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Are they telling the truth?

written by Nurati “Ati” Sinaga

On a Sunday afternoon, I overheard an intriguing conversation when passing by a luxury brand store in Orchard Road, an ultimate shopping heaven in Singapore.  A teenage girl said “Oh, this is the correct spelling for brand MM that my mum bought a couple months ago.”  From her accent, I knew this girl was a foreigner and I reckoned she was talking about counterfeit products.  Out of curiosity, I slowed down and heard she said again, “my mum bought it with a very cheap price for grade xx of this brand.”  Interesting… there are grades within counterfeit products and wonder if the buyers could differentiate them?

As a market researcher, I started wondering about the implications of the counterfeit products to survey data.  No doubt they will affect the data quality of brands being studied, potentially increasing awareness and usage data and/or even non-sense brand perception. How do researchers validate the figures?  In face-to-face interviews, on the spot checking of product used (pantry check) sounds like a good idea… but how well could the interviewers identify the original? On an online survey, are providing images good enough?

Digging further, the top ten product categories most often counterfeited (by value) are drugs, electronics, software, foods, auto parts, toys, movie piracy, music piracy, clothing and shoes.  About half of the products listed are regularly the subject of surveys.

From a country perspective, US, Mexico, Japan and China are the top four countries losing money due to counterfeit products.  If a survey is conducted in developing countries, people may not even be aware the products they have bought are counterfeits and potentially their answers could be ‘innocently’ false.  Whilst in more developed countries where people are expected to be more knowledgeable, they would answer the survey with ‘original brands’ in their minds ……or would they?

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