Counterfeit Crisis // Comment: Fake goods can help boost sales of the real thing - but only if the copies are shoddy enough.
Can fake goods boost the real thing?
Counterfeit goods usually have a destructive impact on the brands they mimic, which is why companies work closely with authorities around the world to thwart the knock-off industry.
But is it possible fakes could sometimes help a brand?
A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management found counterfeit products at times simply provided a means for some shoppers to sample a brand before they splurged on the real thing.
Prof Renee Richardson Gosline, a former brand management associate at LVMH, spent more than two years studying the relationship between luxury brands and their imitators. She found among consumers who bought a counterfeit product, 46 per cent of them bought the authentic version within two years of purchasing the fake.
"Strangely enough, for people who buy imitation merchandise, the counterfeit serves almost as a kind of bizarre placebo, but a placebo where a relationship with the real brand develops nonetheless," she said.
But Prof Gosline, who stressed she did not condone buying counterfeits, added one of the key factors centred on whether consumers could distinguish between the real thing and a counterfeit; if they could, fakes helped authenticate the desirability of the original.
If consumers cannot tell the difference - and brand agents say that is increasingly the case as counterfeiting operations become more sophisticated - they are less likely to want to buy the real thing.