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Duped by copycat packaging… perhaps we comply

10 Mayıs 2013 , Cuma 10:36
Duped by copycat packaging… perhaps we comply
melis.sunay@halklailiskiler.com

 

Recently a friend in the advertising sector enthusiastically announced that he found a new product to introduce into the market - one that is unrivalled and currently not available - which also set his mind at peace when it came to financing it.  Awaiting his license’s approval, he noticed an interesting ad on TV promoting a similar product with quite similar packaging. This product further had similar claims, to which, as informed at the beginning of his market research, would only belong to him and his sponsor for some time following their entry into the market.  Angered by these ‘so-called’ competitors’ unauthorized claims, he contacted the respected authorities and discovered that there was no such product currently and it was simply just a preliminary advertising ploy used to test the market.  Although he was relieved a bit temporarily, he now had to prepare himself for the upcoming competition since this test not only indicated that there was a need for the product, but further revealed that competitors were also close at hand… and what if they were to actually enter the market with the same packaging of the ad?

This of course is a simple story about similar packaging we encounter all around us. It may seem quite unique at first yet we have all seen identical packaging with similar claims everywhere; in stores, pharmacies, supermarkets – throughout the world. Copycat packaging is a simple tool used by advertising and PR firms to get their product into the market at lower costs.  The packaging could be cheaper and the product not as high quality as the original, yet many in this sector claim that consumers don’t truly seem to mind most of the time.  Copycat labelers engaging in this manner of packaging further claim that confusion for consumers is quite minimal since they’re not actually deceiving anyone with their products. They claim that consumers are not so easily misled  mis·led
v.
Past tense and past participle of mislead. and are further also satisfied with the quality of the copycat product, which is normally cheaper than the branded good.

Haven’t you ever been in a market and picked up a product thinking it was ‘your’ brand, yet once in your hand, realized it to be truly a remarkable ‘look-a-like’ due to its shape, packaging, color, even down to practically its similar name?  The price is usually the dead give-away and it is usually not considered counterfeiting since ‘copycat packaging’ normally does not infringe intellectual property rights. It is false advertisement - advertising that is and having the potential to be misunderstood by consumers used to deceive consumers. 

Brand owners meanwhile feel that it is unfair for them to spend all the time and money to introduce a product into the market and then have lookalikes take a lot of the creditThey state that copycats basically increase sales through deception only. They further feel it is unfair because consumers who see the similarity in packaging may believe the copycat to also originate from the same manufacturer due to its packaging.  Unfortunately, had the copycat turned out inferior to the original name brand, the original itself would have received all the criticism.  In spite of getting a good deal or saving money, purchasing something that will perform in a specific manner when not proven for that specific product, is deceptive and always on the side of the advertiser.  Any potential benefit to the consumer is usually non-existent, when asked brand owners.

Many consumers think differently however and in most cases, false advertising leads us to believe that we are actually somehow profiting from a purchase.  We believe to be purchasing a quality product at a cheaper price with such look-alikes, while truly saving money.  Some of us purchase copycat brands including store-brands simply because we don’t mind the difference or we have in fact participated in tests of such products where the lower cost product had actually been equal to brands’ performance levels.  As incomes are squeezed throughout the world, it is not surprising that these brands are becoming a popular choice for many families.

Many copycat companies meanwhile, do attempt to avoid accusations of deceptive advertising by stating their own conditions, yet these are often in small print and far from the advertised price.  Again, they argue that they have placed required information regarding their product and a careful consumer should always look and attempt to read such conditions and exclusions prior to making a purchase if there is a doubt of product reliability on such products.

It is difficult to wrap up such disputes with respect to all parties’ bearings, yet I should point out that sometimes we do purchase products with similar packaging because we have been duped. There are after all many other brands at lower costs if we choose to select, yet we go for our brand (yet not our brand) and purchase a lookalike product by mistake if we happen to be in a rush. Of course this doesn’t mean that we’re not satisfied with this brand, which is where the most aggravating risk posed by copycat packaging steps in – that of consumer confusion being on the side of the consumer, and consequently the distortion of commercial behavior.  This practice therefore does raise unfair competition concerns, which seems to be our unintended fault at times as well. 

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