In this article we take a quick look at the network marketing industry’s heavyweight contenders. We review the features, advantages and disadvantages of the top 5 MLM companies based on their popularity. The measure used to determine the most popular is simply the volume of Internet search traffic. Although popularity may not necessarily be the best reason for a person to join, we thought it would be helpful to know a little about these companies that are attracting more attention in the online world.

Mark D Worthan’s calculates the actual popularity of various network marketing companies, using Google search data. Their rankings are based on Google Trends, which is a Google Labs service that allows you to compare the number of searches for various keywords over time. The service can be used to determine the relative number of searches for various MLM companies. Here are the results of the current data, along with a brief overview of each company:

1. Amway – Amway began when its founders became Nutrilite vitamin distributors in 1959. Amway is famous for “legitimizing” the network marketing industry in 1979, based on the FTC’s decision that the company did not qualify as a pyramid scheme. This was based on the finding that Amway’s compensation system was based on product sales vs. recruitment payments. Amway reported sales of $ 8.4 billion in 2009. Amway North America closed in the early 2000s and most North American distributors became members of sister company Quixtar, but they still continue to order Amway products. At the time, the average monthly earnings of “active” Independent Business Owners were revealed to be $ 115. Amway’s main advantage is its broad name recognition in the industry. Their main downside, as many distributors report, is their compensation plan that makes it difficult for most IBOs to make adequate earnings.

2. Herbalife – Herbalife was founded in 1980 and achieved net sales of $ 2.3 billion in 2009. Over the years, Herbalife has faced occasional legal challenges over the safety of its products, none of which have been confirmed. The company settled with the California Attorney General in 1985 for $ 850 million when it was charged with making claims about inflated products. The formulas of the company’s products were changed to eliminate Ma Huang in 2002 when several states enacted laws to ban the use of ephedrine alkaloids. In 2007, a scientific study at the University Hospital of Bern Switzerland and Israeli hospitals found an association between the consumption of Herbalife products and hepatitis. These elements and other legal means and agreements seem to be the main disadvantages of the company.

3. Mary Kay – Mary Kay began in 1963 as a skin care and cosmetic company, initially based on tanning formulas. Worldwide revenue was $ 2.5 billion in 2009. Brand recognition is the main advantage of this company, which obviously attracts more women than men. Both US (68.6%) and Canadian (85%) consultants experience significantly high annual turnover. The reported earnings statistics for Canada were that out of 29,675 consultants, only 1,878 raised more than $ 100, 276 of the 553 Sales Directors earned more than $ 17,471, and 15 of the 23 National Directors earned more than $ 100K, suggesting that significant gains are made by just a few top-notch consultants.

4. Pampered Chef: Pampered Chef was founded in 1980, using in-home demonstrations to market cookware through the party plan business model. Berkshire Hathaway Corporation acquired Pampered Chef in 2002. Earnings figures are not available.

5. Monavie – Monavie distributes a juice product made from fruit juice mixed with main components of freeze-dried acai powder and puree. Founded in 2005, Monavie was recently ranked 18th in Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 ranking of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. The company’s claims about the effectiveness of its key polyphenolic antioxidants have been disproved by the FDA, the Linus Pauling Institute, and the European Food Safety Authority, which state that such compounds have little or no value after digestion. A Newsweek article reported that only 10% of distributors made more than $ 100 per week and the 2008 retention rate for new recruits was only 30%. Monavie remains a very viable opportunity for significant profit despite these issues and is very popular at # 9 in the annual report. This may be due to their more up-to-date and potentially lucrative compensation plan and excellent management, although a recent video from reports a significant loss of interest due to compensation plan changes in the last year.

We don’t necessarily recommend or discourage joining any of these top 5 companies, we just wanted to see some facts about them. The main point to note here is that few people check the background of the company, the founders and / or the compensation plan before joining. If you are evaluating business opportunities from home, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the industry, establish some selection criteria and make an informed and unemotional decision. One thing to keep in mind is that strong emotions often come into play in the “buying” process of selecting a home business opportunity and, after the fact, justification for decisions made emotionally is very common.

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