In New York lies an infamous street called Canal Street, home to a range of stores all selling counterfeit goods. The idea was that Diesel themselves would open a store called Deisel that appears to be a knock-off store, but is actually an official store in disguise.
Much of the marketing press have been enthralled by this stunt, with Adweek, the usually sensible marketeers trade bible describing it as a ‘brilliant little stunt’. However, it feels like this is at best a bit of a mis-hit and at worse, an incredibly ill-thought and inappropriate stunt that perpetuates some of the myths around counterfeiting.
Let me explain.
The link between counterfeit merchandise and drug trafficking, people smuggling, and even terrorism has been fairly well established at this point. As Alastair Gray, Brand Protection Manager at Tommy Hilfiger pointed out in his TED Talk:
So this isn’t a problem that’s happening in another country that we can ignore, it's happening in our own backyard. The Madrid Train Bombing in 2004 was in part funded by pirated CD’s being sold in the US and clear documented references have been found in Al Quaeda documentation about selling fakes being a lucrative way of funding overseas terror cells.
So it's unclear why anyone thought this would be a good idea. Especially staging it in New York, a city which has seen more terror attacks than most over the years, with two happening in the last 6 months alone.
Framing counterfeiting as just a case of people trying to save a few bucks and get one over on big companies is pretty cynical. It's not a victimless crime as all the evidence demonstrates.
Can you see GM wanting to open a fake store in Detroit offering fake brake pads, or Pfizer selling fake EpiPens as a marketing stunt? It would be viewed as pretty reckless.
It is incredibly unhelpful when individuals, brands, and independent groups spend millions of dollars every year fighting counterfeiting, for a single brand to go rogue with an advert that perpetuates that myth that the buying and selling of fakes is not that big of a deal.
World Trademark Review pointed out that;
It would have been far more noble for Diesel to have tried to counter the myths around counterfeiting by explaining the risks of buying fakes. One can only hope lessons are learned from this advert and it acts as a timely reminder that anyone can play a part by reporting fake websites and adverts to platform owners so that they can take action.