Counterfeiting problem? Make your brand less distinctive!

Chanel bags Consumers are more likely to purchase counterfeits if they are social climbers, and will be drawn to fakes with strong, conspicuous branding, according to researchers in China and Canada.

While the headline of this article is tongue in cheek, the research does provide some fascinating insights into what motivates consumers to buy fake goods, and the strategies that might be deployed to discourage that behaviour.

The team focused their research on the luxury goods market and - specifically - the likelihood of consumers feeling regret from a counterfeit purchasing decision and whether the anticipation of that regret affected their buying decisions.

By carrying out four separate surveys among female undergraduate students the researchers concluded that they were more likely to choose counterfeits that were inconspicuous - in other words did not carry distinctive branding - if there was a perceived risk that their social circle would discover the item was fake.

"They anticipate the regret that they will feel when, for example, other consumers discover that their product is a counterfeit and not an authentic product or they discover that the counterfeit is low quality," write the researchers in the Journal of Business Research.

Conversely, those with fewer social aspirations and an independent self-view were found to be more likely to anticipate a sense of regret, and so buy a non-conspicuous counterfeit or indeed a genuine item, they note.

The deeper understanding about consumers' likelihood of buying counterfeits could provide brand owners with a different strategy to those currently employed - which focus on strengthening enforcement regimes and deterring the production and trade of counterfeit products - by weakening demand for fakes.

Consumers will only stop purchasing counterfeit luxury products when their preferences for 'conspicuous' counterfeits change, they conclude.

"Identifying ways in which consumers will feel embarrassed after others… discover they own a counterfeit will be an effective strategy to reduce the demand for counterfeit goods".

Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 507–515

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