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Dark side of social media influencers: Enabling counterfeit trade
By our News Team | 2023
Study finds the success of these influencers lies in exploiting certain consumer characteristics that make them susceptible to their charms.
Counterfeiting has become a global economic crime with far-reaching consequences. A new study by the University of Portsmouth in the UK reveals how social media influencers are facilitating this trade.
The research, based on surveys of 2,000 people in Britain, estimates 22% of consumers aged 16–60 who are active on social media have purchased counterfeit goods endorsed by influencers.
Photo by Cory Doctorow via Flickr
This study published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Deviant Behavior, is said to be the first of its kind and highlights the significant impact these influencers have on counterfeit demand.
Researchers found that counterfeiters are leveraging the popularity and trust of social media influencers to promote their illegal wares, making it easier than ever for consumers to find and purchase counterfeit products.
The study indicates that the success of these influencers lies in exploiting certain consumer characteristics that make them susceptible to their charms.
Key factors include high susceptibility to the influence of trusted digital others, low risk awareness, high risk appetite, and a tendency to rationalise morally questionable purchases.
Social media influencers are the new royalty
“Social commerce is the new frontier for marketing, and the social media influencers are the new royalty. Consumers in this marketplace often rely on remote recommendations by third parties and these influencers have increasingly replaced the customers’ own evaluations of purchasing risk,” says Professor Mark Button.
The research also suggests that young consumers are most likely to fall prey to the persuasive tactics of these influencers.
Findings show that young adults aged 16–33 years are three times as likely to purchase endorsed counterfeits as older consumers aged 34–60 years. Males account for 70% of all buyers, with their risk tolerance and susceptibility to influencers contributing to this high prevalence.
While this research focused on the UK, researchers believe its implications are far-reaching, considering the global nature of the counterfeit market and the inter-connectedness of social media platforms.
As counterfeiters find new ways to exploit digital marketing techniques, there is an urgent need for industry players and authorities to collaborate and combat this growing threat.
“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,” says Professor Button.
You can find out more about the study here.
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