Society, Politics & Law

Why people buy counterfeit brands

Updated Thursday 14th February 2008

A key to combating counterfeit brands may lie in understanding why people buy them.

First of all it is important to say that there are two types of counterfeit product purchases by consumers. Deceptive counterfeiting takes place where the consumer does not know that they have purchased a counterfeit product. In contrast, non-deceptive purchases of counterfeit products take place where the consumer willingly buys the counterfeit products. We’re dealing here with the latter type of purchase. If lawmakers and the producers of genuine branded goods want to take action against counterfeits as well as dealing with the suppliers they may need to consider why the demand exists. Much in the same way as health campaigns against cigarette smoking were based on understanding the various reasons why people smoke, so it is also clear that the consumption of counterfeits is a complex activity which has many causes that need to be understood.

A counterfeit Creative commons image Icon priceminister under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license
A counterfeit iPhone

There has been a significant amount of research into why people buy counterfeit brands and the types of people who may be more willing to buy them. Unsurprisingly people who have relatively little regard for the law will be more likely to purchase counterfeit products. Also people who have negative attitudes towards big business are more likely to buy counterfeit products. This may be because they feel that genuine brands charge unfair prices, those people who see themselves as being shrewd shoppers willing and able to beat the system may also be more likely to buy counterfeits. Counterfeits may also appeal to those people who want to demonstrate their status, but don’t have the funds to do so with genuine products. Another factor that may encourage counterfeit consumption is where people are curious and want to experiment. Some people are also comfortable with taking risks and doing something that is illegal may not be a problem.

"an individual’s crime may not be obvious to those around them"

As an illegal activity, what is peculiar about buying and using fake brands is that this is something where an individual’s crime may not be obvious to those around them. The consumer knows of their true origin, the people amongst whom the consumption takes place will only know if the consumer tells them, depending on the quality of the manufacture. So are counterfeit brands popular because they are difficult to distinguish? Or is it because there is a cachet to having bought something much cheaper than the genuine product (even if it is fake)?

The most obvious factor motivating consumer purchase of counterfeit products is their relatively low price but it is commonly appreciated that such products will be of lower quality than genuine products. However some research has found that people who have previously bought counterfeit goods believe that they are as good as genuine products – no doubt that will encourage them to repeat their actions.

Clearly the manufacturers of branded goods have a great deal of work to do when it comes to consumer perceptions of counterfeit goods and the attractiveness of buying them.

Find out more

  • Fake football shirts - Can Umbro stop the flood?
  • Counterfeiting Exposed: Protecting Your Brand and Customers by David M. Hopkins, Lewis Kontnik and Mark Turnage, published by John Wiley & Sons

Courses

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

People-centred designing Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 1 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

People-centred designing

Designed products surround us all and range from bus tickets to buildings. This free course, People-centred designing, focuses firmly on usability and the increasingly important phenomenon of people-centred design. It aims to inform consumers of design (i.e., all of us) about this crucial characteristic of design. In addition to stimulating interest in areas of concern for producers of design, the course might also provide an introduction to engineering, manufacturing and business studies.

Free course
12 hrs
Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Some Observations from Scotland Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Routledge article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Some Observations from Scotland

Gerry Mooney discusses criminal justice in Scotland during the years of the coalition.

Article
Finding the Truth Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license activity icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Finding the Truth

What do you really know about crime? Try our interactive 'Finding the Truth' to dig way beyond the surface of forensic psychology, coroporate crime and the prison system. 

Activity
The British hitman: A brief introduction Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Piero Cruciatti | Dreamstime.com article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

The British hitman: A brief introduction

David Wilson explains why the reality of killers for hire doesn't match the image suggested by the media.

Article
Order your free 'The Met' poster Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Order your free 'The Met' poster

Your free poster on the policing puzzle to accompany the BBC/OU series The Met.

Article
Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Interesting Times for Scotland Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Scottish Justice Matters article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Interesting Times for Scotland

Mary Munro, Co-Editor of Scottish Justice Matters writes about what's happening in Scottish criminal justice at present.

Article
Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: The Scottish Context Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Hadley Trust and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: The Scottish Context

Introducing a collection of articles emerging from a seminar held in April 2015 at the OU in Scotland titled: The Coalition Years: Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: The Scottish Context.  

Article
Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: The UK Justice Policy Review and the Coalition Years article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: The UK Justice Policy Review and the Coalition Years

The first part of Richard Garside's speech to the Open University Scotland event: The coalition years and the Scottish dimension.

Article
Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Austerity, Policing and Probation article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom, 2010 to 2015: Austerity, Policing and Probation

The second part of Richard Garside's speech to the Open University Scotland event: The coalition years and the Scottish dimension.

Article