Influencers fuel counterfeiting trade on social media

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A growing number of influencers on social media specifically promotes counterfeit products on the Web, according to a recent analysis. The report examines how these influencers encourage their followers to buy fake goods.

So-called dupe influencers specifically showcase counterfeit products on social networks and inform their followers on how they can purchase such fakes. This was the result of a recent analysis published by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) on the trade in counterfeit clothing, shoes, and accessories on social media. According to the study, the small but rapidly growing group of dupe influencers has a disproportionate impact on the promotion of counterfeit products. They could generate millions of views, likes, and shares dealing with such counterfeits – and increase the demand for fakes by coining counterfeits as trendy and fashionable.

Four different forms of influencer advertising for counterfeits are outlined specifically in the AAFA research. According to the report, these are:

  • Unboxing videos: In such video clips, influencers unpack fake products in front of the camera. They comment on their quality and sometimes even compare the counterfeit directly with the original product. Often, they also present accompanying materials, such as receipts, labels, and storage bags, which are intended to simulate an authentic shopping experience for buyers. In such videos, dupe influencers also often reveal where they bought a product or who provided it to them free of charge.
  • Sponsorship, giveaways: Here, dupe influencers receive counterfeits free of charge or get a monetary compensation if they publish promotional postings. In some cases, dupe influencers might also provide discount codes to their followers or give away counterfeits via raffles – thus taking an even more active role in passing on counterfeits to consumers.
  • Tutorials: Fake products might also advertised in how-to videos. Dupe influencers could provide step-by-step instructions on how to find counterfeit goods on online platforms; and they might sometimes explain the strategy of hidden links, in which another, often generic product is offered, while buyers actually receive a counterfeit of a branded product; often, this is referred to in the description text, for example.
  • Shopping apps: As a fourth technique, the report describes specific apps which influencers can use to directly link to counterfeit products. Users are then taken to shopping platforms where they can buy the advertised counterfeits, which were e.g. presented in photos and posts of the influencers. If the influencers take part in an affiliate program of such a shopping app, they could then profit financially from the sale of counterfeits.

The report Dupe Influencers: The concerning trend of promoting counterfeit apparel, footwear, and accessories on social media also provides hands-on recommendations how social media platforms could take action against counterfeiting, among others. For example, platforms could actively search for and remove posts about counterfeits, as well as block relevant hashtags and delete influencers repeatedly promoting counterfeits. The report also aims to educate and raise awareness among influencers, consumers, online platforms, and brand owners about the growing problem. Education was key, the report states said, because some influencers might not be aware of what constitutes counterfeiting or that they their postings might be illegal.

Sources: American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), World Trademark Review (WTR)

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