As counterfeiters adapt, brands are increasingly searching for new ways to shut them down. For UGG Holdings Inc., this fight includes dedicated social media accounts to educate consumers about counterfeits, says Lisa Bereda, assistant general counsel at Deckers Outdoor Corp., the parent company of UGG.
Over the years, UGG has routinely shown up on lists of most counterfeited brands. So it's not surprising that the brand protection team behind the popular sheepskin boots is continually looking for ways to thwart the capabilities of counterfeiters. Like many other brands, this includes litigation, seizing counterfeit domain names, training U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, investigations and raids, Bereda says.
There's a problem with this traditional approach, however: for every domain name seized or website taken down, another takes its place, Bereda explains. So a little over a year ago, in November 2015, UGG announced dedicated anti-counterfeiting pages on Facebook and Twitter to allow consumers to learn how to avoid counterfeits. "As we've seen the rise of online counterfeiting, that has led us to want to communicate with the consumer so they have the opportunity to know ahead of time that they should be cautious," Bereda says.
It's no secret that fighting counterfeits is only getting harder for companies. For one thing, online shopping has made it easier for counterfeiters to sell their goods, Bereda says. "With online [shopping], it's very challenging because consumers don't have the opportunity to see and feel the product before they buy," she says. "When a consumer sees and feels a counterfeit UGG product, they can often tell. But online, it's much easier to dupe a consumer."
And counterfeiters are getting more sophisticated, Bereda adds. In the past couple of years, she's seen more activity on social media, such as a post that will direct consumers to a counterfeit website. There's also been an increase in counterfeit text messaging in recent years, she adds. "We've seen new ways that they are trying to get consumers to click to go to their websites," Bereda explains. "Just as we are using our smartphones and social media, the counterfeiters will follow shortly thereafter."
With the social media accounts, however, there's been an opportunity to get messages out about counterfeits and engage with consumers, Bereda says. As a result, she says, consumers are increasingly self-identifying counterfeits. "Oftentimes, since we started having more of a conversation with consumers, they will, themselves, identify a counterfeit," she says. "A lot of consumers now will post in the comments section that sites or products are fakes," which can lead the brand to take steps to litigate or have a site taken down, Bereda offers as examples.
Educating consumers about what to look for and common counterfeit scams is an extremely effective tool when it comes to hurting counterfeiters, Bereda says. "We want to get consumers to where, if they see something strange about a website or an app, they pause to think they should be careful," she says. "We're working to decrease consumer demand of counterfeits. And that's really going to be the best way to fight the counterfeiters, because they are going to constantly evolve as much as technology evolves."