At last Sunday’s Indiblogger meet by HP in Bangalore innovatively titled #OriginalCopy (an amazing misnomer), this was the topic thrown at the crowd by the HP person speaking to us — original vs. fake. Companies and brands face the biggest challenge from counterfeit goods especially in these times of recession. They spend the money building a good product, in generating brand awareness and then they are ripped off when people go ahead and buy fake goods.
Before we see how this problem must be tackled, let us understand why counterfeit goods have a market in the first place. And mind you it is not the uneducated or the poor who buy these but those who can afford it but opt for the fake stuff. Pirated videos, movies and music, fake Tees, shoes, cellphones, electronic goods, accessories etc. — nothing is untouched. Then there is another kind of piracy that affects people like us bloggers and writers and that is plagiarism. Here one’s work is blatantly lifted – posts, pictures, and stories and carefully manipulated, sometimes blatantly claimed as one’s own. It hurts the original writer a lot – sometimes financially mostly emotionally. Most people don’t mind their information to be reshared as long as they get credit for the same. Is it not fair to expect that?
From the point of view of products, these factors cause people to buy fakes:
Cost: The fakes are much cheaper in terms of cost. An HP printer cartridge starts at Rs. 499 today. A fake refill can cost you as little as Rs. 100. Downloaded music and movies are almost free of cost. “Nike” T-shirts sell for peanuts on the streets. Pirated books are sold at every railway station and on the streets at dirt cheap prices. Once you’ve brought the Printer or the razor at a reasonable price, you then have to churn out huge price for the reusable components like cartridges and blades.
Easy availability: Some branded products and accessories are not that easily available. Pirated goods are smartly marketed camouflaging the long term damage they can do to your health (buying a fake sports shoe) or to your printer (buying a fake cartridge).
Ethics: Some people feel that it is okay to buy a substandard product if it is cheap. In their opinion, the company is anyway just ripping them off by pricing their products very high. Do they really want to say that a good shoe costs over 3K because of the quality of the components? Or are they asking the consumers to bear the brunt of their marketing expenses, glitzy showrooms, overheads and money paid to celebrities to endorse their products? This delusion or distrust also leads people to not care about seeking or buying original products.
Quality: Now some people prefer fake products because the only difference they see in the original and the fake one is the difference in price. I mean, does a brand logo on a T-shirt really justify that high a price or would you rather buy a fake one at a fraction of a price in the fake form? It all depends upon the price perception and the related functionality of a product.
Difficult to differentiate: Some people get conned into buying fake products because they look almost similar to the original ones like fake drugs or branded cosmetics. In this case, the consumers are paying the original price of a branded product and being sold a substandard fake one.
How to tackle this menace at the level of the company:
Generate awareness: Use platforms and informative campaigns to create awareness. For eg. I did not know that HP cartridge prices had come down so much. Expand distribution and better still they have a Dial-a-cartridge now which is very handy. Also make people aware that at Rs. 499 each cartridge gives 600 printouts. Thus per page, one pays only slightly more than a Rupee per page of superior quality printout. Now that is an attractive feature. If you take a printout outside your home, you pay minimum Rs. 5 per page. Hence the cartridge is not really as pricey as we thought it was. Also, it comes with a tamper-proof seal that ensures that it is the real deal. Propagate knowledge about how your expensive printer's life is reduced because you want to save a few pennies by using fake cartridges. You don’t save money when you buy a cheap fake, you end up spending more in the long term.
Price reduction and sales: We Indians love sales. That explains the huge crowds at sales that premium stores have at regular intervals. This helps the customers to stock on their favorite brands at lower prices. Just like HP did with cartridges or designers do with pret fashion, it is important to realize that there are many people who aspire to own a brand but just can’t afford it or don’t want to pay very high prices. When the prices are brought down, the original products are preferred. Pricing of recurring use accessories like batteries, cartridges, razor blades etc. must be relooked at from the point of view of end consumer.
Give a human face to the organization: Highlight the humanitarian efforts of your organization. Spread awareness about your green products and recycling initiatives, the causes you support for kids, elders, environment etc. Let the people see the human face behind the brand. That will encourage them in supporting your original products.
Highlight product supremacy: Create awareness about the features of a sports shoe that protects from long term injury. Similarly highlight the fit and material quality and stitching for apparel. Let people see the difference for themselves. A pirated movie can never match an original DVD in terms of experience quality. Seeing is believing. Show them how fakes are not delivering. Prove to them that it is indeed more “expensive” to use a fake in terms of health problems while using a sports shoe or bad and wasted or smudged printouts and damage to printer while using a fake cartridge.
Protective seals: Introduce product registration, QR coding, holograms etc. to make it harder for the counterfeiters to keep up with their fake designs. Highlight these for the people so that they know how to check for the original product. This will help prevent people getting conned and original products being bought.
Legal remedies: Having cells that keep an eye on couterfeit products, joining hands with others in the campaign, lobbying for stricter laws and enforcement will also help in curtailing the menace.
As far as plagiarism in writing is concerned, generating awareness, using copyright protective tools like copyscape.com, reaching out to the offender, public naming on social media are some ways that can help you safeguard your copyright. Though, plagiarism is an evil whose life is far from over.
I round up by saying that Be Original Buy Original!
You are I are hurting the economy, doing something illegal and buying poor quality substandard stuff that is not even delivering the quality that we expect them to when we buy fakes. Be cautious, protect your rights as a consumer and make an informed choice in buying original products!
Imitation is a form of flattery, it is said. Not when it takes away what belongs to you blatantly and unabashedly and harms what you have toiled to build with your sweat and blood!