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Counterfeiting has evolved into a worldwide economic crime with far-reaching effects, according to a new study from the University of Portsmouth, and social media influencers are helping to facilitate this illegal activity.
This study, published in the Deviant Behaviour Journal, is the first of its type to evaluate the impact of these influencers on counterfeit demand. Researchers discovered that counterfeiters are promoting their unlawful commodities by exploiting the popularity and trust of social media influencers, making it easier than ever for customers to find and purchase counterfeit products.
Based on a survey of 2000 people in the United Kingdom, the study indicates that 22% of customers aged 16-60 who are active on social media have purchased counterfeit items supported by influencers.
Counterfeit goods are a huge global concern, with an estimated yearly value of up to $509 billion, accounting for 2.5 percent of global merchandise trade. Because of infringements on intellectual property rights and an increase in counterfeit factories with harsh working conditions, this illegal trade causes enormous economic losses for genuine enterprises. It also promotes illicit enterprises, jeopardises national security, and aids terrorist organisations. Each year, thousands of people die as a result of counterfeit drugs, as well as the dangers posed by counterfeit cosmetics, subpar food, toys, electrical items, and batteries. To address this complex issue, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving demand is required, which includes the usage of social media influencers.
According to the report, the success of deviant social media influencers is based on leveraging certain consumer qualities that make them vulnerable to their charms. Key variables include a proclivity to be influenced by trusted digital people, a lack of risk awareness, a high risk appetite, and a proclivity to rationalise ethically problematic transactions.
“Social commerce is the new frontier for marketing, and social media influencers are the new royalty,” stated Professor Mark Button, Director of the Centre for Cybercrime and Economic Crime at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In this market, consumers frequently rely on remote suggestions from third parties, and these influencers have increasingly superseded customers’ own assessments of purchasing risk.”
According to the findings, young consumers are more inclined to succumb to the persuasive strategies of these influencers. According to the statistics, young persons aged 16 to 33 are three times more likely than older consumers aged 34 to 60 to acquire authorised counterfeits. Males account for 70% of all purchases, with risk tolerance and susceptibility to influencers playing a role in this high prevalence.
“Counterfeit products injure and kill hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” said Dr David Shepherd of the University of Portsmouth’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Working conditions in counterfeit manufacturers are hazardous, and pay are subsistence-level. Don’t let social media influencers trick you. We strongly advise everyone to research the things they recommend. Why are the products being promoted? Is it too good to be true? Where do they originate? Do you truly want to be a part of an exploitative and lethal trade?”
While this study was conducted in the United Kingdom, the consequences are far-reaching given the worldwide nature of the counterfeit market and the interconnection of social media platforms. As counterfeiters find new methods to leverage digital marketing techniques, industry players and authorities must work together to address this expanding menace.
The study also emphasises the importance of social media platforms and legal businesses in encouraging or discouraging counterfeiting. Researchers advocate for a more aggressive approach to controlling the content and advertisements that appear on social media platforms, in order to ensure that legitimate firms do not unintentionally contribute to the counterfeit industry.
Combating counterfeit goods is a multifaceted task that necessitates a systematic strategy that includes consumer education, tighter regulations, and more aggressive enforcement measures. Stakeholders can work together to stop the proliferation of counterfeit products and safeguard customers from economic, social, and personal harm by addressing the core causes of consumer susceptibility and targeting deviant influencer marketing strategies.
Professor Button says, “This study raises serious concerns about the impact of deviant influencer marketing on consumer behaviour, particularly among vulnerable demographics. It is crucial for brands, regulators and law enforcement agencies to take action and disrupt the activities of these illicit influencers and the networks that support them”.