It’s a hot, humid Sunday morning and my phone buzzes during breakfast. A colleague of mine has sent me a link. I click on it to find the image of an influencer by the name of Tyne Lexy Clarson leading to a BBC news story entitled “Social media influencers warned against promoting fake brands.” Not only did I see a story about the problem of social influencers pushing counterfeit goods… but I saw an issue of social justice that is not understood and, thus, ignored.
Counterfeiting is often perpetrated by large criminal enterprises involved in drug smuggling, human trafficking, and slave labor… not to mention the toxicity of chemicals often found in cheap goods that are harmful for the environment. To say that counterfeiting only takes dollars away from the “rich brand owner” is not only wrong, but it’s ignorant of the pro-social justice movement sweeping the world.
In the United States, Christopher Columbus monuments and statues have become a target of those demanding social justice due to the explorer’s mistreatment and enslavement of native people the late 15th Century. However, here we are in the 21st Century and counterfeiters are “generally marked by ‘labour practices that are contrary to the most rudimentary principles of respect for human rights at work’, including ‘confiscation of immigrant workers’ identity papers’ and ‘housing illegal workers in hazardous and unhealthy dormitories’.” Why would someone KNOWINGLY promote such products?
In the BBC news story linked above, Ms. Clarson makes the claim that Gucci earns “so much money, obviously, selling to the audience they have.” Would her tone change if she found out that the jumper she was promoting was manufactured by illegal migrant workers who were forced to make that article for a fraction of the cost? If not for her ignorance, her attitude would most certainly change.
Other comments made by shoppers:
- When asked if it’s wrong to buy knock-offs or counterfeits, one woman responds, “No, not at all… it’s just the price difference.”
- Another gentleman responded, it “doesn’t make it any better or any more ethical so I’m happy to buy a fake if I think it’s realistic.”
How do we educate the next generation to the dangers of counterfeiting? Perhaps it’s a tactic change. Rather than talk about the value of intellectual property, we, the industry, need to highlight the impact of social justice. Counterfeiting is providing us with modern day examples of the lack of human respect. That’s where social influencers have an opportunity to do good.
An article by Influencer Marketing Hub states that 57.5% of influencers “claimed that they engaged as influencers to make an impact or effect change.” These are the influencers that we… brand owners, service providers, and law enforcement… need to partner with in order to transfer education to the younger generation.
As for the argument that brand owners are making too much money? If you didn’t value the brand’s exclusivity, then you wouldn’t be searching for a knock-off. That’s just simple economics and a topic for another day.