Empower Network parade 12yo child around on stage
When it comes to children as a marketing tool in MLM, thankfully the practice is generally frowned upon. By and large it leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth as it’s difficult to distinguish the technique from out and out shameless exploitation.
One of the more recent examples would be pairing of children’s charities and penny auctions. Using the affiliate funded Ponzi points scheme we’re all familiar with by now, Bids That Give sought to add a layer of obfuscation to the business model by heavily marketing that the company was donating to and “working with” children’s charities.
With children plastered all over the Bids That Give website today and knowing full well the mechanics of the “revenue sharing” Ponzi points MLM business model, I personally can’t help but find Bids That Give’s marketing efforts coming off as anything other than unapologetically sleazy.
MLM is a highly competitive environment and is often plagued with manipulation and cut-throat marketing practices. Everyone is searching for that edge over their competitors and adding children to the income opportunity equation is like throwing quadraplegics to the sharks.
Thankfully companies like Bids That Give have restricted the use of children as marketing tools to the non-affiliate side of the business. You participate in Bids That Give and children’s charities receive money, to the best of my knowledge children themselves aren’t participating in the opportunity itself (at least not publicly).
All too keen to take things one step further however and introduce child affiliates to the industry comes Empower Network. In true “badass” form, yesterday saw Empower Network parade a 12 year old “earner” on stage to the rabid applause of its affiliates.
Evidently children aren’t just MLM marketing tools anymore, they’re active income-generating affiliate marketers themselves.
Described as an “event-based” company, Empower Network hold regular staged events designed to pump up their affiliate memberbase and continue the recruiting momentum that feeds their compensation plan and commissions structure.
At an event currently being held in Chicago over the weekend, Empower Network CEO and co-founder David Wood welcomed Jesse Monsma, a 12 year old child from Holland, onto the stage:
Wood introduced Jesse to the audience and then gets him to tell the audience that he made $12,000 in 4 months with Empower Network.
The audience of Empower Network affiliates eat it up and break out into applause, with Wood egging them into a standing ovation:
As Empower Network affiliates continue to cheer him on, Wood then positions himself a short distance from Jesse before getting down on one knee and waving his arms up and down in symbolic worship:
Wood then continued to ask Jesse questions about his involvement in Empower Network, revealing that he ‘works about 10 hours a week‘ and primarily generates revenue by “sending messages” to people on Facebook and blogging, all geared towards the goal of getting those he contacts to “watch a video”.
On the surface this would appear to be nothing more than the celebration of some kid from Holland making money. Being MLM however and more importantly an MLM event designed to pump up an affiliate-base, this is nothing more than a marketing campaign rooted firmly in the idea that “anyone can earn” in Empower Network.
That alone isn’t a bad sales pitch but when you use children to get the message across you’re crossing some serious ethical boundaries.
Here’s how one Empower Network affiliate is already marketing the event:
If a 12 year old from Holland can earn 12K in 4 months, what is holding you back?
Time? – Nope. This kid works on his Empower business 1-2 hours per day after he does his homework (lol).
Money? – Nope. He is 12 years old……obviously has limited funds.
Vision? – Nope. You can dream just as big as a 12 year old.
Too hard? – NOPE. Anyone can learn this, yes you ARE as smart as a 6th grader!!
We can pretend that this is just a naive celebration but David Wood and the rest of the management team over at Empower Network are not idiots. They know Empower Network needs a constant influx of new affiliates at the base of the compensation structure who will go out and get new affiliates into the scheme.
Empower Network do not publicly state what percentage of their blog customers are retail (non-affiliates), so we can assume it’s wholly insignificant.
The marketing subtext in introducing Jesse to the world is simple: “Why haven’t you joined Empower Network yet? It’s so simple even children can earn thousands of dollars”.
There’s a reason every MLM company out there has a clause in their affiliate agreement prohibiting minors from joining as an affiliate. And Empower Network is no different, their own affiliate agreement clause 2.1 clearly states that
To become an Empower Network Affiliate, each applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
Further research reveals that allegedly Jesse is generating income using his father’s Empower Network account. That however is quite clearly not how he was introduced on stage.
Nor is it what Empower Network’s affiliates are going to take home from the event and spread through their marketing campaigns.
This isn’t about celebrating Jesse’s personal success, it’s about providing Empower Network affiliates with something to market to the world until the next Empower Network event.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s what happened within hours of David Wood parading Jesse up on stage:
Aside from the direct ethical boundaries crossed in using children as a marketing technique there’s also the greater implications that arise.
One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind after viewing the Jesse and Wood video was “how soon before we see other Empower Network affiliates dragging their kids into marketing campaigns?”
Again, literally hours after Wood posted the event footage on his Facebook page we had Empower Network with kids considering this very issue:
This was the whole point of getting Jesse on stage and getting him to share his story and I for one am appalled at the idea of the Empower Network affiliate base whoring out their kids in the hope of recruiting new affiliates.
And where does it stop? “A 12 year old kid making $12,000 in four months is great and all… but surely my kids can do better than that!”
A ten year old making twenty grand in three months? An eight year old making forty grand in thirty days?
How long before we hear about a pregnant Empower Network affiliate shoving a cell phone where the sun don’t shine, going to bed and then waking up to find she earnt eleventy billion dollars overnight thanks to the purported blogging efforts of her fetus?
Alright so that last one might be entirely improbable (too badass?), but you can see where this is going…
Empower Network, as little as I think of the reverse 2-up you guys are using and its blatant similarities with cash gifting schemes, this introduction of children as affiliates has taken my opinion of the company to an abhorrent new low.
Your affiliates might eat it right up, rise to their feet and rabidly cheer eachother on but meanwhile you’ve got the rest of the industry looking on in horror.
And I know I might be taking liberties in claiming to speak for “the rest of the industry” but seriously, surely I’m not the only person connected to the MLM industry who sees a problem with this kind of exploitative marketing?
Clean up your act guys, this is just not on.