EDITORIAL: Why The Internet Marketing ‘Syndicate’ Product-Launch Model MUST And WILL Fail — And Why The Trade Should Reject The Mind-Numbing Babble Of Frank Kern

“[A]nd the poets down here don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be.”“Jungleland,” Bruce Springsteen

There is no delicate way to put it: Frank Kern is among a core group of well-known Internet Marketers who are playing a dangerous and destructive game. If you’ve absently become one of his product-launch automatons and your gradually dulling brain is slow to signal the gag reflex when Kern says things such as “syndicate” is just another word for “trade union,” you may be on the verge of losing your marketing soul.

Frank Kern and his serial excuse-makers are selling a one-way ticket to the junk heaps of IM history and exposing the entire industry to well-deserved, intense scorn. The only real question that remains is whether that scorn will translate into government scrutiny — and it’s not as though the FTC isn’t well-versed on the subject of Irwin F. “Frank” Kern IV.

Kern is an advocate for what has become known as the “Syndicate” model of selling products online. Under the Syndicate model, competitors at all levels bizarrely reimagine themselves as strategic partners and divine a construction by which they’re no longer competitors. They agree formally or informally to product-launch schedules and pricing, positioning their ruinous conduct as genuine wisdom. Plenty of people extol the faux virtues of the Syndicate. The most cloddish among them even may suggest you should be executed by shotgun blast for seeing things a different way.

In spreading the cultish feel and wink-nod idiocy of Syndicate gospel and positioning himself as a control expert, Kern potentially has put the industry on the radar screens of U.S. regulators and law-enforcement agencies while vainly creating a monstrous PR problem. Like Andy Bowdoin of AdSurfDaily infamy, Kern has a never-ending supply of Stepfordian apologists who claim the critics don’t “get it” and are motivated by jealously and hatred.

What the critics don’t understand, according to the apologists, is that Frank Kern is a genius who is being unfairly labeled a huckster, particularly by the Salty Droid Blog. The people and companies joining Kern . . . well, they’re geniuses, too.

To imagine the breathtaking gall and sheer lunacy of the “Syndicate” model, imagine a scheme by which 10 top competitors in any product-creation niche would form a sales wedge and magically redefine themselves as strategic partners. These sudden partners then would agree to a product-launch schedule, agree to sell the products of companies or people who just the day before were rivals, agree to sell at a predetermined, premium price point of, say, $2,000, agree to take a turn as the featured seller and thus get most of the proceeds from an individual launch, agree to limit the sales ceiling to just 500 units to create precisely $1 million in sales volume before closing up shop, agree to describe the products as innovative and even life-changing despite the arbitrarily imposed ceiling of 500 sales, agree to reopen sales if order cancellations or chargebacks caused the sales number to fall below 500 — and also agree to create populist fervor by inviting all the freelance salespeople for all of the Syndicate purveyors to become partners in the scheme.

Or simply imagine Bruce Springsteen selling out both his artistic integrity and his legions of fans by getting Paul McCartney on the phone and telling him there is a way that 10 hand-selected, A-List rockers can split the lion’s share of multiple $1 million pots repeatedly over the course of a year by simply chatting each other up and emailing their fans to invite them to join the scheme. The rockers wouldn’t even have to leave home to do it, wouldn’t have to do a critical assessment of their colleagues’ music, wouldn’t have to purchase the music to determine if it was praiseworthy, wouldn’t have to listen to the music — and could split millions of dollars by simply stating that the most recent $2,000 digital album in the marketplace had come from a legend (and new strategic business partner), so it must be good.

Nor would they have to burden themselves with thoughts of creating a hit song or doing anything musically innovative or interesting. Meanwhile, they wouldn’t have to hire roadies to haul the equipment and stage from city to city, and wouldn’t have to hire a single new employee or expand the support operation to accommodate a hit song. The person or persons currently employed to answer the phone and take notes would do just fine.

All the A-List rockers would have to do was digitize a recording, claim it was unique, claim it was worth $2,000, sell it online, limit sales to precisely 500 units, take one turn in the catbird seat, agree to tell their fans to visit the sites of the other nine rockers when it was their turn to sit in the million-dollar catbird seat — and instruct their fans that, they, too, would have the high honor of participating in the new profit-sharing model. A single sale by a fan of a $2,000 recording would net the fan $1,000 — a commission of 50 percent.

The fans, who  have become a source of free labor, would get to collect the cash so long as an aggrieved customer didn’t charge it back or cancel the order after reflecting on the wisdom of putting $2,000 on a credit card to listen to an acoustic recording of, say, “Thunder Road” or “Let it Be” and sift through hundreds of pages of “special” liner notes and high thoughts from the legends on DVD.

Springsteen and McCartney, of course, wouldn’t even think of involving themselves in such a harebrained scheme, particularly a harebrained scheme bizarrely mapped out on a whiteboard with a camera capturing it all, a harebrained scheme openly called the “Syndicate” model with the word “GODFATHER” neatly drawn on the whiteboard, and a harebrained scheme positioned in the marketplace as the byproduct of genius.

Beyond that, they certainly wouldn’t insult their fans by describing them as the B-Team underlings who make the A-Team profits possible, as Kern does.

The scandal such a harebrained scheme would cause in the recording industry if it gained so much as a day’s worth of traction among established musicians and up-and-comers would bring the business to its knees. There would be front-page stories in the New York Times, even as the National Enquirer rushed special editions to the news stands and members of various Congressional committees were barking orders to their attorneys and staffers to start issuing subpoenas pronto — like right now.

The Attorney General or maybe even the President of the United States might feel compelled to chime in. No responsible capitalist would tolerate this behavior, and no responsible individual or company would participate in it. In Kern’s world, Jif would be selling peanut butter for Skippy (and others); McDonald’s would be selling hamburgers for Burger King (and others); Apple would be selling tablet computers for Motorola (and others); HP would be selling laptops for Sony (and others); Comcast would be selling satellite subscriptions for DIRECTV (and others); Verizon would be selling cell-phone subscriptions for AT&T (and others); the New York Times would be selling subscriptions for the Wall Street Journal (and others); CNN would be selling ad space for Fox News (and others); and Madonna would be selling old recordings for the estate of Perry Como (and others). The initial beneficiaries later would reciprocate — for all of the “others” on a predetermined schedule.

Pricing, R&D,  innovation and hiring to accommodate demand would become instant casualties, and the marketplace would be dominated by interchangeable wolves who put up a “Sold Out” sign after artificially constraining the supply not only of their products and services, but also the products and services of their strategic partners. The star-struck fans of the individual brands would become “B-Team” purveyors of the madness, hoping against hope to wrest a commission check in a universe in which the major product-makers all were selling against them and closing up shop within days, if not hours.

That’s how harebrained Frank Kern’s Syndicate scheme is.

And yet Kern is accorded the description of genius in the IM sphere, a sphere outside of which such thoughts would be abandoned instantly if formed. The madness and impossibility are obvious to most people outside of the sphere, but somehow get packaged (and pass) as genuine wisdom inside the sphere. Some of the people helping popularize his myth are the very people he’s leading down the primrose path. He calls fans thirsty to make a $1,000 commission the “B-Team.” IM rockstars with big lists who dominate the market and actually are selling against the fans are the “A-Team” in the Syndicate model.

Even if the U.S. government does not intervene — and  even if the New York Times and National Enquirer never publish a story on the Syndicate and the model doesn’t cause a single blip to appear on the Congressional radar screens — the Syndicate model will fail. It will fail because it must fail.

And the reason it must fail is that it is a system that requires a fantastical construction and complete suspension of disbelief to thrive. The Syndicate model has nothing to do with genuine innovation and everything to do with avoidance of the responsibilities of success. It is designed to reward men who behave badly before reporting to the site of the next scheme to be rewarded again for behaving badly.

It is deviously simple. One of its aims is to stay under the radar of the credit-card chargeback monitors by minimizing the universe of possible complainers during any given launch. Another is to keep seats unfilled at the support desk.  The money gets counted and divided off-stage, and the A-Listers move to the scene of the next scheduled hack job — and the process repeats itself.

There isn’t even the pretense of trying to create a hit. Indeed, the strategy is to quickly siphon $1 million from a collection of 500 suckers authorized by their credit-card companies to charge at least $2,000, close up shop, declare a win and start rehearsing the noise that will attract the next group of 500 suckers who can put at least $2,000 on their individual cards.

Nothing about the Syndicate model is consistent with a commitment to quality, innovation and  excellence. Simply put, it is the ravenous A-Team vultures leading the hungry B-Team crows to the kill site with the suggestion that some chunks of choice $2,000 flesh will remain after the principal gorging and gluttony end.

The Syndicate method is an Internet Marketing abomination advanced by a collection of fools who’ve reimagined themselves as coaches, leaders, trainers and deep thinkers. This asinine business approach is utterly ruinous. The stain it leaves behind is indelible, the stench permanent.

Kern’s Syndicate avoids the challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs with genuine vision embrace: how to put the biggest number of fannies in the biggest number of seats, how to create hits and deliver them to the widest possible audience, how to scale distribution systems to accommodate demand instead of putting artificial constraints on supply, how to instill brand loyalty, how to sell nobly, capably and proudly instead of poisoning the marketplace with gimmickry.

The Syndicate model is all about avoidance of worthy aims. It is something to be jeered, not embraced — and certainly not emulated. It is the byproduct of vanity and greed run amok, not genius. And it is delivered to your inbox — on cue — by a group of professional hacks. They do it because it works, not because it is good. Period.

Unlike Bruce Springsteen, the people delivering it to you are poets of the most awful kind: They just stand back and let it all be. What’s worse, they do it by design.

Make no mistake: No savior graces these miserable Internet Marketing streets, which are dominated by hacks who are pretenders to the title of genius.

“You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets,” “Thunder Road,” Bruce Springsteen

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6 Responses to “EDITORIAL: Why The Internet Marketing ‘Syndicate’ Product-Launch Model MUST And WILL Fail — And Why The Trade Should Reject The Mind-Numbing Babble Of Frank Kern”

  1. Great write up PP!

    I’ll just add the sad reminder that behind the launch system lies an even darker system where victims assessed to be ripe via the launches are taken for everything they have via bogus “coaching” and “mentorships” which run well into the high six figures if the the mark has access to those kinds of funds.

    And of course :: to keep people from complaining it’s best to try and destroy their self worth before walking along to the next scam.

    It’s gotta stop.

  2. I wonder if Ken Russo, Faith Sloan, teamaaronshara, Barbara Alford, Barbara McIntyre, Bill Brabant, Bob Cefail, Brad Weinman, Chuck Osmin, David Meade, Hank Needham, Andrea Lucas, Heardy Myers, Jill Bachman, Joe Shoop, Kath Danch, Laura Pont, Mindy Bales, Nhut Le, Troy Winters, Rayda Roundy, Shad Foss, Terralynn Hoy, Ty Weintraub would want to join the “syndicate?”

    Then we have Daniel, little joe, and a whole host of other characters who would want to join as members. Think of all the people who are in all of the above’s downlines that would be pitched this “golden opportunity.” Mind boggling when you think about it. PT Barnum was right.

  3. I also have to wonder what Len Clements has to say about this, since he is the “MLM Guru of all Guru’s.”

  4. Lynn

    I don’t know about Len, but this is not MLM since it is primarily one level…. but do realize this fall under BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY LAW FEDERAL AND STATE…..This scammy dudes are popping this buy my “junk” make money info out the door for $2000.

    Federal law says you must be registered to sell Business Opportunities. What is the amount? = $500 in a six month period. Plus that 23 states basically mirror that with the exception of South Dakota which is $200.

    Here is my Biz opp website with full info

    With the states hurting for money I do not understand why they don’t jump in and nail some of these dudes for a million bucks or so.

    Rod Cook

  5. The first thing which sprang to my mind upon reading the opening paragraphs was the Sherman Antitrust Act, with memories of 3 of the major breakfast cereal companies in the USA (Kellogg’s, Post, and General Mills, I believe) having been penalized some years back for similarly conspiring together to fix prices.

    That’s what Mr. Kern’s syndicate concept sounds like to me. The presence of “godfather” on his board does not help his case, and if anything, would deny any chance of pleading insanity as he clearly knew what he was doing was wrong.

  6. Rod Cook: With the states hurting for money I do not understand why they don’t jump in and nail some of these dudes for a million bucks or so.Rod Cook

    Don’t you think it’s odd to advocate the punishment of one type of scammer (IM gurus) to be carried out by another type (Ponzi schemers, aka the government, either fed or state)???