15 million victims lose $50 billion a year, In the U.S. alone. Identity theft has exploded because of technology, but people aren’t the only ones at risk. As counterfeiters get more sophisticated, brands become just as vulnerable.
I would imagine that most people who buy a fake Rolex watch or fake Gucci bag are well aware that they are not purchasing the genuine article. After all, luxury brands rarely choose flea markets or back alleys as their retail venues of choice.
Unfortunately, counterfeiting is not limited to luxury items. Counterfeiting has expanded into many product categories that most consumers would never suspect, even life critical products. Dietary supplements, medical supplies, auto parts, safety devices, and even infant products are now at risk. While most consumers would never buy these items from flea markets, they certainly would purchase them online if it meant saving a few dollars.
To make matters worse, counterfeiters have gotten much better at marketing their products online. They’re now producing very credible looking websites, complete with glowing customer reviews.
Even if the consumer does their research, they generally research the product, not the seller. Unfortunately, most consumers have a limited understanding of the risk posed by counterfeiting and would never suspect it to be life threatening.
If a counterfeit product were to maim or kill a consumer, that brand would be facing a public relations nightmare. The incident would certainly hurt that brand’s sales and could even force them into bankruptcy. In our world of 24 hour news cycles and instant social media word-of-mouth, a brand could be destroyed before counterfeiting is even identified as a factor.
On the surface, Brands seem to be faced with an impossible task: How can they, Brands, possibly begin to locate all the possible websites selling counterfeit goods?
Fortunately, just as counterfeiters have evolved to exploit the advances in technology, brand protection services have become much more adept at scanning the internet for “problem websites”, and developing remediation strategies. One of the tell-tale signs that a branded product may be a counterfeit is an unreasonably low price. By scanning the web, a brand can see not only which websites are in violation of Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policies, but may also have the ability to detect the presence of possible counterfeit goods. Even the smallest brands that have limited budgets for market research can now have access to the sophisticated tools that the bigger brands use to protect their brand equity, product identity, and pricing strategies. These services are not only affordable, but generally cost a fraction of product liability insurance.
Like most things in this world, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, a solid internet monitoring process could save lives.
David Coleman is the CEO and Founder of Brandoogle (brandoogle.com). Brandoogle works with retailers and brands to help protect brand equity and deliver consistent pricing integrity across channels using a proprietary suite of software and services. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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