Makeup compacts with "Do Not Copy" stamp

Imitation might be a form of flattery, but when it comes to copycats ripping off product ideas, visual identity, packaging, and brand campaign shoots, flattery takes a backseat. So, how are brands fighting back in 2023?

1. Strengthen B2C & B2B Community Bonds

The most successful brands focus not just on building strong B2C customer relationships but on building strong relationships with their entire ecosystem of stakeholders to solidify their market position. By nurturing a rich network of relationships, brands accumulate trust indicators over time that encourage well-informed customers to choose them over copycat competitors.

Some beauty brands address copycat issues head-on, on social media, by sharing their story boldly in a way that rallies their community. This approach can actually build further trust and cohesion amongst their customer base. For brands taking this avenue, it's essential to be cautious and avoid exposing oneself to liabilities such as slander or libel. This direct approach works incredibly well for brands with a brand DNA or tone of voice that is bold, daring, and fearless. However, for other brands with a vastly different brand DNA and tone, the same approach would fall flat, doing more harm to your brand than good.

Brands like Youthforia, a Gen Z color cosmetics brand, have successfully employed this strategy with content calling out a copycat being among their highest engagement posts.

@youthforia Replying to @sacheu sending ???????? to all small business owners who’ve experienced this #beautydupes #makeupfounder #beautyfounder ♬ Blade Runner 2049 - Synthwave Goose

2. Tell a Unique Story

Customers naturally crave brands that exude authenticity, inspire trust, and align with their personal values. To meet the mark, brands must ensure their content goes beyond merely speaking about product features, benefits, and trending memes, and incorporate strategic brand storytelling to build real affinity with their audiences by going beyond surface-level themes. Successful brands are those that master the art of using their brand DNA and voice as filters to determine which trending content best complements their digital marketing strategy. Brands with unique identities and values woven into their content strategies engage more effectively with their online audiences across multiple social channels.

3. Reinvest in Innovation
In an ongoing series by Beauty Independent, beauty brand founders and executives shared their experiences dealing with copycats or counterfeits. In this article, it was revealed that when some founders observed smaller and larger brands mimicking their packaging, visuals, and graphic approach, which has prompted their companies to continuously innovate.

It's also been revealed that some D2C brands now intentionally look for opportunities to streamline operations with automation, to reallocate resources into innovation, and outperform the competition. By allocating incremental resources to R&D, brand-building content campaigns, and CRM strategy, indie beauty brands can stay one step ahead. It's this constant drive for innovation in product and brand communications that makes it harder for copycats to keep up.

4. Call in the Reinforcements

Some businesses are taking extra measures, such as creating distinct packaging and labeling, or adding security layers to distinguish genuine products from fake ones when needed.

When copycats overstep legal boundaries, it's essential to bring in professional assistance. Intellectual property lawyers clarify that if a "substantial similarity" exists between the original and a copycat in terms of copyright, pursuing a legal case is a viable option.

Legal action can become crucial in protecting a brand and its loyal following, as customers with issues regarding poor-quality counterfeits often contact the original company with complaints, tarnishing their reputation. While counterfeits can be flattering, they can also pose serious health risks to consumers.

In conclusion, indie beauty brands can effectively combat copycats by fostering robust communities, sharing unique brand stories, investing in innovation, and seeking appropriate legal support when necessary. This multifaceted approach empowers brands to protect their reputation and ensure the safety and satisfaction of their customers.

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Author: Effie Asafu-Adjaye
Effie Asafu-Adjaye is the Founder of Beautiful Sparks. Beautiful Sparks helps beauty and fashion businesses get more fanatics in love with their brands, by refining their brand strategy, messaging, branding, content storytelling, and community-building strategy. Read more about Effie here. Linkedin | Youtube