In the world of counterfeiting, there are two types of fakes for brands and consumers to consider. There are the standard fakes, which are easy to spot as a copy, and then there are the super fakes, which are almost impossible to pinpoint as a fake, even to the highly trained eye.
What are superfakes?
A rising phenomenon impacting the luxury sector, superfakes operate on an entirely different level to most other imitations. They are expertly made and intended to be indistinguishable from the real thing, with manufacturers using high quality materials and technology compared to more traditional counterfeits. What’s more, while superfakes are much cheaper than their real counterparts, people are prepared to pay a premium for this so-called quality – paying thousands for knockoffs of the priciest designer brands.
If that weren’t enough, as detailed in a recent article from the New York Times, superfake handbags are being replicated by Chinese counterfeiters with such precision that a recent survey revealed that most people could barely recognise the difference between a $100 fake and $10,000 original.
It’s a shocking reality. And while many people may see no real harm in buying a cheaper copy of their favourite brand, there is much more to superfakes than meets the eye.
The hidden cost
While the technology to produce superfakes has improved over the years, the working conditions they are manufactured in have not. Typically operating in sweatshop conditions, superfake manufacturers are not bound to the strong legal protections of genuine brands, with workers toiling endlessly for minimal pay.
Furthermore, these superfakes are often manufactured in hazardous, illegal environments which exploit vulnerable people – with the worst offenders even resorting to child labour and victims of human trafficking. Forced to work in dangerous and unsanitary conditions, such abuses frequently form part of this nefarious supply chain.
Thanks to this human cost, the financial savings people make by buying a superfake often comes at a much higher price than they realise.
While the luxury sector is the main target of “superfakers” for now, the market for high spec counterfeits is set to impact a wider variety of sectors and products. What’s more, with younger generations such as Gen Z increasingly relaxed about the impact of buying fakes – in spite of public warnings – the need for brands everywhere to be vigilant is bigger than ever.
So, what can brands and consumers do to fight back?
How consumers can help
For consumers, the most obvious piece of advice is to avoid buying superfakes. Although they may seem like a cost-effective alternative to high-priced goods, these products will never compare to the genuine article.
Indeed, while the materials used in superfakes may be of higher quality than cheaper variants, like all counterfeits they lack the guaranteed quality, craftsmanship and consumer protections of their authentic counterparts – potentially falling apart more quickly and leaving people out of pocket. What’s more, when it comes to the conditions superfakes are made in, owning one is an indisputably unethical choice – harming both the brand you love, and countless innocents caught up in this illegal chain.
When purchasing responsibly, when it comes to avoiding superfakes, besides on-demand orders, one of the biggest tricks up counterfeiters’ sleeves is to sell fakes as second-hand on platforms like eBay or Amazon. For higher priced goods therefore, evidence of the seller’s original receipt is always advisable where possible when making a transaction.
What’s more, depending on the brand there may be a certificate of authenticity or individual serial number. Where applicable, check whether these are clearly visible. Remember, third-party marketplaces are not vetted in the same way as online department stores or the brand’s own website, so extra caution is always recommended.
What brands can do
So when it comes fighting superfakes, what can brands do?
Firstly, when it comes to manufacturing, we recommend brands consider unique elements which differentiate their products from even the most sophisticated counterfeits. Depending on the product, this can range from QR codes or serial numbers through to hidden components in (for example) the lining or packaging.
Secondly, when it comes to supply chains, we recommend brands maintain a transparent and open distribution network where possible. This helps ensure the integrity of your product line, making it easier to identify counterfeiters. Depending on priority, you may wish to highlight authorised sellers for customers on your site. What’s more, if fakes are found, direct action should be taken to prevent ongoing infringements.
Thirdly, if in doubt, making a test purchase can help you identify new threats – and help enforce them online. Depending on the infringement you face, they can be an invaluable tool in fighting the most convincing of superfakes. For details on how we can help facilitate this, ask your account manager or contact us for more information.
And finally, for brands concerned about the rise in sophisticated superfakes, we encourage you to take proactive measures to monitor, identify and remove them immediately. Using our specialist knowledge at SnapDragon and innovative Swoop technology, we scour online to uncover current and emerging fakes which threaten your brand worldwide, using your intellectual property rights to remove them before they cause untold customer harm and reputational damage.
Superfakes are a new dimension in the world of counterfeits, and they make it even easier to dupe consumers and harm brands. As a result, it is essential that action is taken against the threat.
By being proactive and cautious, brands and consumers can stay one step ahead in protecting against this illegal trade.