The sincerest form of flattery

Blogs Jason Cannon August 16, 2013

Brand identity is nearly as important as the brand itself.

Don’t believe me?

Open up a burger joint and call it McDonald’s. You’ll have a sternly worded letter from a corporate attorney before you get to the end of this sentence.

McDonald’s, for all its flaws, has built a strong brand identity through consistent marketing and consistent product delivery.

A Big Mac in California tastes the same as one in Wyoming and, aside from sales tax fluctuations, it costs almost the same, too.

It comes in the same size box with the same package markings and it’s handed to you by someone wearing the same style uniform.

Part of having an effective brand is knowing that regardless of where your goods come from, they’re all the same. That’s something McDonald’s has mastered.

The items inside the box are what the business is built on, but the branding on the box is the confidence-instilling vehicle.

That confidence is earned over years of product delivery but can be snatched away in a fraction of a minute.

According to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, counterfeiting costs American businesses $200 billion to $250 billion annually.

Several million of that number falls right in the aftermarket.

Counterfeit parts are made and packaged to look like and be presented as a quality manufactured parts.

I’m not talking about “value brand” parts. There’s a big difference.

Value brands are often similar to their more expensive counterparts, yet advertised as a cheaper alternative. Value brands are a large and important part of the aftermarket and in general provide a quality product for their price point.

Counterfeit parts most often use inferior components and are pieced together by people with an inferior skillset, and they are represented as the leading brand.

Fighting back is difficult since most counterfeit parts are imported.

It’s difficult but not impossible.

Your best bet is to take the fight to the streets. Be proactive. Protect yourself.

For parts manufacturers and distributors; how intricate is your logo?

Could an 8 year old with a box of crayons reproduce it?

Is it a common color or a common font?

If it can be easily reproduced, it probably will be.

Do you ship your parts in plain boxes? Don’t do that.

Does your component have your name stamped on it? It should.

The small details are what thwart counterfeiters.

If you’ve got an intricate packaging design and marked parts, counterfeiters may move on to the next guy. They make their money in how quickly they can kick out inferior parts. Spending a week copying your “style” eats into profits.

Those parts in a box that looks like yours will do nothing but drag down the reputation you’ve work so hard to build.

Distributors should immediately beware of anyone peddling quality components at bargain basement prices.

If your Brand X salesman has been selling you brake drums for the same price for years, odds are a significant price reduction from an alternate source isn’t legit.

If a salesman representing several unaffiliated brands calls you on, beware — especially if he’s got an ample supply in his truck.

Counterfeit parts not only can have a negative impact on brand awareness, they can also be deadly.

A common trick with counterfeit brakes is to use sawdust or compressed grass as filler materials.  That’s not going to stop a truck weighing more than 15 tons driving 60 miles per hour.

When ordering your parts, make sure you’re speaking directly to the source.

It’s rarely a good idea to agree to a bulk order of anything over the phone, regardless of the price, especially if that phone call was unsolicited from an unfamiliar source.

Installing counterfeit parts poses a similar problem to a business’s reputation.

If you take two hours to install a new alternator, and that person has to be towed back three days later, they’re not likely to become a frequent customer.

Brand awareness is built on the strength of marketing and quality, and it takes significantly less time to erode that confidence with counterfeit parts than it does to build it with hard work.

Jason Cannon is Online Managing Editor for Truck Parts & Service.

You can follow me on twitter at @By_Jason_Cannon