Antonio De Rosa is Chief Design Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing for a fast growing network marketing company specializing in technology and wellness. Antonio is also a visionary leader who applies creative genius and expert design skills to the innovative products he brings to market. Rather than following trends, he believes in driving change by listening to consumers’ needs and wants. After a very successful career in the IT sector, Antonio finds it refreshing to work in the network marketing business environment, because he now has direct contact with large numbers of product users who provide him with immediate unfiltered feedback. While criticism can be challenging, he loves how it keeps him on his toes and forces him to stay ahead of the curve.—J.G.
Where were you before you got into this business?
I was born in Italy, in the same village as our CEO Fabio Galdi. We’ve known each other forever and have been working together since age 17.
I’ve always wanted to be involved in design and marketing since I was a young boy. As a teenager I was designing graphics for videogames. At that time there wasn’t as much technology and software, so you needed to make everything by hand—or rather by mouse, pixel by pixel.
To create a complete video game, we had only 512 KB of Ram and you needed to fit in music, sound, coding, and graphics. This experience taught me how to “optimize” the resources available.
Later I completed my studies and graduated with a Master’s degree in Communication and Marketing with a specialization in Creative Direction.
I filled positions in big advertising agencies in Italy, the US, and Asia, working as Senior Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Art Director.
My knowledge started expanding significantly as I got involved in numerous international campaigns and with many IT companies in Singapore and Hong Kong. During these years I continued to follow my passion for Industrial Design and created several mobile devices, HiFi systems, and home entertainment systems for OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
In the early 2010s my childhood friend and former business partner, Fabio Galdi, introduced me to network marketing. I was completely amazed by the efficiency of the business model and distribution system. I realized it could put me in direct contact with the users, which is revolutionary compared to what I was used to. In my mind, ideas started to bubble up for how to design something that directly passes into the hands of consumers, without being filtered by advertising and a massive marketing construction of the product.
What was it like to make the shift from mass marketing to network marketing?
Coming from traditional business, you can be a little “arrogant” about your work as a designer. You put a lot of research and time into your products and when they finally are ready to be released, you believe they are the best.
It’s not easy to approach network marketing from a corporate point of view. I call it “democracy applied in business” because now the users have a direct say in everything you do. This can be challenging, but is ultimately a good thing, as it accelerates progress and growth.
Before, we just delivered our product designs to the factory and then we had to wait—sometimes months—for feedback from a magazine or consumer websites. Now, I can meet thousands of people at a company event and listen to the feedback directly from the field. There are no filters, no boundaries, no edges.
I’ve always admired the distributors, because that’s a job I can’t do: I’m a bit shy and not a good salesperson. I prefer to concentrate on how to make their job easier, because the more they can do with marketing and products, the more I can obtain from the company and increase everyone’s business. I’ve designed perfumes, coffee, and software, but today I’m actually in the best position ever: I design for an IT company that’s also a network marketing company.
What were some of the challenges in making the transition and how did you overcome them?
There were many challenges. First, from an academic point of view, network marketing in Europe is not so easy to study and apply in the social culture of the different countries. I really had to open my mind to the different cultures in order to understand each different perspective.
From a marketing point of view, this meant I had to be fast to note and even faster to apply the changes, and transfer ideas into real product. For this reason, I try to anticipate the market demands, even with “crazy” proposals, because I know you always need to be a step ahead if you want to have a real “residual” income, for your pocket as well as for your soul—meaning the contribution you are making.
Technology always has something new coming, so you’re never really outdated, because it’s an innovative and evolutionary process. Direct contact between the developer and the user makes the evolution of the product faster and smoother, but it’s also difficult and challenging to listen to all the critics if the product doesn’t work as expected or there is some problem.
Our close relationship with the consumer allows us to apply the changes to the manufacturing much more quickly. We also listen to our distributors for bringing out new product releases to the market over the next years following these rules. So speed is a challenge, but it also a time-saver.
Another factor is that technology is changing faster than the more traditional product categories like nutrition and skincare, for instance. We need to constantly compare our products with the traditional market. As producers of smartphones and wearables, we have big competitors like Apple, Google, and Samsung, so the challenge is huge to stay at the top. Consumers always compare your products with the competitors, so you need to be your best.
I often say network marketing is like a big gym for me: it makes me stretch my mind and strengthen my creative muscles. I exercise and push myself, overtaking my limits. I suggest to my fellow designers to try this business model. It’s exciting.
What’s your daily mode of operation and what are some of your daily habits?
Today I’m managing a worldwide team of people from the different cultures as I mentioned, working together in four different time zones. It creates a lot of ways to move products and approach marketing strategies.
As soon as I wake up in the early morning, my first goal is to bring my email count to zero, so no one is waiting for a reply from me to move forward. I never want to be a bottleneck.
One motto I live by is never lose a chance to teach yourself new trends. I continually want to explore the competitors’ products, buy them, often break them, in order to understand what the user’s experience is and what the professionals see inside the product.
Why and how is the network marketing model so effective for selling your products?
The exercise you need to do when you start to conceive of a new product for network marketing is not so different from the process you apply for traditional business. You just need to keep in mind that you will have no filters: your product will be directly in the hand of the users. And the users will be your only judge.
Network marketing is so effective for selling IT products because you need to be honest, clear, and transparent from the start. Marketing can help you to build a good image, but users will build your product reputation, so starting from the design stage, you need to apply what we call the “MLM Accent” to your product: it needs to be easy, innovative, something everyone can use, and something everyone wants and desires.
Why is your smartband selling so well compared to similar products in the market?
We are filling a gap in the market between technology and wellness. Tech companies typically don’t have a strong focus on wellness. Most smartbands on the market today give you a fixed, limited number of health measurements. Our smartband currently measures breath rate, heartbeat, daily steps, calories burned, mood (excited, fatigued…), sleep analysis, and more.
After you buy our smartband, you can go to our app store and download the applications that give you all the measurements and features you need to fit your lifestyle. We are the first smartband producer that offers an app store like Apple to constantly expand and update the features of our device.
Paired with the latest smartphone application designed for our smartbands, you can track the health and wellbeing of your loved ones. For instance, you can monitor your spouse’s bio-parameters at work, and you can assess your parents’ wellness patterns in real time, even if you live far away.
Our smartband also functions as a monitoring device that can deliver daily, weekly and monthly reports. It comes with a guardian function and a “panic” button you can use when you are in danger.
Our open API allows developers to create their own apps and plugins, and together we are working hard on some breakthrough technology, such as alcohol monitoring, blood sugar levels, fitness, PPS tracking, and even a mosquito deterrent.
Last but not least, we’ve brought to the market a chip that reduces the harmful effects of electro-smog, to be applied on any device connected to the Internet and with a battery.
Having an entire app store dedicated to a wearable is unheard of. It’s a new kind product. That’s how we became a leading wellness smartband, ahead of some IT giants.
When you have direct contact with the people, it’s a different culture.
I remember when working in a traditional business environment, designing products in Milan or Naples, we always had this arrogant approach to solving problems. You did a lot of research, but you were out of touch with the consumer. As I said, network marketing is “democracy applied in business.” First and foremost, you have to create something that is useful to the people.
It’s a complete change of perspective to work for a network marketing company. Consumer and corporate are on the same side, because your consumers are also the ones who sell your product.
How do you create duplication and provide leadership for your team?
With the principles described above, duplication become easy. We are pushing the design at the center of the product with the purpose of improving the quality of people’s lives. This is a mission everyone can get behind.
Another ingredient that can really promote duplication is passion. I’m not directly involved in the field, but just like the distributors, I need to know and understand all the dynamics inside this business. I consider attending webinars and product trainings a part of my job.
Be passionate, be straight, be innovative and be attractive. If your product reflects who you are, you will be respected as a leader, and people will follow you.
Another secret is to be available, have an open-door policy, and apply “democracy” in this business. I prefer to be a leader, not a boss, meaning I prefer to share the decision and apply it together as a team. You cannot impose anything in this business, you can only propose.
Who were your mentors and how did they impact you?
This mind process goes back a long way. I can quote a lot of mentors. First of all, I think of my current CEO, Fabio Galdi. We have been friends for more than 25 years. I bought my first computer in his first little shop in our town. His tenacity, strength, and problem-solving attitude have literally brightened my path every step of the way.
I can also quote Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, Bob Noorda, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Keith Haring, Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, to name a few.
Everything in my life needs to be inspiring, and I have a deep appreciation for the arts, literature, and music. Every one of these amazing people, every experience, every single story can be applied to something completely new and brings out my creativity.
But my real hero was my father. He was a bricklayer, a simple worker. He taught me about work ethic, sacrifice, and dedication. He never earned much, but everything he made went to his family and children. He got up at five in the morning and came home at seven in the evening. If it rained, there was no work for him, and with no work, there was no money. Sometimes things were tight, but every buck he made was spent for our education and growth.
My father was a regular guy, yet also special like many others. He was my example and my inspiration. When I was 15, before he went to sleep he would open my bedroom door, look at my computer, and say, “I still haven’t figured out what you are doing.”
Today, I wish he was here so I could show him what I’ve become.
Any tips you want to share with our readers?
Honestly, I have no secrets for creating a better world or better people. But I hate people who stop themselves at the first sign of trouble. I remember when I quit one of my previous jobs, I had only $30 in my bank account and no salary for six months. I decided to start over with a few bucks in my pocket. Every morning I needed to decide if I would buy milk or bread, because I couldn’t afford both.
At that time I came up with the idea for the Polaroid camera. It allowed me to win the Best Innovation Award at CES in Las Vegas for two years in a row (2014 and 2015) and the Star Award 2015 at Photokina in Cologne, Germany. The secret is persistence, nothing more—the persistence to be yourself.
What are your dreams and vision for yourself, your company, and the networking profession?
I want to create products that really help to improve people’s lives. I want to leave something behind when I depart from this planet. I’m grateful to my company for allowing me to contribute my gifts and build a legacy. I’m honored to work with a group of talented individuals and lead them to build something completely new, revolutionary, never seen before.
We can do this thanks to network marketing, because it allows us to create an efficient distribution system that can reach large numbers of people. But the business model also needs to evolve by following the new trends.
Network marketing needs to become a Millennials aggregator, not a dinosaurs preserve. Social channels are exploding, virtual reality is coming, the world will be extended through all our senses, and new meaning will be delivered to the people, thanks to technology.
Of course, there will be challenges, which are multiplied if you work internationally. But here is our opportunity: by connecting people, we are uniting the world. And network marketing can literally bridge the gap between cultural and economic differences.
What’s your vision for future products? What do you see happening in the market?
The technology in next few years will evolve dramatically. The use of the smartphone will be completely overhauled by a new generation of wearable devices that will be more connected to the Internet. No more big phones in your pocket, but simple and thinner screens, even sharable, wherever you are.
We will enter the realm of full IoT (Internet of Things) so everything will be connected. We will be able to gather a large about of data, in our case wellness data from the people in our network.
Once you are able to create a device that’s fully connected to the Internet and that will start pushing out information to thousands of people in real time about their bio-parameters, this opens up a whole new market for everyone in network marketing.
Let’s think about the pills and juices you buy today: they are developed by some physician, but they are not directly tailored to your needs. In this future scenario, it will be possible to analyze millions of data thanks to the Artificial Intelligence and the Machine Learning Technology that we are pioneering. In the near future we will see a nutritional program created just for you.
Many network marketing companies combine tech and wellness, but from the other side: they try to improve nutrition and skincare with technology, while our goal is to use technology to create adapted and personalized wellness products, hardware, software, and so on.
We start with the people, so we can suggest to them how to improve their lifestyle based on real data we collected. Our customers can personally monitor their bio-parameters moment to moment, empowering them to improve their life.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
That’s a giant leap and paradigm shift in the way we approach wellness.
It is a big field for us. In the near future, wearable technology will be able to send early alerts to your doctor so you can prevent health crises. Technology could totally change the way we take care of our health. Imagine an app that detects if you have a disease in real time, and then connects you to treatment options online that match your specific health profile.
In essence, we are going to change people’s lives using the wellness data we are collecting day by day, second by second. It’s a huge amount of data, and this will be the game changer in the next few years. We are going to disrupt the wellness market. Combine this with astonishing wearable devices… and do the math!
Our company was born with Internet communication as main product. Now we have switched our focus to wellness, because we saw a need in the market. Network marketing is extremely efficient compared to how things work in traditional marketing. This allows us to plan our business strategy in ways that others can only dream of.
In the next few years there will be a lot of change in network marketing, first of all for the Millennials. Social media has completely revolutionized the concept of network marketing. In the coming years there will be another revolution due to technology and our company is hitting that moment now. We are pioneering the big change. That’s why our distributors like to say, “This isn’t a company, we are joining a movement!”