What follows is a list that can be used to start a multi-level marketing company or a cult. Or you can read it to glean what you need to incorporate into your business.
Your goal is to create meaning for your customer. That meaning can come from you personally, from your vision or from what your products do for the customer. After these fundamentals are satisfied you build in additional features including t-shirts.
- The leader – either an individual or a pair. The trope of company founders has been used in recent decades to convey a special purpose to a company or its products. The leader(s) are the embodiment of the cause. In the case of a pure product play, the thing is the embodiment. In terms of people, they should have one or a combination of the following characteristics:
- Beauty – Physical beauty affects other human beings at a biological level bypassing thought. It can be a beautiful woman or man. They can be classically beautiful or odd in a way that is striking. But something about their physical appearance is magnetic. Note – this, to date has not been achieved with plastic surgery or genetic engineering, but it will be.
- Charisma – Having a personality that compels people’s attention, their obedience and loyalty is close to beauty for being in-born. Most charismatic people are born that way or have at least worked on developing their skill. And their skill is the ability to command allegiance.
- Genius – Someone who has invented a thing or discovered a process that materially improves the lives of their followers. Thomas Edison was a scoundrel who gave himself credit for inventing the electric light bulb. So this characteristic is one you can fudge, borrow or steal. Since it is not as primitive as beauty and charisma you have to tell people you are a genius at first then make sure your followers stick to the playbook. But you are the person who has brought fire down from the mountaintop, for which we are all grateful
- Future – Your organization has a clear picture of the future where we are all headed to live in peace, with prosperity and safety. It is beautiful in a gauzy way with a lush soundtrack and no ugliness.
- Common purpose – Your followers or customers are granted the privilege of sharing in the journey of traveling to that beautiful future, together. With you in front. You will all work together to achieve this purpose, there will be brotherhood, sisterhood and the peace of fellowship among the true believers. We are part of something that means something but nothing specific!
- Sacred text – You have written a book, or given speeches demonstrating your beauty, charisma and/or genius. They are beautiful words some of your followers will tattoo on their ass. The text is studied, dissected and universally adored. This covers everything from Dianetics to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is rich and it is vast, a hovering prism through which multiple interpretations of beauty and truth can be discerned. It is a sacred gift.
- Secrecy – While everyone is allowed to stroll the beautiful grounds that are meticulously landscaped under the silvery moon, and most are allowed in the out sanctum, there are some areas and some things that are not shared. There may be a part of the founder’s story that is mysterious, or the source of the money or where they get those ripe mangoes but there are some secrets that are kept from the majority who are too dense to appreciate their delicate transcendence.
- Magic Solution – While your existence is a blessing to all, there is something about you or your product that solve problems. You may just ease my sorrow or clear up adult acne, but there is some magic under all this fairy glitter.
- Enemies – Not all appreciate your beauty, charisma and genius. There are those that hate us. They are ugly. They are cruel and enemies of the good. They are believers in The Lie.
- Allies – We are stronger together. Unless we are all standing in line to use of the porta-potties at the annual festival. Our comrades, whom all believe in your goodness and magical solution, are a freed life force that empowers us each in turn with their faith and works and there is a rumor that our collective, uplifted consciousness is shifting the magnetic poles of the Earth. You can see our love from space!
- Screening – Not all are allowed entry. We have standards which are mostly monetary. Can’t afford it? Then you are not special. Display independent thought or lack of enthusiasm? Good luck to you. But can we take a picture to hang on our wall of Those Who Did Not Cut It?
- Terminology – We are so special, there are no words in the existing 163 global languages that can express our flowing wisdom. We make words up, we assign new meanings to existing words and we string them together to demonstrate ethe complexity and secret nature of our movement.
- Spectacle – There are mass celebrations to consecrate our gift to the world. This can be the Cheeto-s museum in Dubuque or the annual baconfest. But it is special, there is a long buildup, almost like the planning, publicity and execution is a permanent fixture of our organization which is part of the glue that makes us a thing.
- Rituals and rules – At the daily level, there are things we do to demonstrate we are part of the collective. It might be replying to a tweet or doing burpees on the way to the car. It is how we demonstrate membership. And there are others who monitor our fealty.
- Hierarchy – There are Captains and there are Majors, there are Poobahs and Galactic Emissaries. All have special functions and are entrusted with portions of the Secret, but none may hold the Scepter of Truth save the One.
- Merch – t-shirts? Car magnets? Tattoos? What kind of meaning are you making if you don’t give your peeps an opportunity to demonstrate their love?
Okay I had some fun. But you can go through anything from buying Lululemon clothing to being a Five Guys preferred member card holder to being in an actual Church. They all incorporate these elements into their structure. The web of features is part of what create meaning, and part of meaning means being stuck in a web where you don’t know where it ends and you begin.
People have many sources of meaning in their life. At this point in our society most of them are commercial or governmental in nature.
Which means being part of something else that gives them meaning is natural to them. They cannot live without someone else giving them meaning. Which goes a long way in explaining why people feel bad when they aren’t doing something, buying something, eating something or talking about it somehow.