Here is The Brand Names Educational Foundation's
(BNEF) Advice about how to
Permission to reprint this article provided by the Brand Names Education
Why do we shop? Most often, it is because we need something. Sometimes,
it is because we want something. Other times, it is simply because we see
something we like and can't resist buying it.
Why do we select one product or service over another that is similar or
the same? Depending on the product or service, it may be because we like
the color or smell, the size or shape, the taste or feel. In some instances,
price is a factor. More often than not, we make our selection based on
our recognition of familiar brands or brand names.
What's in a brand?
names are also known as trademarks. They serve as identifiers of products
and services, answering such questions as "Who am I?" and "Where do I come
from?" For obvious reasons, brand names are often thought of as a creation
of the advertising industry. But in truth, the practice of branding (the
English word 'brand' derives from an Anglo-Saxon verb meaning 'to burn')
dates back to the early days of China and Egypt. Wall paintings from ancient
Egypt depict cattle being branded, and Chinese pottery made thousands of
years before the birth of Christ bore symbols and other signs of the pottery
As in ancient times, brand names (or trademarks) today distinguish a product
or service of one source provider from another. Most frequently these source
providers are competitors. The effect, however, is to benefit the interests
of both the consumer and the brand's owner. The owner of a brand uses it
to insure that customers recognize the source of the product and that it
is an indication of a consistent level of the product's quality.
Consumers can rely on a given brand to indicate the nature and quality
to which he/she has become accustomed. Consumers do not have to rely on
anyone else's judgment. In other words, branding allows consumers to make
a choice of a given product or service based on previous experience, both
good and bad.
The brand acts are:
indication of the origin of the product (comes from the same source, even
if you do not know who the source is)
guarantee of consistent quality (not necessarily good quality, but quality
that is the same on all products bearing that brand).
According to a reliable industry source, the number of items carried by
an average supermarket grew from 12,000 to 15,000 a decade ago to 45,000
today. So, consumer choices have multiplied for everything from groceries
and apparel to automobiles, banking and insurance services, electronics,
pharmaceuticals and more. Through the use of trademarks (or brands), shoppers
can easily and quickly identify the products and sources of their choice.
The importance of brand names increases when one recalls the happenings
some ten to twenty years ago, when generic products were the vogue. Hundreds
of unbranded generic products appeared on store shelves and at first were
welcomed by consumers. But, generics never were identifiers. Consumers
could not recognize a source, and there was no guarantee of consistency
of quality of any kind. It did not take long for shoppers to reject the
unmarked goods. The rise and fall of generics was attributable to the demand
of consumers for brand names they could trust.
Brand popularity breeds copycats
| With the
proliferation of brand name choices has come an evil - counterfeiting,
the deliberate use of an existing name, logo or design on products that
do not come from the genuine source. This pernicious and malignant practice
is worldwide in scope, operating on both a professional level and on a
fly-by-night basis. Counterfeiting is not limited, as you might think,
to watches and other luxury items. It affects any product in which enormous
profits can be made -- electrical and biomedical equipment, foodstuffs,
toys, pharmaceuticals, airplane parts, automotive parts, electrical and
electronic equipment, clothing, software and pesticides, to name a few.
Counterfeiting, which some claim is at least a $60 billion industry worldwide,
is damaging not only to the brand owners but to you the consumer and to
governments. It is estimated that more than 130,000 people lost jobs. There
were adverse affects on the trade balance, enormous losses in taxes and
many other negatives - a direct consequence of counterfeit goods.
Purely and simply, counterfeiting is theft. It robs a brand of what belongs
to it - its identity. It deceives the consumer. It can endanger our lives
(when the products are auto or airplane parts or pharmaceuticals) with
cheaply made and inferior quality goods. In the event of product or quality
failure, it denies us of the opportunity to complain to the source (manufacturer)
of the goods and, in appropriate cases, be compensated.
And the purchase of counterfeit goods, innocently or knowingly, encourages
the practices of pirates and contributes to the enormity of the problem.
You can be a smart shopper
No one wants to aid and abet a thief, which is why you should avoid purchasing
any counterfeit product, even when you are aware that it is not the "real
thing." Here are some tips on being a savvy shopper:
buy products from vendors on the streets, primarily found in larger cities.
Their goods are invariably counterfeit.
dubious of making purchases in stores holding questionable going-out-of-business
sales. Shop in stores that you trust, stores that have established good
reputations and which have proven they are reliable.
you are buying what might be considered luxury items, ask for official
guarantees. But there is a caveat. Some unscrupulous distributors even
print up counterfeit certificates of guarantee emulating the factory ones.
when the price quoted for a given product is much less than you expected
to pay. There is an appropriate old adage to follow -- if a bargain seems
too good to be true, it probably is.
deceive yourself into believing that these are stolen "real" goods -- or
products which "fell off the back of the truck". They are counterfeit.
Make no mistake about it.
prudent in ordering products by mail-order, from newspaper ads and specialized
direct mail campaigns. Counterfeiters often use such means to sell their
in mind that the aim of counterfeiters is not to reproduce the real product
in terms of quality. They merely want to capitalize on the image of the
the goods, the labels and the packaging of items you're buying, particularly
in a store you don't know. Look for such signs of shoddy workmanship as
incorrect colors, broken letters, smears, sloppy wrapping, loosely sewn
seams, missing buttons and inferior fabrics.
your friends and relatives to avoid buying counterfeit goods.
Follow these simple guidelines and you can, as the popular television campaign
suggests, "take a bite out of crime." Support brand products, not counterfeiters.
Your actions might save the job of a friend or loved one.
The Brand Names Education Foundation (BNEF) is a publicly funded, non-profit
organization whose mission is the education of consumers, businesses, educators
and students, public and private agencies, and the public at large.
BNEF is a Sec. 501 (c) (3) corporation under the U.S. Internal Revenue
Code. Contributions to BNEF are qualified for deductions as charitable
contributions to the extent allowed by law.
If you believe in the concept of brand names as a meaningful aspect of
this nation's commercial and social purpose, we welcome your support.