The power of social media platforms such as Instagram as a marketing tool has been realized not only by luxury products manufacturers and retailers but also by the counterfeiters. With Instagram taking over as one of the most efficient marketing platforms, luxury products labeled as Gucci, Armani, Chanel, and various such brands is not only confined to the stalls at Sarojni Market in India or Madison Avenue in New York but is made available throughout the globe. Along with the counterfeit products sold under their original label, strikingly similar clothes from Indian fashion house such as House of Anita Dongre and Sabyasachi Mukherjee are available on this platform by small counterfeit. It is interesting to note that a huge amount of investment is made by these luxury brand owners to protect the intellectual property rights associated with these products. For example, Louis Vuitton has a trademark over the brand name,industrial design protection on the outlook and appearances of the product along with the protection over creativity, heritage, domain names and rights of the artists, designers and brands.Even though these brands have a zero-tolerance policy for the counterfeit products, the counterfeiters leave no stone unturned to circulate the fake products in the market and sell them at a much cheaper rate. It is difficult to fathom how counterfeit products are made available with such ease. The algorithm of logo recognition technology, hash-tags and keyword searches used by Instagram is designed in a manner which helps one identify the search related products at its fingertip. The introduction of the new mechanism comes with its own set of challenges and issues. This technology and algorithm have made the task of the counterfeiters much easier. For instance, the search result of #gucci generates about 20 percent of the posts which is related to the illegal counterfeit products.
Further, many such fake accounts target its prospective buyers and redirect them to an encrypted messaging pages or request them to contact on other social media platform in order to place orders and continue with the safe transaction. With the launch of in-app checkout mechanism, the fashion industries have boomed but consequentially uplifted the sale of counterfeit products as well. This online shopping feature has an adverse effect on the economy of luxury products. Prior to the launch of this technology, the customers of these brands were redirected to their online portal in order to make any purchase. The luxury brands could only utilize these social media platforms to promote and advertise their products. According to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018-2020, the total amount of losses incurred due to the counterfeit sale of high-end products is 98 billion USD which is exclusive of the loss from the proliferation of trademark and human resources.
What should bother us is how these brands and Instagram is fighting against these scammers and counterfeiters. Many luxury brands have introduced strict policies and have zero-tolerance for the illegal sale and counterfeit of their products. The realization that these counterfeits are the biggest threat to the survival of such industries has hit them hard and stringent steps have been taken from the manufacturing unit to the top level of marketing units. The companies of these luxury products conduct anti-counterfeit raids at various suspected locations to prevent the circulation of fake products associated. Further, Instagram has introduced a mechanism to enable the consumer to report counterfeit products by filling in an online form. It also identifies recognized brands with a blue badge. It is pertinent to note that these raids definitely helps the brands to protect their consumers from the harm of fake products and prevent the tarnishment of their reputations. However, on the contrary, even after such measures being adopted the counterfeit industry still continue to exist and the problem is long-standing.
With Instagram turning into a digital mall, it is up to the customers to conclude the authentication and validity of the pages and posts which redirects them to such buying portals. The prices of such counterfeit products appear to be lucratively fascinating and a perfect match for the purchase from Instagram, however, what remains to be seen is how these consumers save themselves from the detrimental effects of such fake products
by Shreya Pandey
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