Beat it

With the holiday season fast approaching, brands that manufacture have a real challenge to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters and brand infringement online

If you have kids, then you will know that we are now entering the "silly season". Halloween and Bonfire night displays have now disappeared from shops, replaced by fake snow, mince pies and Wham's Last Christmas CDs. There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by when something else expensive is added to the cherubs Christmas lists after seeing an advertisement on TV or a magazine. Welcome to the consumer generation, where looks are more important than substance.

There's nothing really new about children needing the latest branded goods.  Whilst Primark may be good enough for them while they are at home, put children in any social situation and then it has to be Abercrombie this, Jack Wills that.  Mobile phones now have to be iPhone or Android - even the gadget of choice for the City Boys, the Blackberry is passé these days.  And of course you can't just have a set of any old headphones to listen to the latest Labrinth tune – it has to be Beats by Dr. Dre.  Why would you even consider buying a ten year old a set of £200 headphones? Well, apparently you don't need to.

As I mentioned earlier, it's all about the look. Beats have very quickly become the most iconic headphones on the market.  Their distinctive shape, color and branding oozes street credibility, whilst the quality of sound is towards the top end of the scale.  So when my eldest daughter casually mentioned she wanted a pair for Christmas, I initially scoffed at the idea as this was to be added to the list behind a iPad Mini, Mulberry bag, Hollister coat and a Pandora bracelet.  She couldn't see the problem – after all, “they only cost £20" she says.

I looked at her confused as I knew the originals costs much more. So I asked her where she had seen them at that cost. "I just did a search for fake Beats by Dr. Dre". Sure enough a Google search using those terms revealed a website full of counterfeit Beats as the second listing on natural search; ironically just one place below a link on "how to spot fake Beats by Dr. Dre" from the manufacturer’s own website.  The fakes website had all the models, starting from $16.50 for a product that officially retails at £80 in the UK. There couldn't be a more blatant brand infringement even if you tried.

For logo-savvy youngsters it's irrelevant whether they are fakes or not.  Judging by the trash they listen to, perhaps poor quality headphones may actually make Jessie J sound better and they will get street credibility from sporting a pair of Beats.  No damage done, right? Wrong. Every counterfeit purchase damages the real brand both in terms of real sales revenue and brand reputation.  Some users will even try and get Beats to replace these fakes when they quickly go wrong, believing that the company has an obligation to do so.

So what can the manufacturers do to eliminate the problem? Beats certainly have tried with very clear information on how to spot a fake and what to do if consumers find them on sale, yet, a very high profile site is actively selling them and ultimately diverting traffic from the official online site.  It doesn't take much detective work in this case to stay one step ahead.

A simple three step approach could significantly help the company eradicate the issue of brand abuse:

1. SEARCH: Conduct a simple search for your brands online. Try adding the word "fake" into the search query and see what results come up.

2. FIND: Go onto some of the most popular auction and trading sites such as eBay, Ioffer and Alibaba - see if you can find buyers selling products that appear fake.

3. STOP: Have a clear brand protection strategy on how you can stop your brand being  infringed on these sites.  Understand what you can do and how you can do it.

Alternatively, use a brand protection expert such as NetNames who can search the darkest corners of the Internet, looking for infringements on your behalf, working with you to eliminate the problem.

(FYI the link to the fake website is www.ioffer.com/si/fake+beats+by+dr+dre)

Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames

8 November 2012