At the time I was advertising manager for a major automotive group that was awarded a fleet contract for supplying hundreds of new commercial vehicles that had to be branded with the new corporate name and logo and I was curious about why the company felt the need to change it’s name at such cost.
I had my suspicions, of course. This was an outfit that was a former government department before it was privatized, and its attitude to customer service was… well, let’s just say it was toxic. It was perceived by the public as a corrupt corporate citizen. It had been embroiled in a series of scandals that had ruined many small business customers through vindictive practices by middle managers and its reputation had deteriorated to the point where it was universally despised and ridiculed.
What I didn’t expect was for the company’s head of public relations to state, candidly, on a current affairs television interview that the reason for this massively-expensive name change was the fact that so many people loathed the company that the board felt that a new name was needed.
Like me, the interviewer was dumbfounded. His next question impressed me — and evoked a stunned silence from the PR “flack” being interviewed:
But surely the simplest, cheapest way to fix the problem would be to change the stupid, damaging behavior — not the name?
A phone poll of the audience that followed revealed just how stupid the company’s approach really was. An overwhelming 90% or more confirmed that they saw the name change as just more deception and a total waste, and that (with apologies to Shakespeare) “a turd by any other name smells just as foul!”
So what has all this got to do with Network Marketing?
A lot, as it happens. The exact same terminal stupidity that typified the attitude of the Telecom/Telstra board and senior management in 1980 is still rampant in network marketing in 2011. (And, to its credit, Telstra has seen fit not to try changing its name again, despite a still-hostile public perception. Mind you, it now has aggressive competitors to help keep it from sliding even lower.)
First, it was the name change from Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) to Network Marketing in the mid-1980s, made because so many deceptive, abusive, opportunistic MLMers had heaped so much odium on the entire business system that it obviously needed a name change to fool the public and hide the fact that it was still the same old behaviour driving the predatory-camouflage thinking involved.
Nothing changed except the new name, because after a decade of continued stoopidity, it quickly sank to the same low level as the former name in public perceptions.
So someone had the bright idea of calling it “direct sales” (or “direct selling“). After all, it was an impressive, long-established business model used by a lot of well-respected, well-known companies. And network marketing/MLM is, in fact, a form of direct selling/sales.
In the advertising industry we use media — press, television, radio, outdoor, online, etc — to get our ads in front of audiences. But there would be a huge outcry from watchdogs, regulators and the media itself if ad agencies were to begin calling themselves “media” on the basis that they were also part of the mass communications industry.
Would YOU be fooled?
(I thought not. Nobody’s that stoopid — or not for very long, anyway.)
In recent years we’ve had people from Network Marketing running around calling it “home business” because “that’s what it is — a form of home business!”
Yeah… it is. On the very same basis that MLM is a form of direct sales or selling.
Folks, all you do with that kind of deceptive idiocy is create confusion, increased hostility and even worse public attitudes toward network marketing. If you’re doing this, bear in mind the old saying…
If you make your bed you have to lie in it!
Does it really make sense to you to go ahead and cr*p in that bed first? (The logic is pretty bizarre.)
This morning I received an alert from Google about a post on a network marketer’s blog that talks about us being in “direct sales marketing”. In the author’s defense, he’s young and doesn’t really understand the difference between sales and marketing. But it takes the thinking here to a whole new level that had me reflecting on Albert Einstein’s comment that…
We can’t solve the problems we face with the same level of thinking that created them.
We need to change the stoopid behaviour that created the problem, not simply seek to distract and deceive people by using different names!
And for Pete’s sake — please learn to understand the difference between marketing and sales!
Image source: http://su.pr/2hrxJD