Daily Archives: January 28, 2021

How the Pandemic Stoked a Backlash to Multilevel Marketing

YouTube vigilantes are taking consumer advocacy into their own hands.
By Kaitlyn Tiffany – For decades, multilevel-marketing companies had it easy. Cutco knives, Tupperware containers, and Pampered Chef bread mixes were inoffensive products sold at weeknight wine parties and, later, in themed Facebook groups. For the most part, they were an unremarkable part of women’s lives.

Multilevel marketing—a form of direct selling in which a major chunk of a person’s income comes not from the sales they make themselves but from the sales made by people they recruit into the company—was often regarded as exploitative by consumer advocates, but it rarely encountered a serious threat. During the pandemic, distributors for many MLM companies have used this lack of pushback to their advantage: On Instagram and Facebook, women have tried to persuade their followers to use their stimulus checks to join a company that sells shampoo or weight-loss products. They have used economic collapse as a recruitment tool, offering MLMs as the solution to lost income and increased precarity.

For Heather Rainbow, a 20-year-old chemistry student, these appeals were a wake-up call. In May, she made her first anti-MLM TikTok video, green-screening herself in front of what she claims is the 2018 income-disclosure statement for the hair-care company Monat, which shows that 94 percent of its distributors had an average income of $183 that year. She now considers herself something of a consumer advocate and misinformation combatant, posting about companies such as Cutco, Younique, Arbonne, and Lipsense to her 113,00 followers. “That was my first TikTok to really get views,” she told me. “I had no idea that people on TikTok would be so receptive to the anti-MLM message.” (I reached out to several of the companies named in this article, and most, including Monat, did not respond to my requests for comment. A spokesperson for Arbonne told me in an email that regulators “have recognized the legitimacy of multi-level marketing for decades.”)

The same social networks that multilevel-marketing distributors are called upon to exploit—their friends, their family, their followers, their “mutuals”—are now the social networks through which women are pushing out a completely different message. (Though men participate in multilevel marketing as well, they do so in much smaller numbers.) On Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok, a huge community has coalesced around the anti-MLM sentiment, bringing together disenchanted former salespeople, curious independent researchers, and thousands of women who are just tired of getting Facebook messages about selling essential oils. more>

Updates from McKinsey

A new consultation paper from McKinsey and the World Economic Forum explores the role that natural climate solutions can play in helping to address climate change and the destruction of nature.
Why investing in nature is key to climate mitigation
By Daniel Aminetzah, Emily Birch, Julien Claes, Joshua Katz, Peter Mannion, Sebastien Marlier, Dickon Pinner, and Antoine Stevens – As the world looks beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, a consensus is emerging: certain measures to curb the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions will be central to global economic recovery. Awareness is also growing around the urgent need to slow the destruction of the natural world, and it is becoming clear that the two environmental crises—a changing climate and nature loss—are inextricably linked and compounding.

Natural climate solutions (NCS)—conservation, restoration, and land-management actions that increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse-gas emissions—offer a way to address both crises and to increase resilience as the climate changes. In fact, as argued in a new paper produced by McKinsey in partnership with the World Economic Forum, there is no clear path to deliver climate mitigation without investing in nature. Climate action requires both the reduction of emissions and the removal of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. NCS can help with both, starting today.

Private-sector commitment to climate action is gaining momentum, with companies increasingly adopting strategies aimed at reaching net-zero emissions and some pledging to invest in nature through the purchase of NCS-generated carbon credits (or “offsets”) as part of the effort. Based on current net-zero commitments from more than 700 of the world’s largest companies, there have already been commitments of carbon credits of around 0.2 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 by 2030. Some companies are even beginning to make commitments beyond carbon to biodiversity and water, which will be a growing trend over the next decade. As a core component of corporate climate mitigation, NCS are thus becoming mainstream, if not yet commonplace. While undersized overall, NCS now account for around 40 percent of retired carbon credits in voluntary carbon markets, up from only 5 percent in 2010. Leaders are also beginning to invest directly in nature through protecting and restoring large expanses of land and ocean. more>

Updates from Ciena

Rethinking NaaS as a journey to openness and automation
NaaS can feel like an abstract concept, and various misconceptions abound on what it is and what is possible. But as Blue Planet’s Kailem Anderson explains, NaaS has measurable and quantifiable benefits that are achievable today.
By Kailem Anderson – What is Network as a Service (NaaS)? It’s a simple enough question, but there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about the answer.

Some common misconceptions or myths about NaaS are that it is just a new way for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to sell virtualized services to enterprises, that its only about operations support system transformation through open and programmable APIs, or that it means the same thing as software-defined networking (SDN).

Perhaps the biggest misconception, however, is that NaaS isn’t real – that it is a futuristic goal. While NaaS is, indeed, a ‘future state’ vision for CSPs, they can and are using it in production environments today.

I like to think of NaaS as an evolutionary journey toward a network, operations and business architecture that is open, agile and automated. Successful completion of this journey will result in digital transformation that allows CSPs to take back control of their networks, save on operational costs, increase innovation, accelerate time to market, and improve customer experience. more>

What Makes Songs Popular? It’s All About ‘You’

Songs stick in our heads for all sorts of reasons, but new research finds that listeners love tunes more when one particular word is included in the lyrics. A new study by Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger and Grant Packard, marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, zeroes in on the humble pronoun “you.” Berger joined Knowledge@Wharton to talk about his paper with Packard, which is titled “Thinking of You: How Second-person Pronouns Shape Cultural Success.” (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.) The study is part of a larger look at how precise language affects consumer behavior, with implications for marketing, sales and customer service.
Knowledge@Wharton – What question motivated you to do this research?

Jonah Berger: We’ve been doing a lot of work around what’s called natural language processing, extracting behavioral insights from textual data. Everything we do — from this interview we’re recording, conversations we have with friends and family members, reviews we leave online, customer services calls, songs we listen to, articles we read — contains language. There’s a really exciting opportunity now to mine some of this data for behavioral insight to understand why songs or movies succeed, to understand why some customer service calls go better than others, and to use language to be more effective. Essentially, [we want] to extract wisdom from words, so we can all understand behavior better and be more effective.

In this particular case, we were interested in a question that I think many people have wondered about at one point in their lives. Why do some songs become hits? We all know hit songs. We hear them on the radio — we listen to them for years, if not decades, after they come out. Some songs become hits, others fail. Same thing with books, movies, and so on. Why do some of these things win out in the marketplace of ideas, and others fail? I think we’ve all wondered that as consumers, but as a marketing professor, this is something I’ve tried to study and to quantify.

We did a paper a few years ago where we found that atypical songs — songs that are about different things than [usual in] their genre —  are more successful. Take country music, for example. Country music tends to talk a lot about things like girlfriends and cars. But looking at thousands of songs across multiple years, we found that songs about different things in their genres are more successful. more>