provided the distributor is not forced to go out and recruit more distributors, one can merely participate in MLM as a consumer: just treat the purchases like one would any other online purchase and treat the meager monthly bonuses as a cash back for one's daily consumption of the goods.
As I love to network but am shocking at network marketing, I am definitely a "dead lead" for my upper line. But then again, I confess up front that I am this way and chose to sign up only with sponsors who promise NOT to push me to recruit more distributors.
It probably frustrates some of them as I am missing out on a "golden opportunity" to earn more and quit my day time job, but so far, MLM products that I consume are part of my portfolio of hero products that I pick from brands I trust.
It is hard for me to become totally devoted to a brand like Amway to the point where everything I touch and consume is Amway. I have learned over the years that there are some bloody good products out there that are sold through traditional retail systems that I love.
Besides, who has not been terrified by the glazed eye look some MLM distributors have when they go into talking about the bonus schemes?
I like the concept that since MLM companies pool their marketing dollars and instead of spending them on flashy TV commercials during prime time (bar a few who do not product but brand advertisement to help their distributors gain street cred), they pay their distributors for doing the sales & marketing promotions.
After years of rejecting MLM schemes, I realize I have now spent a full year as a dormant distributor for Forever Living Products whose hero product is Aloevera Juice and whose Lean & Clean Diet Programme has helped me lose 4kg and now more than 5 %points of body fat.
I thought I would NEVER promote their goods until I could see the benefits they promote myself.
But now that I have achieved the desired results of losing weight and body fat, I am finding it hard to even interest other people in the products because many think it is my strenuous training in martial arts and my pesco-veggie eating habits that has done the trick. (^^)
It just so happens that I started training again just as I started consuming Forever Living's superb Aloevera Juice and other products. And maybe without one, I could not have achieved what I have with the other. But since most people my age (45) and older shy away from the kind of training I do, they also think my consumption of Aloevera Juice will not do them much good.
It is kind of ironic, but maybe people would have been more encouraged if I was a sickly figure before I started taking the stuff and am now a reborn health fanatic or something...
And just last week, I have endorsed another MLM brand - Organo Gold.
It seems to be the fastest growing MLM brand at the moment, with its hero product being coffee! And the brand just launched in Japan less than a week ago.
I am a huge coffee fan whose personal mug has traveled with me to China and other parts of Asia just so that I can steadily feed my addiction to java.
Normally, I buy my coffee in bean form and use a very analogue mill to grind the beans for each cup. It is an important ritual in my household and one that my 6-year old twins participate in every now and then.
So, to be honest, all the Holiday Blend and other gift saches of coffee I get as gifts, be it from Starbucks or Nestle, have been doing nothing but collecting dust on my pantry shelves or have been used as occasional food dye for worn out white T shirts that need a change of colour to remain sociably acceptable.
I myself know that I will never make a full conversion to sache coffee - be it something that I get paid to consume or not - but having some good profitable java with me on the road gives me a level of comfort.
Besides, Organo Gold Coffee, Hot Chocolate, and Green Tea have Lingzhi (Ganoderma) in them. Though I have no heart ailments, my mother had surgery on her nearly blocked coronary artery earlier this year, and while she is on a steady diet of Aloevera Juice, EPA/DHA, and hyaluronic acid, I am hoping that perhaps Lingzhi will help her get off her meds. My sponsor tells me three of her distributors - two elderly and one 31-year old - have come off their heart meds since they have started consuming Organo Gold Coffee, so that is motivation enough for me to encourage my mother to try the products.
When I started doing research on MLM companies, it was interesting to learn that Tupperware, Avon, and a myriad of other familiar names pop up. I guess it is no surprise as this form of distribution has been around for more than half a century now. And that has reinforced my belief that choosing a distributor to buy from or to be sponsored by is not at all different from choosing a web store or catalogue to purchase from.