Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Spot the difference: the invincible business of counterfeit goods

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Spot the difference: the invincible business of counterfeit goods

Selling cheap fakes of a successful product makes horribly good business sense. Is there any way to stop it?

The Guardian,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

What’s the real difference between a genuine article and an excellent fake?

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


Product, price, place and promotion – these are the classic “four Ps” of modern branding. Is the product functional, and is the packaging good? Is the price reasonable? Is distribution in place? Do you have the means to promote the product, through advertising and an effective sales staff? A hundred years ago, that’s all you needed. But with globalization, the list expanded to promise, personality and purpose. That’s when things got more complicated for brands, but infinitely easier for counterfeiters. Alice Sherwood’s intriguing article describes the good business sense of counterfeit products.


By the early 1900s, branding involved the “four Ps” – product, place, packaging and promotion. Now, modern branding also requires promise, personality and purpose.

The business of selling a physical product has gone through substantial changes over the past 100 years. Companies were successful when they could create a product, figure out how to distribute it (place), make appropriate packaging and promote the product effectively. But by the early 1900s, branding focused less on the physical details, and more on intangibles like promise, personality and purpose. 

Consider Procter & Gamble’s early advertising campaigns for Camay soap. Back in the 1930s, the brand enlisted the help of 73 dermatologists, who said that Camay was appropriate for a “delicate complexion.” They then surveyed 50 bachelors, who admitted to wanting a wife who demonstrated natural charm. The promise the campaign implied was that the tangible physical product (a soap that one could buy for 10 cents a bar) might somehow facilitate a much bigger aspiration: augmented marital opportunities...

About the Author

Alice Sherwood is the author of Authenticity: Reclaiming Reality in a Counterfeit Culture (2022). She’s a non-executive director of Ridgeway Information, a UK-based research and analysis firm. She’s also a senior visiting research fellow at King’s Policy Institute, King’s College London.

Comment on this summary