Arbonne Internationalis yet another cosmetics multi-level marketing company (MLM). The company’s claim to fame is that the products are “botanical”.
They market themselves as “different” from the other cosmetics MLMs, particularly Mary Kay. The bottom line, however, is that Arbonne is just another product-based pyramid scheme that relies on an endless chain of recruiting.
Some of the more popular Arbonne products include:
- NutriMinC RE9 – An anti-aging skin care system, using something Arbonne calls “Nanosphere Technology”
- Figure 8 weight loss products
- Arbonne Baby Care (ABC)
- PhytoProlief Natural Balancing Cream – A progesterone cream that claims to cure all sorts of ailments.
Arbonne claims that its products are formulated in Switzerland in the company’s laboratory, Arbonne Institute of Research and Development (AIRD). (The actual existence of this laboratory is in question, and it is likely that Arbonne just uses a rent-a-lab for their stuff.)
A 2006 marketing piece put out by Arbonne has some interesting information about the payout of overrides (commissions) on pages 18 and 19. The company had about 800,000 consultants in 2005. On average, consultants made $405 per year in commissions. However, only a total of 12,798 consultants out of the 800,000 qualified for a commission.
Of course, the vast majority of the money was paid out at the highest levels. The average “consultant” made commissions of $222 per quarter, while the average “national vice president” made commissions of $94,044 per quarter.
The commissions for the NVP sound fantastic, until you realize that only 0.04% (four one-hundredths of a percent) of the sales force made it to that level. Out of 800,000 representatives, only about 320 are NVPs.
Arbonne devotees love to proclaim their superiority to Mary Kay, and they cite some of these things as reasons why they’re better than Mary Kay Cosmetics:
- Mary Kay is not the #1 selling brand, as they claim
- Arbonne goes beyond skin care and cosmetics to include items such as vitamins and weight loss products
- A 35% discount off retail is guaranteed with Arbonne, regardless of order size, while Mary Kay requires a minimum $400 retail ($200 wholesale) order in the prior three months in order to qualify for the 50% discount off retail.
- “Moving up” in Arbonne does not require a certain number of recruits, just minimum production numbers. So a consultant can move up to the next level with only a couple of people, as long as they’re ordering enough from the company.
- You don’t get your car taken away if your production fails to meet minimums. (It’s possibly even worse.) Arbonne gives consultants who qualify for the car a cash allowance. They must go order their own white Mercedes, in their own names. If they fail to continue to qualify for the cash to pay for the car, they may very well ruin their credit with a car they can’t pay for.
- Arbonne says that the Mary Kay market is saturated, so that leaves opportunities for sales of Arbonne products.
Arbonne representatives have also been known to use scare tactics or dramatic demonstrations when trying to prove their superiority over Mary Kay Cosmetics. Some of them have included:
- Claims that Mary Kay lipstick contains lead, debunked here.
- Mineral oil claims – Arbonne representatives claim that their products are free from mineral oil, while some of Mary Kay’s products do contain mineral oil. The claims are sometimes supported with demonstrations like a cracker dropped in water versus one dropped into mineral oil. Despite their claims, mineral oil is not necessarily bad for one’s skin, unless you’re allergic to it.
One of the common sales techniques promoted by Arbonne representatives is called “the puppy dog approach.” You give a potential customer a set of products (a “pup”) to try for a week. After the week is over, she either pays you for them and keeps them, or she returns them to you. By getting her to try the products for a week, you are hoping she will fall in love with them (like someone might with a small puppy) and she will keep them. (Or that she just won’t have the guts to tell you she’s not buying them and you should come pick them up.)
This puppy dog approach has been futher refined into the “REsults Approach.” Basically, a new recruit agrees to buy four of these sets (pups), which equals a couple thousand dollars worth of products. These four sets of products are used to recruit four consultants who each agree to do the same (purchase 4 sets and do the puppy dog thing with them). And that, my friends, is an endless chain of recruiting.