Aug 30, 2007

Buy Prada. Fight Terrorism.

Today’s New York Times op-ed page features this piece by Newsweek correspondent Dana Thomas on the evils of counterfeit goods. Thomas claims that terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah often use counterfeit goods as a way to finance their operations and that such goods are often made by Chinese factories that employ child slave labor.

Now Thomas is the author of a book called Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, and it got me to thinking about what a tough marketing challenge that would be, to convince all those people who spend money on fake versions of $800 Louis Vuitton pocketbooks that they were indeed helping terrorists and to save up their shekels so they could buy the real thing.

Counterfeiting is a huge issue for luxury brands these days and the ability to produce an almost perfect replica for one-tenth the cost has led consumers to question just what they’re paying for. But it’s been tough enough selling the idea that illegal drug use helps fund terrorism. Not sure how you’d get people to see the connection between Calvin Kline (sic) jeans and al Qaeda or a Dickensian factory in China.

If you could though, it would be quite a breakthrough. Because counterfeiting is definitely hurting the high end luxury goods business and because few of those brands have anything approaching a positive image. It’s an interesting juxtaposition too: Save a Chinese child from a life of slavery. Buy a real Gucci bag.

Interesting to see how—or more accurately, if—this one plays out.

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