Expressions to the effect that “counterfeiting ruins your brand integrity” are regularly seen in articles and papers relating to faked goods.
Yet what exactly does ‘brand integrity’ mean?
Your brand is essentially the way that your organisation or perhaps one particular product line within it, are known to the general public and the marketplace at large.
In itself, this isn’t terribly surprising. When somebody purchases something, they quite often like to know that it’s an “XYZ” by “ABC”. Even if they don’t particularly care who made it, they may assimilate that information as part of their purchasing activity.
Why is that important?
It’s important because it relates to another concept called ‘brand recognition’. That means that in the future when you offer a revised product or indeed a completely new one to the marketplace, your target market segment will immediately recognise the brand behind it and associate that with a hopefully very satisfactory previous buying experience.
In a sense, your brand is your public display of your reputation. Organisations that succeed and do well will inevitably have taken steps to protect their brand. Those that are indifferent to this concept may at best be missing opportunities through PR and cross marketing or at worst be putting their entire future success at peril.
The relationship between brand and counterfeiting
If another organisation is making goods that appear to be identical to yours and marketing them as your product, they are not only behaving illegally but also challenging your brand integrity.
In other words, a consumer can no longer look at something carrying your brand mark and be sure it is actually a product of your organisation. To put it bluntly, your brand is no longer uniquely associated with your products and that can seriously damage consumer confidence when purchasing items.
Of course, there is an implicit assumption in this that the other products are actually inferior in quality to yours. That’s because market economics dictate that the other organisation must be offering their product carrying your brand illegally, at a lower price and therefore quality than you are able or prepared to do yourself.
If they are producing identical items to an identical quality and at a substantially lower price than yours, then it might be time to review your business model!
More typically of course, the goods are of vastly inferior quality and therefore there begins to develop an association in the mind of the consumer between your brand and poor quality items.
This is usually considered to be highly undesirable bordering on disastrous from a business point of view.
Maintaining brand integrity
That’s why many organisations put such time and effort into trying to protect their brand through a variety of brand integrity solutions including things such as DNA encoding.
Essentially that involves placing invisible markers into your products that cannot be replicated by fakers. That means that wholesalers and law enforcement agencies can easily detect fake and counterfeit products carrying your brand and then subsequently make sure that they are impounded and destroyed.
This helps to ensure that your brand in the marketplace is associated only with those values that you wish it to be. It also has a beneficial effect in terms of significantly changing the business economics for the fakers, as more of their goods are impounded and destroyed without generating income for them.