TikTok, the user-generated short-form mobile video app, enables anyone with a smartphone to become a content creator.
It soon soared with millions of active users (currently around 689 million TikTok users internationally monthly). With all its skyrocketing popularity, the content app was not seen as a major threat to brand owners.
At least not until a growing number of content creators have started promoting counterfeit goods on TikTok.
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A little about TikTok
TikTok is the international version of Douyin (抖音), first released in the Chinese market in 2016. Although similar, content is separate.
TikTok is mainly a Gen-Z app. It is a free app that mostly has young people with a young audience making and sharing short videos.
Anybody can become a content creator on TikTok with tools like filters and numerous available sounds, from songs to lip-syncing, and from YouTube videos to movie clips.
Anybody, including those who use the platform for selling counterfeits.
Promoting fakes on TikTok
The TikTok app is not an e-commerce site. Yet content on TikTok facilitates the sale of counterfeit goods.
With videos getting tens of millions of views, promoting fakes becomes a growing issue. Countless creators post on TikTok, looking for ways to get more views.
When they realize that posts about ‘dupe’ goods bring more views, they try to win this audience. They review the goods, showcase and often praise them. Openly and proudly.
When enough influencers do this and enough people watch, it becomes a trend. Now you feel cool going on a ‘treasure hunt’.
The powerful AI on TikTok quickly learns what content you like. Interested in replica handbags? The algorithm will offer it on the For You page.
Gen-Z fake luxury goods
The social media generation most active on the platform is highly aware of how others present themselves and their own social media image. They can feel that the lifestyle they want is outside of their reach.
That they aspire to make certain choices but cannot afford them. And many also photograph themselves at a rate that makes everything in their closets old, and fast.
What they can do is go on social platforms like TikTok and choose to see content about fake goods or follow accounts that promote “replicas” or “dupes” on their videos. (Although they are not dupes but counterfeits if they use brands’ names and protected trademarks).
Hashtags are big on TikTok. #dupe or #replica are strong hashtags. When it comes to fakes, so is #dhgate. DHgate, a Chinese e-commerce marketplace, is apparently the go-to site for affordable knockoffs, as reported in StyleCaster.
The TikTok videos do not only promote the fakes. They also share exact links and keywords to help their viewers find the best deals. They mainly look for fashion and handbags, makeup and skincare.
International luxury brands are among the most counterfeited, but also other brands, such as activewear brand Lululemon and retailer Brandy Melville.
The activity goes beyond TikTok. Views spill over into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The same is true for goods: Someone who viewed content on TikTok can then go on DHgate, order the fake, and later upload the picture on Instagram.
Risk of counterfeits on TikTok
Brands have started to recognize the potential of TikTok to engage younger potential customers with marketing and sales campaigns. Likewise, they should see its potential to engage potential customers with buying fakes.
TikTok is a content-first platform, but this does not mean that the platform does not present brand protection issues. Growing e-commerce opportunities on TikTok can damage brands and dilute them.
E-commerce on TikTok
TikTok has been working to offer more e-commerce opportunities via integrations and new tools. TikTok now has initial integrations with Shopify and Walmart.
In China, Douyin already enables users to link their JD.com, Tmall or Taobao store, and merchants to add mini programs on Douyin to sell goods directly to users. Counterfeiters can use this new distribution channel to promote counterfeits.
Understanding the risks is a priority. TikTok’s significant engagement only means counterfeiters will continue to look for ways to exploit the platform.
Counterfeiters also look for less IP enforcement. In TikTok, it is not clear what the official policy is on posts that promote fakes, replicas, knockoffs, dupes, and the like states CNBC . It did, however, make it clear that it does not allow ads that violate intellectual property rights.
In courts, at the end of 2020, Amazon sued over a dozen influencers alleging they were using Amazon listings to sell counterfeit goods that they promote on social media channels, including TikTok.
Wiser on TikTok
TikTok facilitates the sale of fakes.
Therefore, online IP protection should not overlook TikTok in terms of counterfeit detection and IP rights enforcement.
Wiser Market anti-counterfeit agency helps you combat counterfeits and intellectual property infringements with tools that work and a team of experts that stay on top of a fast-changing landscape of e-commerce features and trends.
For continuous scanning and detection, we employ cutting-edge technology. Our monitoring system continuously scans digital channels, detecting relevant references to your brand and analyzing them. Our team implements unique e-commerce and brand protection know-how to ensure each infringement is categorized and removed quickly and efficiently.
Wiser Market’s highly effective, long-term online brand protection strategy safeguards your online revenue and brand reputation, with a proven track record of over 95% success rate.
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WiserTip: The users and content on TikTok and Douyin are different. Brands should therefore monitor both versions of the app.