Our website makes use of cookies. To find out more please read our privacy policy


You are now logged in.

Do young people need more effective anti-counterfeiting messages?

How do we shift young people's attitudes to fakes?

The last ACG Annual Conference gave us many takeaways. One memorable one emerged from a question directed at a speaker on how to change youth attitudes to buying counterfeits in a time of enormous social media influence. 

His reply: “Maybe, we have got to make [it] uncool,” he affirmed.

It was a shrewd, timely and actionable comment. Social media influence might indeed work both ways. With that in mind, I am delighted to read that Harry Styles wants to see action on his own counterfeit problems. He has filed a lawsuit in the US against various online marketplaces selling unofficial merchandise.

The scope of the lawsuit is very broad and requests that "online marketplace platforms such as eBay, AliExpress, Alibaba, Amazon, Wish, Walmart, Etsy, and DHgate shall disable and cease displaying any advertisements used by or associated with defendants in connection with the sale of counterfeit and infringing goods using the Harry Styles trademarks".

Something certainly needs to happen, and quickly.

The last European Observatory survey scoreboard on youth attitudes to IP infringement suggested things were getting worse, not better, in terms of buying counterfeits, although digital piracy paradoxically might be seeing positive signs.

A staggering 37% of young people bought one or several fake products intentionally in the 12 months prior to the survey. 21% of 15- to 24-year-olds say they intentionally used illegal sources of digital content in the last 12 months. But around 60% of young Europeans said they prefer to access digital content from legal sources, compared to 50% in 2019. 

Price and availability remain the main factors for buying, but these “external” factors are difficult for us to influence.

Buying fakes make seem a harmless decision to young people on the surface, but counterfeits and fakes can have drastic consequences, ranging from the loss of money and time to the potential of supporting criminal activity. The most effective way to discourage young people from buying counterfeits and fakes is to educate them on the dangers and risks associated with these products. By providing facts and concrete examples, young people can gain a better understanding of the consequences and be dissuaded from taking this path.

Against this, there are possible message responses. What message would make a difference, what would communicate ‘uncool’? The influencer may help change the narrative here. An infringed influencer could be the best future chess piece in our anti-counterfeiting strategy, using their influence and audience to share the wider impact of buying fakes

Basic messaging on counterfeits is part of the same tack, too. Survey evidence suggests it might help, regardless of influencer involvement. Some while back, the UKIPO examined the communications and messaging challenges in a major report. 

A few general takeaways: people under 35 were more likely to buy counterfeit goods and messaging should take this into account. Clear, evidenced messaging about buying counterfeits saw most people rethink their stance. Beyond personal safety, respondents rated global concerns such as slavery relatively highly, but economic arguments such as the impact on jobs and communities did less well.

The best way to discourage young people from purchasing counterfeits and fakes is to educate them on the dangers and risks associated with these products. This can be done through a variety of methods, including public service and social media campaigns, school programmes, and online resources. These campaigns should focus on providing facts and concrete examples to give young people a better understanding of the real consequences of purchasing counterfeit and fake goods.

Focussing on strong evidence-based messaging when it comes to our campaigns will help the cause and we need more public figures standing up to the counterfeiters like Harry Styles too.



IP Youth scoreboard - Observatory

IPO counterfeit goods research - GOV.UK 

Harry Styles Asks Court to Stop Counterfeit Merchandise Sellers




About ACG

ACG represents more than 3,000 brands affected by this influx of fakes into the UK and delivers an international network of information, advice and contacts on all aspects of IP protection. Working with Government and law enforcement agencies since 1980, ACG is focused on providing an effective and sustained response to counterfeiting.

Read more >

Join now!

Membership with the ACG is the best way to work with government and enforcement bodies to protect your brand. Our Roadshows and training days help you reach out to police, trading standards and border force officers and tell them about your genuine products.

Read more >