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Black Friday: The Phenomenon & The Fakes

Statistics from last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday vary. Sales in the US alone, topped somewhere between $7.4bn and $29bn. Either way, it’s a phenomenon which grows annually – creating bargains but also – all too often – conning many customers into buying fake or counterfeit products online. If these copycat products ever arrive, they are almost always far from the promised article.

This year’s sale is likely to be more online focused than ever (for obvious reasons). With that, comes an even greater opportunity for malicious actors to take advantage. With the frenzy of searching and shopping, it will often be all too easy for scammers to clean up. Hiding behind relative online anonymity, criminals can serve-up non-existent products, dangerous counterfeits; knock-off goods; and websites which serve only to clone credit cards.

The price of any product is determined by several factors. Firstly, its ingredients, and the cost of quality manufacture. Then there is the task of getting it from where it was made to the end consumer. The price also includes an element of the work which enabled it to be the product it has become.  There are costs associated with design and development; marketing; product testing; packaging and the cost of protecting it through, for example, trademarks or patents.

Taking any product to market is not an easy or cheap process. Yes, it often looks as if it is, on shows like Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank, where inventions from greenhouses turn over multimillions within minutes of a Dragon/Shark asking for proof of patent paperwork. Me – I’m just jealous of the multimillions – but having taken a product from the kitchen table to 50 countries I do know a thing or two about the expense which goes into doing this, as well as the effort, love, heartache and everything in between. So, when a brand is ripped off on Black Friday, or any other day, I know the angst and anguish the originators feel when cheap copies, whether counterfeits or simply rip-offs, appear ‘seemingly’ offering a great Black Friday bargain.

Those whom copy products are doing exactly that. None of the safety, quality control or hard work which are part of what you originally created are there. They simply copy something and sell it. And hereby lies the problem. Fake beauty products which, as a bonus, include urine as an ingredient, toys which are poisonous … the possibilities are endless. And, as online rogues are super clever, they will always be one step ahead of the desperate shopper.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday (or any massive markdown sale) creates another key problem. Whilst some consumers are easily conned, many also understand that if a price is too good to be true it probably is, and that 70% of the RRP often means a product is fake. But on Black Friday that logic goes out the window – it becomes nearly impossible to differentiate the bargains from the scams!

So, what to do?

Well, for the brand owner it is essential to be aware. Preparation is key. Make sure you have considered and, if necessary, implemented the below steps.

1. Consider your distribution strategy and pricing.

  • Do you really NEED or want to be selling your brand/s at a knockdown price, either directly or through your distribution/reseller network?
  • Can you be confident that the knockdown price/s will return the margin you really need? Remember that even P&P charges with Amazon can rack up quickly, as an example.
  • If you are ‘going for gold’ as it were, are you selling existing stock, old stock, special stock … where will you make the most profit … if your older stock cost less to make offer it, rather than your new designs.  Don’t just get in on the action because you feel you have to … you don’t. It’s not mandatory.
  • Are you confident that the new orders received from your reseller network aren’t going to undercut your own sales strategy? There is nothing worse than realising a reseller is undercutting you so badly that you can’t shift your own stock.

2. Look into marketplace protection programmes

Many of the larger e-commerce sites offer brand protection programmes which allow you to have more control over your online sales. Amazon has a very good programme known as their Brand Registry. You can register your brand and take ownership of the ASINs which will help prevent others jumping into your brand, your buy box and make it more difficult for copies and fakes to appear alongside your entries.

3. Monitor and assess the situation before the sales launch

Black Friday tends to spawn sales of fakes and copies never seen before. Before Black Friday dawns, monitor e-commerce platforms around the world for your trademarks and images to see if you can spot any early indications of trouble ahead. If you find infringing product, report it for removal – use your intellectual property – trademarks, design rights, patents etc. – to prove originality and ask the platform to remove the link and the seller. Don’t just dream in English, remember to search for your product in multiple languages.

4. Check your trademark portfolio is up to date

Ensuring that your intellectual property, particularly trademarks, are up to date before Black Friday will help to form your first line of defence. Compare your IP portfolio with where your export strategy and hopes lie.

If you don’t have any trademarks in South America but are being copied there, there is little you can do without involving serious expense. Ensure ALL your best marketing imagery is safe and on your system with an easy link if you need to prove copyright – images and words. These are powerful assets in the intellectual property toolbox, albeit they are unregistered, but can be used to remove copycat images and descriptions online. Have them ready to prove your originality – but not too obviously.

5. Be honest about fakes if you have them.

Tell your trusted resellers and customers to be wary. It’s always a good idea to inform your consumers about where they can safely buy your product. It may seem counterintuitive to tell consumers about fakes, but trusting your customers, and helping them navigate the Black Friday minefield online will only build loyalty and ensure they keep buying your original product.

Black Friday is always a tricky one to navigate as a brand. No one wants to think about falling prey to sneaky counterfeiters or copy-cats but it is an unfortunate reality of selling online. At SnapDragon we help brands, like yours, to defend themselves online. If you would like to find out how we can help you, please get in touch.


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