'Secretive thrill' drives counterfeit good purchases

Street marketConsumer demand for counterfeit luxury goods is growing fast - and new research suggests the 'thrill of the hunt' is driving the increase.

A team led by consumer behavioural expert Xuemei Bian from the University of Kent in the UK arrive at that conclusion after carrying out what they say is the first in-depth study of why consumer demand for counterfeit brands is growing.

Along with the thrill of seeking out a bargain, the researchers also found that being part of a 'secret society' is another motivational factor behind purchases.

They based their research on in-depth interviews conducted with shoppers in China, which they note is "both the largest producer and the largest consumer of counterfeit products."

The team also found that after knowingly buying counterfeit goods, people experienced a range of emotions, including shame and embarrassment as well as positive, hedonistic feelings.

Those surveyed typically reported aspirational desire for brands that confer a perceived higher social status, sometimes because they felt they had to 'keep up' with associates.

They often neutralised feelings that the purchases were unethical by denying personal responsibility - blaming the prevalence of fakes in the market for their actions or the high prices charged by brand owners for example.

Some respondents were conscious of the harm to the brand being copied, but others expressed little concern, arguing that "counterfeiting is good for the brand being copied, almost as if the illegal counterfeit industry is paying the brands a compliment or is promoting the legitimate," according to the researchers.

They note that understanding how consumers rationalise unethical purchases can suggest communication strategies for brand managers and public policy managers to discourage this behaviour.

The team intends to carry out additional research to examine whether attitudes differ between product categories and different countries/cultures.

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