Top brands 'hijacked' by cheaper copycats

Consumers are being “tricked” into buying supermarket products whose shape; design and packaging have been engineered to resemble their leading brand alternatives.

Although not a new tactic, the use of ‘parasitic’ packaging by retailers is taking advantage of consumers at a time when they need value for money “more than ever.”

Retailers who copy the look of a leading, trusted brand, which gives them a ‘free ride’ on the back of that brand’s reputation, have already left customers feeling cheated.

One in three people have bought the wrong product because its packaging  was similar to that of a familiar brand, said the British Brands Group, evidencing its verdicts.

On behalf of its 22 members, the group has asked the Office of Fair Trading to “investigate” retailers and take action” where breaches occur to fresh regulations.

The BBG hopes to pin the branding copycats on a clause in the Consumer ***image3*** Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which were introduced in May last year.

It states the following is unfair: “Promoting a product similar to a product made by a particular manufacturer is such a manner as deliberately to mislead the consumer into believing that the product is made by that same manufacturer when it is not.”

About two-thirds of consumers agreed it was misleading when brand packaging was similar, with almost as many saying the copy intended to convey it was the leading brand, or was related to it.

Products identified in the research included Asda's You'd Butter Believe It margarine packs, seen as virtually identical to the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand from Unilever.

Burton’s popular biscuit ring - Jammie Dodgers – was also fingered by BBG as a victim of copying by Lidl with its Jammy Rings and by Aldi with its Jammy  ***image1***Devils.

However, the group said it was “difficult to take action against parasitic packaging”, as the designers behind them are careful not to infringe intellectual property rights such as trade mark and design rights.

John Noble, director of the BBG, said: “This research proves what we have known for a long time: products that hijack established brand identities trick consumers into buying them.”

David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, added: “Branded products owe as much to their packaging design as to their brand names.

“Their owners invest vast amounts to differentiate themselves, build consumer goodwill and brand value. Copying unfairly expropriates that goodwill and steals value.”


14th May 2009

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