Ouch, it's still there, counterfeiting raising its ugly head again. In the latest report, more than 20,000 counterfeit bags were uncovered by Chinese police and US authorities, as well as 37 illegal sites for manufacturing or selling the merchandise. They were mainly imitations of luxury brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Coach. While it's always encouraging to hear of successful raids such as this, the issue of counterfeiting doesn't seem to be going away. Consider the fact that if counterfeiting were a legit business, it would be the biggest in the world, and that it is twice the size of Wal-Mart. Or, that The World Customs Organisation estimates that the counterfeit business accounts for 7% of world trade, and this represents only those items uncovered. That's a big number.
Governments and other anti-corruption bodies are trying to combat the problem through various initiatives such as stronger legal frameworks, enforcement efforts and awareness-raising campaigns. And only last week, the UK based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) suggested a strategic rethink of how the issue be dealt with, specifically recommending a focus on magnitude. I'm inclined to agree that authorities need to look at solving this from a new perspective but, when it comes to luxury counterfeiting, I can't help thinking that luxury brands themselves need to be more vocal on the issue. Looking at the brand members of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC), it's surprising to see representation from only a handful of the big names in luxury. Why are they not all signed up? Fair enough, most have in-house teams who deal with the issue specifically, but it does suggest a non-cohesive effort on the part of the industry. One that usually means a more reactive than proactive approach to the problem, which ultimately gives them less control of the situation.
During the summer of 2009, the IACC ran an international awareness campaign, with posters placed in airports among other places. But what is your first instinct when you look at this picture? It presents the problem, yes, but does it speak to you? I happened to see ones similar to this at Nice airport that summer and while I agreed with the sentiment, to me they seemed officious; like another person shouting orders, when I was already feeling hassled, standing in line to get through security. Not exactly a winning formula in my humble opinion.
Picture credit: IACC.org
So, here is what I suggest. How about luxury brands run their own advertising campaigns to raise awareness about the truths behind counterfeiting? Place them strategically, where tourists will see them but also where aspiring luxury consumers tend to engage with their favourite brands, such as on their website, or their social media. Brands can do it in a concerted effort, which would be both more powerful and economical, or independently. But either way, their campaigns against counterfeiting would likely be more effective than those by faceless organisations (no offence guys) because luxury brands command instant recognition and credibility, while anti-counterfeiting bodies don't.
One way or another, most people who buy fakes have an emotional connection with the brand; they may not be willing to pay full price for it but they like the status it conveys, and they are buying into some aspect of glamour. So why not turn this on its head and show that there is nothing glamorous about parading about town in fakes and worse, pretending that they are real? There has got to be some emotional pull to influence people and as we all know, luxury brands have this in spades.