Education opens opportunities. It’s a tool that can be of value to both your brand and your customers. Educating customers may prove to be a safeguard against fake products that damage your brand’s revenue and reputation. You can teach your customers how to know fakes from genuine products, and help them be informed about the dangers of counterfeit products and the damage caused by the counterfeit industry.
What are indicators for fakes?
Price may be one of the first indicators for authenticity. A company that sells the goods you want for a significantly lower price, should be examined carefully. When brands keep their prices in a certain range, unusually low prices can indicate a fake. A cheaper look or feel can be another indication.
Another way to help consumers is to use their location, address or zip code to let them know what store(s) in their area sell genuine products by your brands. Tiffany & Co., for example, has a short list of authorized retailers for the luxury merchandise, and it warns consumers about merchandise sold through unauthorized channels.
How to spot fakes?
Counterfeit education involves teaching your customers about spotting counterfeits. When it comes to your products, teach your customers about your genuine products and how to tell the difference between the real thing and fakes. Look at your product and identify what makes it unique and is most difficult to copy perfectly. Another option is to create one or more distinctive product features that are difficult to counterfeit. For example, special stitching on shoes.
Now look for ways to distinguish your product in other ways that may not be easy to copy. Some examples of such product features are serial codes, security tags, packaging details, and unique visible features like holograms. Be aware that when the features are aimed at consumers, like holograms, they require at least some customer education. Consumers should know what to look out for or they will either not look for a hologram or be fooled by a counterfeit hologram or another label that is not even a true hologram.
Some brands provide a digital authentication that allows buyers to confirm the authenticity of the product. As explained by Armani, for example, every garment comes with a special identification code, and every consumer can access the online service and verify the authenticity of the product.
An excellent way to educate consumers is a web page dedicated to a comparison of real and fake products, preferably with pictures or videos. For example, UGG is a brand known for its comfortable boots and more. Its website has an “ensure authenticity” page (https://www.ugg.com/counterfeit.html) dedicated to descriptions and photographs of fakes vs. genuine products and packaging.
Now that your customers can identify fakes better, they may identify counterfeits offered for sale. If your new brand detectives spot fakes and report them to you, they can take part in your online brand protection. All you need to have is a form on your website to post links for suspected fakes.
Why not fakes?
Even when consumers know that a product is counterfeit, they may decide they still want it for its cheaper price. This makes it important to tell customers about the damage caused by fakes.
If you buy a product assuming it genuine and it’s not, it may be of subpar quality. It also may not comply with safety regulations, as illegal manufacturing is not subject to regulations and inspections.
Some product categories are easier to educate customers about because they involve health risks. This is true especially with consumables and cosmetics. One such category is fake pharmaceuticals. According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, fraudulent medicines present particular dangers. These medicines may not contain the right dose of active ingredients or not contain active ingredients at all, or they may contain highly toxic substances. Fake medicines also contribute to the development of drug-resistant strains, making dangerous diseases more difficult to treat.
Another category often counterfeited is cosmetics and makeup. Fake cosmetics can harm the skin and health of consumers. Still, ignorance and indifference push some consumers to knowingly purchase fakes. Knowing the facts helps customers make wiser decisions, rather than be tempted by cheap fakes.
In our blog post titled Counterfeit Makeup and Cosmetics we laid out the answer to the why question.
Why avoid fake cosmetics?
- Illegal cosmetic products are not bound by regulations and don’t have to undergo safety checks.
- They may contain substandard or even dangerous chemicals, such as lead, arsenic, mercury, in addition to high levels of aluminum and dangerous bacteria, such as E. Coli bacteria, animal feces and urine.
- Illegal cosmetics operations in places like mainland China don’t have the same sanitation standards as regulated manufacturers.
- Cosmetics can affect your health.
Other product categories need more explaining. For example, many customers may think that there is no harm in buying a fake handbag, shoes, or fashion. We even tend not to see it as an illegal activity, but just a cheaper way to buy what we want. If it doesn’t harm me as a consumer, and it seems like the only danger is poor quality, then why not?
The dark side of counterfeits
Counterfeit goods are not harmless, and it’s important to understand who is behind the production, distribution, and sales of counterfeit and pirated goods to better understand the risks it poses.
The counterfeiting industry, which becomes increasingly organized and extensive, causes a broader damage that can include:
- Supporting transnational organized crime and even terrorist groups who rely on criminal activity for income.
- Economic damage, including lost economic activity, tax revenue and duties.
- Creating a thriving black market.
- There is a greater chance the products are manufactured in unregulated, unsafe, and abusive conditions, such as child labor and human trafficking.
The lucrative illicit counterfeit industry, with fake goods like fashion, handbags, and watches, cannot thrive without illegal networks that operate across borders. Illegal manufacturing requires materials that may be sourced illegally, illegal shipping and distribution networks, and sales. This has become an industrial organization supported by criminal organizations, cartels, and mafias that are not only trading in fake goods but also trafficking drugs, firearms, and people. The revenue from selling fakes may end up in the hands of criminals and fuel organized crime.
Regarding terrorist groups, there are many examples of their connection to the counterfeit industry. The January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris confirmed this, as did the deadly attacks in November 2015. “Among the methods used by Daesh to finance its terrorist networks, counterfeiting, particularly clothes, hold a dominant position,” states a EUIPO report.
More counterfeit harm
Let your customers know that fake goods rob us of tax revenue, business income, and legitimate jobs. Not only do counterfeit and pirated goods cost us in lost taxes, but combating the trade in counterfeits adds to public spending through larger intelligence and policing budgets. Business income suffers from lost sales and the legitimate brand incurs the cost of brand protection budgets, increased security, and maintaining reputation.
Knowledge and research
Now that customers are more aware and may want to verify that they are buying genuine goods, it’s time to introduce research. If the merchant is not well known, you can look them up online in addition to words like “complaints”, “reviews”, “fakes”. If the brand has special features, customers can look for them.
Wiser brand protection
Customer education is an important step for brands to take for the protection of their intellectual property. Educated customers can spot fakes, and even report them to the brand. In addition, customers who are aware of the dangers and broader risks and damages involved with the counterfeiting industry may be less willing to buy fakes.
In spite of education, eventually the burden of monitoring and reporting IP infringements lies mainly with the brand. Wiser Market is an online brand protection agency dedicated to helping brands fight counterfeits, trademark violations, copyright infringements and more. Our professional online brand protection services include advanced monitoring technology, a team of experts and proactive enforcement with quick, effective results.
Our IP protection services result in over 90% success rate in taking down counterfeits.
Is Your Brand protected? Contact us for a FREE brand review