Almost, But Not Quite

17 Apr

Is there a brand that you absolutely love but can’t really justify buying? Let’s pretend that you want some Toms, but you can’t spare the money right now for a new pair of shoes. If you walked into a store and saw shoes that looked a whole lot like Toms but cost 75% less, you’d probably be tempted. Now imagine the label on the shoes said “Tims” instead of “Toms”- would you still buy them?And if you did, do you think it’d satisfy your need for Toms by being close enough, or would you still dream of the real deal?

A colleague recently sent out an article about fake brands  in China. You have to take a look- it’s kind of wild. I’ve seen counterfeit Burberry bags and knock off Oakley sunglasses, but this article includes brands across the gamut of retail, from “King Burger” to “Owega.” These companies mimic the logo, merchandise and even store layout of the brands that inspired them, to the point that you would almost be fooled- until you notice that one word, a letter, or perhaps the word order is slightly off. But even though the difference is noticeable these brands thrive, because they’re close enough to appeal to consumers’ needs for popular brands. It’s really interesting to me that people are fine with counterfeit goods when they’re buying certain brands for status- because if anyone noticed your shoes said Tims and not Toms, wouldn’t they figure out you didn’t really have the status you were trying to portray? It seems more obvious to me to use a product that blatantly declares the wrong name than to use a product that sorta kinda copies the pattern or style of a more expensive version but doesn’t have a label.

These stores probably wouldn’t last long in the U.S., a.k.a. the land of everyone suing each other for copyright infringement. But if they did, would you buy “close enough” brands to save money? I bet you this sort of thing would actually become ironically cool if it exploded in the U.S.- almost like a status symbol to wear the impostor rather than the true brand. And as one of my favorite brand-related quotes says: “dollars spent ironically are still dollars!”

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