I've heard a lot of chatter that many ViSalus distributors have moved their entire downlines to another company called Visi. I first heard it from a high ranking ViSalus distributor and this has been confirmed in a comment on my ViSalus post. It wouldn't be a surprise if the ViSalus people jumped shipped for another MLM. Historically that's how it goes with MLMs. Once the Titanic hits the iceberg (the MLM starts to collapse) they get on the lifeboats and see what they can do at another MLM. Many of the MonaVie distributors came from Amway.
When ViSalus was at its peak, it had distributors getting cars with obnoxious license plates that said, "Told U so!" In writing about how ViSalus was a scam, I warned them that the business plan of recruiting was an unsustainable pyramid scheme. With 75% of their distributors having left, and their parent company's stock going from $45 a share to $8.50 a share (as of this writing) I can confidently respond, "Told U so!"
In any case, this article is about Visi. Visi is one of the life boats that ViSalus distributors are getting on. Are they jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Let's find out!
An Introduction to Visi
There are so many places to start with Visi, but I found a distributor embedding this official Visi video on their website. Since it is meant to be an introduction to Visi, it seems as good a place to start as any.
Let's break it down.
The first minute is about pitching the "dream", citing that people have lose the ability because of responsibility. At the 50 second mark, they voice-over specifically mentions "hope." The words and images (ballerina, rocket blasting into space [astronaut]) are carefully used to focus you on what's "possible", not what's "probable." In fact, the company doesn't offer the ability to fulfill the dream of being a ballerina or an astronaut. And no one ever said, I want to sell supplement chews when I grow up.
At the 1 minute mark, you see a rapid succession of testimonials from Visi distributors. They come quick with Robert Klutts claiming that he lost 25 pounds over 5 weeks, Michelle Reiser claiming to be debt free, and Mike and Alexis McClenaghan pitching increased free time. Who want to lose weight, be debt free, and have tons of free time? See how seductive this pitch is? It's powerful and just about every MLM I've used has some variation of it... even if well over 99% of participants lose money.
It is worth noting that Bob Klutts was a professional MLMer before joining Visi. That's not to say that his weight loss claim isn't true, but we know better to take weight loss testimonials from paid endorsers don't we?
On Michelle's Reiser's LinkedIn page she claims to be a "Founding Partner" and a "CEO Advisory Council" member (In case she changes it, I've archived a screenshot of Michelle Reiser's LinkedIn here). It's no secret that in pyramid schemes those who get in early make the big money. Later recruits are left with loses after feeding the money up the line.
This may be a good time to point people to the FTC's guidelines of MLMs and pyramid schemes, while noting that the FTC doesn't actively protect consumers from MLMs that are pyramid schemes.
In any case, Michelle Reiser's is misleading consumers into thinking that because she got debt-free the opportunity exists for everyone. Maybe it does for everyone who is a founding partner at in such a scheme. She lives in Canada, so the law might be different there, but in the United States the FTC is clear about such endorsements misleading people are illegal.
Finally we have Mike and Alexis McClenaghan. Mike McClenaghan admitted on his in this Business For Home article that he has I "been in this industry for over 22 yrs." He also claims that he's a "Arctic Emerald Founder Advisory Board Member." (and in case he deletes it, I've archived it as well.) "Arctic Emerald" is the highest level of distributor in Visi's scheme.
Yes the two people making income claims (Mike McClenaghan indirectly through a "free time" claim) are founders. That is convenient isn't it?
Dreams Part 2
Founder and CEO Kent Lewis comes in at around the 1:15 mark with quotes "achieving their dreams" and "dream big again" in a span of less than 10 seconds.
Visi is a Cult now
At the 1:25 mark a creepy voice comes in saying that "Visi a culture, built and inspired, by the belief that boundless possibilities and abundant wellness are good for every body." Everyone who loves limited possibilities and illnesses raise their hand!
Bring on the Paid "Doctors"
As I've found with MonaVie, and even ViSalus these companies love to bring on a paid doctor to lend credibility to the product. At the 1:37 mark we meet Charles Rouse, a member of the Scientific Advisor Board. On his website The Medicine Man, he admits that he's a "creation scientist." As Wikipedia cites from reputable literature on Creation Science, "The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that creation science is a religious, not a scientific view, and that creation science does not qualify as science because it lacks empirical support, supplies no tentative hypotheses, and resolves to describe natural history in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural causes. Creation science has been characterized as a pseudo-scientific attempt to map the Bible into scientific facts. According to a popular introductory philosophy of science text, 'virtually all professional biologists regard creation science as a sham.'"
I'm all for theological belief, but my point is that Charles Rouse is closer to being a witch doctor than a medical doctor.
Next up is Steve Rallis at the 1:43 mark. He says, "Our products are really the first of their kind to be developed specifically to help patients overcome the challenges associated with lifestyle diseases." We can add Visi to the list of MLMs illegally pitching their products as medicine suggest that they help with "diseases" and are "developed specifically" for "patients." At the 1:52 mark, Charles Rouse joins in saying that the products will help with headaches. He even implies it psychological medication as it will help if you are feeling "distraught."
Rick Hagar makes a comment about how "in a short amount of time, people feel the results and know that the product is working for them." This is the typical line all MLM miracle cures. The idea is to be very vague about what the product does and give subjective terms such as more energy, more alertness or fewer aches. Then claim that this product "works" which is purposely left undefined so that it can apply to anyone's condition. The truth is that whatever anyone feels can be explained by this by this article, which was so popular that a group of doctors, scientists and researchers have asked to republish it. What people feel is best explained by the placebo effect.
If we look back at Mike McClenaghan's posting on Business for Home above we find that Rick Hagar is a Visi Master Distributor. A great site, Amthrax writes about Master Distributors explain that these people are paid to pitch an MLM and bring in distributors through a downline they've recruited. They aren't faithful to the products and bounce amongst MLMs.
At the 2:08 mark, Steve Rallis is back to say the products "change how they age, changes their risks." This is a subtle way at claiming that the products can prevent disease which would be an illegal claim of the supplements.
At the 2:15 mark, we briefly switch back to testimonial mode where Mike McClenaghan is back claiming that he's lost over 31 pounds. Once again, as a paid endorser, he doesn't disclose that these results are not typical, which is another Visi-sponsored violation of the FTC's Guidelines on Endorsements. In fact the FTC has a Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight Loss Claims. The guide specifically states:
"It’s the law - and it’s always been the law - that before companies can run ads for weight loss products, they need scientific proof to support objective claims their ads make...
False or misleading claims can be conveyed in words and in images. Some brazen scammers just flat-out lie. Others use eye-catching before-and-after pictures. A word about consumer endorsements (sometimes called testimonials): Endorsements from supposedly satisfied customers - "D.G. lost 38 pounds in just 3 weeks" or "Jane from Springfield dropped 4 dress sizes in 30 days!' - are a staple of weight loss ads. Too often, advertisers cherry-pick their best cases or even make up bogus endorsements, deceptively conveying to consumers that they’ll get similar results. Under the law, advertisers that choose to use endorsements have two choices: Either the results in the ad must be typical of what other consumers can expect to achieve or the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose what the typical results are."
The results are not shown to be typical and the Visi advertisement does not disclose what the typical results are.
Arctic Cloudberry: The Magical Ingredient
At the 2:25 mark, we are introduced to Visi's "secret sauce": Arctic Cloudberry. Many MLM health companies have some rare, exotic fruit and leads you to believe it is magical. For example, Vemma has mangosteen and MonaVie has acai. Visi has settled on the arctic cloudberry. The video explains that it is ripened under "the midnight sun of Scandinavia" as if the berry somehow gets some magical properties from the time of day the sun shines on it.
At the 2:48 mark, Charles Rouse is back to say that is the "perfect nutrition to keep the body purified." I'm all for berries being great nutritionally, but there's no berry that is "perfect nutrition", we need a more balanced diet, perhaps with something called "protein." And "keep the body purified" sounds a lot like the detox scam.
At the 2:55, the Arctic Cloudberry now has "life-changing benefits."
10/2 and a Chew
At the 2:57 mark they introduce the "10/2 and a Chew" product. It fuels, "body, mind, and soul." Yes, this product is supposed to work on the soul. There's a word for this and it is called Quackery.
At the 3:20 mark, Jaime Dulaney makes an appearance. Ms. Dulaney's LinkedIn page shows that she's still a distributor with isXpera:
"isXperia, Florida based 7 year old company, is hitting massive growth right now. Wide range of superior products in the health/wellness, weight loss & energy, and anti-aging skincare industries. Company is unique because it is built by distributors, for distributors and has the most lucrative and exciting comp plan you'll ever see."
Sounds a lot like what Visi is pitching right? I've archived Jaime Dulaney's LinkedIn page as well, as I'm sure she'll want to change it when see reads this. Ms. Dulaney's company, with Brian Bailey, is called the Bailey-Dulaney Partnership, LLC and "is a founding member of Visi Global"... surprise! The page also states: "After many years of working together successfully in the network marketing industry, Brian Bailey of Florida and Jamie Dulaney of Louisiana, formed The Bailey Dulaney Partnership, LLC." Once again, Visi is promoting the people it poached from other MLMs... not people who were pitched the business and had success with it.
Ms. Dulaney's pitch in the video is: "I can not think of one reason why you would not try 10/2 and a chew". This is almost a word-for-word "Just try it! Mind Game", where they know that more than 30% of people will experience a placebo effect and think it helped them. Cigarette companies used the same 'just try it' marketing in the 50's when it was shown that their products weren't healthy.
Instead of the "just try it" marketing message, I challenge Visi to "just prove it" with the FDA via clinical trials. I'll make it easy and accept whatever condition they think any of their products "work" for.
It's a good thing that "two" rhymes with "chew." If it were "one" the Visi marketing team might say that you have to eat a "bun."
Creepy Voice is Back
At the 3:27 mark, the creepy voice is back. This time it's focused on Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). It says, "Visi has a range of products that you will love." Really? After this crazy pitch, I'm very sure that I do not love the products. It continues, "Introduce others to Visi..." Thanks cult-voice, I'm not buying it. Continuing more, "and teach others how to dream big again..." Still trying to drill the "dream big" message into my head. My website does that... without the scam.
Share Your Visi Story
At the 3:35 mark, the creepy voice segues us to "sharing your personal Visi story." The Founder and CEO Kent Lewis invites people to credit a compliment of "you look great" to pitch Visi products. By this logic, Dove should be marketing its famous "beauty patches" via MLM. They people in the video didn't realize they were getting a placebo and they were very convinced the product helped them.
Dreams Part 4?
At the 3:50 mark Michelle Reiser is back saying that the company gave her "the opportunity to dream bigger than she's ever dreamed" We are averaging close to a "dream big" mention every minute. She follows it up with a pitch of "make a decision and just go for it." It seems like she's advocating that you skip the FTC's recommendation to carefully review the company as I've done here.
Cue Creepy Neuro-linguistic Programming Voice
At the 4:00 minute mark, the voice is back saying, "Visi is home..." It is difficult to come up with a more obvious "We are a cult" message than implying that this organization should be your "home." It continues with "... where you can finally celebrate the benefits of optimal wellness and abundant lifestyle." Wow, putting together, "finally", "celebrate", "benefits", "optimal wellness" and "abundant lifestyle" in the same sentence... good job Mr. Creepy. Above it was "abundant wellness", but it graduated to "optimal wellness", with "abundant" being used to describe the "lifestyle" now.
It doesn't stope there suggesting that we "embrace success by fulfilling and realizing your fullest potential."
I wish I could "finally celebrate the benefits" of reaching the end of the video. It is a "dream" that wwould fill me with a feeling of "abundant" and "optimal" "success".
Alas I'm only slightly more than halfway through this one video and I've written enough words for five of my typical posts.
Bring in the Co-founder
At the 4:19 mark, we have Ryan Lewis (not to be confused with the awesome Ryan Lewis who has partnered with Macklemore), making his entrance. He's a co-founder and COO of Visi. He throw out the "life-changing products" (second time we've heard that) and suggests that they'll "help you make healthy choices throughout the day." He doesn't explain how they do this. He quickly moves on to push a message that you can "succeed", by "sharing" and "be rewarded" for doing it.
Mr. Creepy Voice is Back Again
At the 4:27 mark, Mr. Creepy Voice is back. I'm starting to looking forward to his choice of brainwashing adjectives and verbs. This time "Visi encourages you to build life as you dream." Another mention of "dream", gettting tired of it? I hope not.
It's followed up with "dictate your lifestyle by design not by default." Another mention of lifesytle, this time in the context of "taking control" Fortunately, Visi is "here to you achieve just that." Good use of "achieve", Mr. Creepy.
The "You are the Boss" Myth.
At the 4:39 mark we have Mike McClenaghan back saying that it is a fun business. However, I'd like to focus on the "I'm the Boss and I'm making the decisions." As I covered in the business of MLM, a popular book notes:
"I was involved in four MLM companies. Not once do I remember dictating product decisions, research and marketing, marketing restriction, rules, cost analysis or any other activity fundamental to owning a business... As a network marketer, you don’t own a business - you own a job managing and creating a sales organization... MLM distributors are commissioned employees disguised as entrepreneurs..."
If you read the distributor contract well, you'll see that Visi can terminate your distributorship for almost any reason. That means they can fire you... which means you are not the boss, they are. Not only that, but you have to agree to mandatory binding arbritration, which limits your ability to sue them. As that article says the policy is "A Raw Deal for Consumers." Put simply, consumer protection experts suggest you don't do business with any company with such a policy.
The Visi Lifestyle
At the 4:45 mark, we are treated to Mike McClenaghan, Jaime Dulaney, and Michele Reisler pitching the "Visi lifestyle" as one involving travel, snow mobiling, and going on cruises. What they don't say is that these events are only for the top ranking distributors like themselves. The reason why these events is motivate distributors or lower rank. There's a quick mention by Ms. Reisler about charity in Honduras, which I will get to later.
Bring out the Car Scam!
At the 5:00 mark, were introduced to Visi's car program, Dream Drivers. As with nearly every MLM, there's a motivating car incentive for top recruiters. And of course the program's name has "dream" in it. As Mr. Creepy says, "Whatever you can dream to drive is possible with Visi." The program appears to be exactly the same as ViSalus' terrible Bimmer program, except that you aren't locked into a specific make of car.
How the Visi car program works is that you can either take $300 monthly in cash or $600 monthly towards the purchase of a car. It seems like a no-brainer to take the $600 towards the car. However, as many ViSalus distributors found out, it is a horrible mistake. First the car has to be in your name, which seems like a good thing, but it means you have the responsiblity to make the payments, not Visi. Visi only gives you the $600 if you maintain the rank. If the scheme collapses as ViSalus' did, through no fault of your own, you won't qualify for the $600.
That means that you'd not only have to come up with the $600/month extra for your car, but you'd have to do with a drastically smaller income than you are used to.
It is very similar to 2008 when mortgage brokers convinced people they could afford more house than they could. It lead to a huge financial crisis and foreclosurers. ViSalus distributors have seen that happen with their BMWs. If a distributor can't make payments it ruins their credit and can cause a decade of financial pain.
Why would Visi put distributors in this devilish position? My guess is that they believe everyone will take the car as it seems to be the obvious choice. Then as the scheme implodes they'll be extremely motivated by their impending financial ruin to recruit even harder.
The Ultimate Lifestyle
At the 5:15 mark, we have Rick Hagar back saying that "Visi offers people an opportunity to get what they consider to be the ultimate lifestyle." What he doesn't say is that the "opportunity" that Visi has available is similar to the "opportunity" the lottery has available. It's there, but it is infinitesimal. Many of the top positions clearly belong to "founders" in this video. At this point Visi has many distributors that are competing against you, which is something the founders didn't have to face.
More Mr. Creepy Voice
I'm convinced going to hear this guy's voice in my sleep tonight. At the 5:24 mark he's back saying, "Visi is a place you can finally call home." Again with the "finally" and "home"? Laying on the cult talk a little think there, you think? Are they trying to target homeless people here? He continues, "A home where one can build a business if there was a dream to drive it." I've lost track of the "dream" count in this video. We surely must be well into the double-digits now. And as mentioned above, this isn't really building a business as they can fire you... it is a commissioned sales job.
Health and Wealth
At the 5:45 mark, they make the combination of health and wealth that I first saw with MonaVie's Scam. With a pitch of health and wealth, how can you go wrong? Well, you can when it offers neither and you were just brainwashed into "dreaming" it were the case by this video.
At the 5:52 mark, Michelle Reisler re-emphasisizes the brainwashing that "Visi is home and it will be home for a long time." That's the third time they've tried to brainwash you with that li
More Mr. Creepy
I'm fairly convinced I could write a Mr. Creepy computer program at this point. His vocabulary seems limited. At the 5:58 mark, we get more "life-changing results that come with Visi." "Dreams" is still the winner, but "life-changing" is making a good showing. Dulaney
Outside the Box
I thought they got the cliche's covered, but Jaime Dulaney brings an "outside this box" to the game at the 6:05 mark of the video. She throws in a "reach your goals" for good measure.
Ryan Lewis is back to say that Visi's "success" and "legacy" will be "measured by how many lives we've been able to impact and change." I'm going to call that another mention of "life-changing", I'm pulling for the underdog to make a comeback.
More Mr. Creepy
At the 6:25 mark, we have Mr. Creepy giving the "first step in the transformation journey." He then commands you to "feel the astounding results" (again using the purposely vague language). Finally, you are directed to "share your personal story with anyone who seeks an enhanced lifestyle." Maybe it's just me, but I haven't really come across anyone who said, my lifestyle isn't what I want it to be... let's enhance it!
The CEO Kent Lewis is back at 6:40 saying Visi is "a company that believes being a little bit better every day." Fortunately they set the bar so astoundingly low with this video that it wouldn't very difficult.
He continues, "Our greatest product is what you become." If their best product is turning you into a brainwashed minion, it certainly doesn't bode well for "10/2 and a chew."
At the 6:48 mark, Mr. Creepy is back saying that "Visi partners build better lives..." (almost another hit for "life-changing", but not quite). Just when I think Mr. Creepy has lost his touch, he continues, "... and dream big again." I think the race is over and "dream" is a clear winner.
The video closes suggesting that you "imagine" flying to Scandinavia to pick "arctic cloudberries." If I go to Scandinavia, it's not going to be work in the fields. Sorry Visi.
Getting to those "Dream Big" messages
The "dream" is an MLM standby going back to the Amway days in the 1980s. In fact, it is very much ingrained in MLM. It's so common that anyone who tries to use logic and reason to prevent this brainwashing has been called a "Dream Stealer." I've even been called one myself, despite the fact that I help people pursue their dreams via sound personal finance principles. There are many articles on Google about dream stealing and MLM.
Unfortunately the "dream" is also ingrained in the Nigerian Prince (also known as 419) scams that you may received in your email. As Snopes writes:
"In a nutshell, the con works by blinding the victim with promises of an unimaginable fortune. Once the sucker is sufficiently glittery-eyed over the prospect of becoming fabulously rich, he is squeezed for however much money he has. This he parts with willingly, thinking 'What's $5,000 here or $10,000 there when I'm going to end up with $2 million when this is all done?' He fails to realize during the sting that he's never going to get the promised fortune; all of this messing around is designed to part him from his money."
This is a very accurate description of the MLM con game. They get you in for a very low initial fee, but keep you paying month after month while you chase the "dream." That dream exists for the people at the top like the founders here. As Inc Magazine wrote others are "just MLM cannon fodder". The products are purposely expensive, because they are required purchases for admission into the "dream opportunity." Also, more expensive products tend to make people think they are or higher quality through the price placebo effect. For example, there are numerous studies that show people will think wine is of higher quality if it has a higher price.
After more than 4000 words, I was only able to cover one of Visi's marketing videos. I didn't get a chance to dig into the products like I would have liked, but the video put very little focus on them, especially in comparison to selling the "dream."
I hope to carve out a little more time to look at the products themselves. Considering the brainwashing video, the non-disclosure that the founders are not typical income earners, and Visi's scientific advisory expert's connection to quack science, it certainly doesn't look good.
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