The flaw in Network 21's value proposition

By Thane on Wed 28 March 2012

See the follow-up article for this one here: Deeper Into the Flaw in Network 21's Value Proposition.

This past Monday evening I had the pleasure of finally attending an information session on the infamous Network 21 - it was pleasurable because I could finally confirm my suspicions as to their flawed value proposition and can now fully justify my prejudice against their model.

To their credit, their value proposition is actually twofold:

  1. They give you discounts on a wide variety of consumer and household products and services through a virtual mall, where your purchases are delivered directly to you.
  2. They facilitate the creation of what they call an "asset": something which brings you money without needing your direct involvement, effectively freeing up your time. You build your "asset" by giving such presentations as I went to on Monday night, or bringing friends, family and acquaintances to such a presentation, and getting those people signed up. For everyone that you sign up, you get a small cut of their monthly shopping spend.

The first part of their value proposition is fine - it's the second part that really creeps me out, and my reasoning here is very simple.

Ask yourself: why is it that you want more time? Most people would answer that they want more time to spend with their loved ones. The problem is, for the average person without an extensive personal network (like the average people that attend such meetings as I did on Monday), the only people you really end up signing up are your friends and family. They, in turn, end up doing the same with their friends and family, and so on (until of course there's nobody willing left to sign up - but nobody talks about that possibility, they only talk about how this sort of thing has worked so well for the last 50-odd years).

So if I sign up to this thing, I'm basically taking a cut of my friends' and family's grocery bills every month, so that I can get more time to spend time with them? How many of these people still actually have real friends and close family relationships after duping them into signing up for this sort of thing? How would you feel if your friend got you signed up to this thing under the auspices that it would be good for you? I would feel used. This is exactly the opposite of what the second part of their value proposition seems to offer, and so, to me, is fundamentally contradictory.

It seems as though this is some kind of big secret that nobody in Network 21 likes to talk about. They'd rather not think about it and instead they've developed their own vocabulary to hide this truth, rather talking about their "assets", their "local diamonds", and so on. When the people who are involved in it talk about it to me, it sounds as though they're still trying to convince themselves that it's something good and it's what they want, and they're never direct about their intentions.

At the end of the presentation they paraded a whole group of people who've been highly successful in building their "assets" - none of them looked happy and content to me, and I'm not the only one who made that observation.

And the people who are probably making the most money out of this scheme have to be Network 21 themselves, profiting off of what looks to me to be collective and growing misery through tarnished friendships and family relationships.

If it looks like a cult, talks like a cult, sucks people in without teaching them to think for themselves by appealing to their selfish desires like a cult, has charismatic people preaching about the benefits of being part of it like a cult, and degrades the quality of life of those involved in it like a cult, it has to be... Network 21?

See the follow-up article for this one here: Deeper Into the Flaw in Network 21's Value Proposition.