The main sales pitch of MLM companies to their participants and prospective participants is not the MLM company's products or services. The products/services are largely peripheral to the MLM model. Rather, the true sales pitch and emphasis is on a confidence given to participants of potential financial independence through participation in the MLM, luring with phrases like "the lifestyle you deserve" or "independent distributor."[16] Erik German's memoir My Father's Dream documents the real life failures of German's father as he is lured into "get-rich-quick" schemes such as Amway.[17] The memoir illustrates the multi-level marketing sales principle known as "selling the dream".[18]

MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11] In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses.[7] Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.[4][19][20]