Counterfeit goods are persistent and expensive nuisances to luxury brands. Chanel’s authenticators have been known to upend many an eBay dream with their forensic examinations of serial numbers, stamped hardware and special stitching patterns on bags of unknown origin. UGG Australia retains an international network of investigators and lawyers ready to pounce on copies. And Christian Louboutin regularly sues would-be coattail riders (and other luxury brands) whose use of the red sole veers too close to ‘tribute’ for comfort.
But need they be so concerned?
The latest High Net Worth newsletter from Ledbury Research (brought to our attention by the always excellent Material World blog) addresses what the group calls ‘the potential upside of counterfeiting.’ Counterfeits, Ledbury says, might actually be a good thing for the luxury industry.
The newsletter cited research suggesting that as many as two out of five consumers who buy knock-offs eventually go on to purchase the genuine article. ‘The fake acts as a gateway to the brand,’ Ledbury writes.
The group said its own research showed that people who buy fakes often own real luxury goods. In fact, ‘in total this group owns more genuine luxury items than those who buy real luxury products only.’
Although Ledbury acknowledges that there are ‘many other issues’ with counterfeit products, ‘they may not be as damaging to the brands as is typically assumed.’
The arguments against counterfeiting are rife, from unethical production processes and providing monetary support to criminal networks, to the sense that they deny designers and brands their due. In an email, a Ledbury spokesperson emphasised, ‘Ledbury are not condoning counterfeiting, we are merely setting a challenge in question to our readers.’
What would you say? If counterfeiters consider a brand worth copying, should the brand take it as a compliment?