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Understanding counterfeit consumption

Felix Tang (Department of Marketing and Management, Hang Seng Management College, Shatin, Hong Kong)
Vane-Ing Tian (School of Business and Administration, The Open University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Judy Zaichkowsky (Beedie School of Business, Simon Faser University, Vancouver, Canada)

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

ISSN: 1355-5855

Article publication date: 7 January 2014




The purpose of this paper is to create a framework for broadly understanding categories and motivations behind purchasing different counterfeit products.


Focus groups provided qualitative data from 509 counterfeit purchases incidents by 95 informants.


The most frequently mentioned motivation was the utility (35 percent) received from the good over the genuine article. The second, but negative, motivation was the perceived risk involved in the purchase (22 percent), whether it is physical or social risk. Social norms, confusion, and ethical concerns each represented about 10 percent of the motivations toward the purchase of counterfeit items. The least mentioned motivations to purchase, at less than 4 percent each, were culture, habit, and desire to explore. These factors were evident across a variety of 15 product categories, headed by electronics, such as DVDs and computer software.

Practical implications

Through targeting negative motivations, such as perceived physical and social risks, businesses can devise strategies from a demand side perspective to overcome the problem of counterfeit consumption.


Qualitative responses, over many product categories, provide a unique overview to the perception of counterfeit consumption. The finding that consumer ethics may depend on whether the activity benefits the society as a whole is worthy of additional discussion. The authors learn that when consumers thought their counterfeit consumption caused little or no harm, they do not see much ethical concern in their actions.



Tang, F., Tian, V.-I. and Zaichkowsky, J. (2014), "Understanding counterfeit consumption", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 4-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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