Providing education to customers about counterfeiting has proven to be a strategy that’s low-cost, time-efficient, and highly effective. In today's global marketplace, where counterfeits have become increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, empowering consumers with the knowledge to distinguish between genuine products and replicas has become a critical endeavor.
In this article, we’ll cover actionable strategies for brands to educate their customers about why counterfeits need to be avoided, as well as how customers can identify authentic products.
Anti-Counterfeiting Messaging For Your Customers
Customers need to be equipped with the understanding of how damaging it can be to buy or use counterfeit products. If there’s zero motivation to avoid fakes, then no product authentication strategy will ever be effective on the consumer side.
The talking points used by brands should be chosen carefully. They need to resonate with your customers, and truly incite a desire to avoid fakes and respect your intellectual property when they make purchasing decisions.
Let’s cover some of the messaging that has proved effective.
Quality and Performance
Communicate that genuine products are the result of meticulous design and manufacturing processes that counterfeit items cannot replicate. Customers can rely on authentic products to deliver consistent quality and optimal performance, ensuring they get the most out of their purchase.
Electronics and luxury fashion brands would find this messaging particularly effective, as the careful design and creation of these items are nearly impossible for a counterfeiter to replicate. A cheap, fake alternative is not a proper alternative at all.
Safety and Reliability
The potential risks associated with counterfeit products in certain sectors are terrifying. Ensuring that your customers do not get fooled into using fakes of these items, nor knowingly roll the dice on their safety, is essential.
Let your customers know that genuine items undergo rigorous safety testing to guarantee their well-being, and that counterfeiters have zero motivation to manufacture a safe product.
Businesses working in industries surrounding baby products, consumer electronics, and cosmetics have a particular responsibility to their customers in keeping them educated about the dangers of replicas of their products. Countless other industries should also pay heed to the safety of their own customers in this regard.
Counterfeits have been proven to be considerably more harmful to the environment than legitimate goods. If your business is serious about its ESG policies, consider communicating this to your customers as part of your anti-counterfeiting messaging.
This messaging will resonate particularly well with a Gen Z audience. Those born between 1995 and 2010 have a genuine interest in environmental causes, and are more likely to have a positive perspective on a brand that aligns with environmental protection.
Paint a picture of how counterfeit production contributes to environmental degradation through disregard for regulations, unsustainable practices, use of banned and toxic ingredients, and other factors. The choice to support authentic brands reflects consumers’ commitment to eco-friendly production methods and responsible consumption.
Businesses committed to ESG policies would be wise to communicate the environmental harms caused by the counterfeiting industry. Supporting a genuine business that follows or surpasses environmental regulations gives customers a way to show their support for environmental causes in a small, but impactful way.
In a similar vein, the counterfeiting industry has direct links to other highly unethical and criminal behavior. Direct links have been uncovered between counterfeiters and human trafficking, modern slavery, and child labor. As counterfeiting itself is the world’s most profitable illegal activity, it requires interactions with other criminal enterprises to sustain its financing, money laundering, and cheap labor needs.
As these criminal industries are so connected, successfully impacting one will have a knock-on effect on others - while supporting one will also support the others indirectly.
Businesses that seek to reduce counterfeiting would be wise to highlight this fact. By committing to ethical business standards within their own operations, brands can put themselves forward as a morally conscious choice for consumers.
Respect for the Business and its IP
Another option is to highlight the damage that buying fake products can cause the business. While not an option available to every business, many do pride themselves on having forged a close, sincere relationship with their customers.
These types of loyal customers understand that, by choosing only authentic products, they help a business they value to survive. A sentimental connection is powerful, but not quick or easy to create by any means. Once it’s in place, it can be a powerful force behind your IP protection.
Startups and smaller, artisanal brands are in a perfect position to leverage this type of messaging. They often have a closer relationship with their customers, many of whom have been customers of the business since the very beginning. Someone who supports a project on Kickstarter, and then sees it burgeon into a fully-fledged business would understand the value of supporting the original creators, rather than choosing a cheap knock-off.
How to Communicate: Strategies for Educating Customers
Choosing the platform and format through which to communicate is as important as deciding what messaging to use to convince customers to stay away from counterfeits. Making the right choice here relies on understanding your audience’s behavior. Using the wrong platform could end up with your message not being seen by your customers at all.
By far the most common method of communicating to customers about counterfeiting is through a dedicated webpage. Such a page should be considered an essential starting point, as every other method of communication can direct readers back to the page for more in-depth information.
These brands have done an excellent job in communicating the importance of avoiding counterfeits, for reasons ranging from consumer safety and environmental concerns to the damage dealt to ethical businesses and society as a whole.
Checklist: Information to Include on your Anti-Counterfeiting Page
An educational page on anti-counterfeiting can serve as an ideal single source of information and resources surrounding counterfeiting. When making a page like this for your own business, ensure you include the following:
- Clear instructions for reporting counterfeits, along with all the details that should be provided.
- Direct contact methods, including a phone number and email address.
- Verified retailers for legitimate items, with direct links.
- Your brand’s own actions against counterfeiting.
- Information on how to identify counterfeits. (Ugg’s gallery is an excellent example)
Social media has emerged as the best way for brands to talk directly to their customers. It’s also potentially a powerful tool for teaching customers how to spot a fake product. Leveraging the vast reach and interactive nature of social platforms, brands can effectively relay their message while connecting with customers in real-time.
A brand’s social media is generally used for positive experiences, so it may not be the best platform to discuss the actual harms of counterfeiting. Using social media as part of an anti-counterfeiting campaign may work best for focusing on product authenticity.
Informative posts, infographics, and visual content that succinctly highlight the key identifiers of counterfeit products. Pair these posts with attention-grabbing visuals, such as eye-catching graphics, images, and illustrations, to reinforce your message.
Take a look at this Instagram post from Brands We Trust, where they inform their customers on how to safely buy authentic products from a partner brand.
Consider hosting a live Q&A session on social media where customers can directly interact with your brand's representatives.
Use these sessions to address common queries, debunk myths, and provide real-time information about counterfeit products, while maintaining a human connection between your brand and your customers.
To make a live event like this truly interactive, brands could go a step further and invite their fans to send in real examples of products they’ve bought. An expert from your team can review the pictures, identify whether it’s authentic or fake, and explain the key elements they use to analyze the item.
Partner with influencers who align with your brand's values and target audience. Influencers can help you extend your reach and convey the message in an authentic, relatable manner that resonates with their followers. This is particularly effective when speaking to a Gen Z audience, as they’ve been shown to trust content creators and influencers more older generations.
Research has shown that influencers are being used by counterfeiters already to promote their products. So why not flip the script on counterfeiters and start leveraging influencers to share a more positive and law-abiding message?
Closing Thoughts: A Positive Perspective for Real Results
Brand protection campaigns can often focus heavily on negative talking points. By taking control of the conversation, brands have a chance to spotlight brand protection in a more positive light.
By championing authenticity, brands showcase loyalty to customers, fostering a mutual and ongoing trust. This approach not only safeguards IP but also promotes responsible consumption, ethical choices, and the preservation of sustainable business.
As you educate customers about counterfeiting, keep in mind that your brand's story intertwines with theirs. By grasping your audience's needs and weaving positive brand protection into your narrative, you create a potent synergy that strengthens your brand and connections with your customers.
Tailoring your message to resonate with your customers’ values, whether it's quality, safety, ethics, or sustainability, enhances engagement and informed decision-making. Take your time to think about your audience. The result will be a brand protection education on the platforms they use most, made in a format that will appeal to them, and with a message that will truly resonate.