Brand Protection & Halloween: How to vanquish ghastly threats

  • Brand Protection
Brand Protection & Halloween: How to vanquish ghastly threats

Marketplaces, e-commerce websites and social media platforms are flooded by both fake versions of licensed goods and counterfeit cosmetics in the run up to seasonal events such as Halloween, at the expense of consumer safety and brand reputation.

This Halloween, with festivities predicted to return with a bang and e-commerce spending projected to reach $2.94 billion[1] in the US, businesses are preparing to tackle a record volume of infringement.

It is critical brand protection teams work with platforms and utilize technology to take the fight to infringers and protect both consumers and licensees from ghastly threats.

Read this piece to learn:

  • How infringers promote products during seasonal events
  • Fake costumes trends during Halloween
  • Fake cosmetics trends during Halloween
  • The brand protection solutions to tackle threats all year round

Counterfeiters prey on seasonal sales and holidays

In 2020, 52% of US parents sourced Halloween costumes in physical stores[2]. However, this year 55% of parents plan to find costumes online[3], suggesting a continued shift in shopping habits – and a greater risk that consumers end up with fake products.

Bad actors use targeted advertising on social media and promoted listings on marketplaces to offer counterfeit and unlicensed goods to unsuspecting consumers. Adverts offer infringing products a level of credibility, fooling many consumers into thinking they are purchasing goods from official channels.

Infringing listings and scam websites often disappear without a trace after the seasonal demand drops-off, leaving consumers out of pocket and unable to replace their low-quality product in time for the festivities.

Spikes in infringing listings for costumes based on characters from popular children’s brands (Corsearch, 2021)

Fake licensed goods haunting marketplaces

Each year, online marketplaces are inundated with listings for costumes and props in the run up to Halloween. Some of these are genuine – unfortunately many are not. Often these costumes are based on popular films, TV shows, video games, and comics. Licensees are left helpless as their listings are pushed further and further down marketplace search rankings, with unlicensed merchandise and counterfeits taking their place.

Counterfeit or otherwise unlicensed costumes also put consumers at risk. They are often made with low-quality materials and may easily tear. In October 2021, an online store ‘Mr Gadget Solutions’ based in the UK was recently fined for selling counterfeit children’s costumes that could have posed a fire risk[4]. The costumes – for popular superheroes such as Batman – were sold on eBay for less than £5.

Brands must act. Corsearch research finds that consumers who end up with counterfeits will direct the majority of their criticism at the brand rather than the platform – 52% of consumers who unintentionally purchase fakes will lose trust in a brand[5].

Examples of spooky fake costumes in 2021

Our brand protection analysts have identified a number of counterfeit and unlicensed costumes heading into Halloween 2021. Popular South-Korean drama Squid Game recently took the streaming world by storm, and a quick scan of eBay and Amazon reveals dozens of high-risk listings.

With Netflix seemingly caught by surprise at the popularity of the show, there is little official merchandise available. Opportunistic infringers have instead filled the gap with unlicensed merchandise, using lifted still images from the hit series and trademarks in their listings.

Examples of suspicious listings found on eBay and Etsy using the search term ‘Squid Game’ (18th October 2021)

Other Netflix properties such as Tiger King are still experiencing high levels of infringement over a year after the series aired.

Example of suspicious listings found on Etsy using the search term ‘Tiger King’ (18th October 2021)

Other popular targets include characters such as Lola Bunny from the recent Space Jam sequel and Monkey D. Luffy from the popular anime and manga series One Piece.

Examples of suspicious listings found on eBay using the search term ‘Loba bunny costume’ and ‘Luffy ‘Monkey D. Luffy costume’ respectively (18th October 2021)

Superheroes and villains are prized targets at Halloween. With the recent release of The Suicide Squad in cinemas, infringers have listed costumes and temporary tattoos designed to emulate the look of fan-favorite Harley Quinn. Again, this listing uses lifts imagery from the film’s marketing materials such as posters and promotional stills.

Example of suspicious listings found on Etsy using the search term ‘Harley Quinn costume’ (18th October 2021)

Trick, not treat: Counterfeit Halloween cosmetics put consumers at risk

Cosmetics are also a popular target for bad actors. $69 million worth of fake cosmetic and pharmaceutical products were seized in the US in 2017, making up 6.5% of all counterfeit seizures.

Multi-colored lenses are often used as a finishing touch to Halloween costumes. Fake contact lenses are widely available, with PIPCU and the US government warning against their purchase.

Counterfeit contact lenses can be particularly dangerous, either through incorrect usage (contact lenses are usually prescribed) or due to the materials used. Opticians warn that their use can lead to infections, conjunctivitis, and impaired vision[6]. Seized counterfeit contact lenses have even been found to contain toxic materials such as lead[7].

Brand protection solutions to tackle threats all year round

Platform collaboration should sit as a core tenet of your brand protection strategy. Consider which marketplace or social media platform your customers visit most often and the sellers they purchase your products from. You’ll also need to be cognizant of the platforms used by your licensees to sell their goods. With this data, you can begin to prioritize and develop robust relationships with the platforms that hold the greatest commercial significance.

You should then seek to engage with them directly or through a trusted partner. The following checklist is useful to kick off your relationship building exercise:

  • Identify relevant contacts within the platforms’ support and legal teams  
  • Educate the platforms about the risks posed by counterfeit products to the consumer and platform reputation 
  • Share the best practices of what other platforms are doing 
  • Consider cultural and business context   
  • Engage in their own language if possible and interact with the relevant representatives where the platform has local websites

Advanced online brand protection technology is critical to success

It is critical to deploy online brand protection technology that works in tandem with platform tools to tackle infringements such as counterfeit or unlicensed costumers at scale, but also:

  • Collects more data on the individuals exploiting your brand
  • Prioritizes high-risk listings that your consumers are most likely to find
  • Makes the connection between brand exploiters operating across multiple channels and regions

The following are some of the key indicators used to identify and prioritize infringements:

  • Price – fake costumes are listed for prices as low as £3.99 to undercut genuine listings
  • Typos or grammatical mistakes within the listing – spelling mistakes of the product or brand name are intentional to deceive consumers
  • Seller address and item location – the listing may claim to be domestic stock but is actually shipped from overseas (or if the seller’s business address is registered overseas)
  • Text embedded within listing images – infringers may embed information such as price, contact details, and product description to avoid keyword detection. Optical character recognition technology will extract this information.

Corsearch’s brand protection platform: Online brand protection technology that delivers outcomes

Corsearch’s brand protection platform is more than technology — it’s the smarter way to protect your brand and see long-term impact. Businesses that switch to Corsearch’s brand protection platform see greater reduction of infringements, quicker return on investment, and superior long-term business impacts. They understand their threats better, act quicker and make lasting change.

Online Brand Protection Maturity Report: The 4 stages to maximizing your brand’s strategic potential

As they mature, brand protection teams become increasingly strategic – able not only to counter threats, but to identify new growth opportunities for the business. 

This report outlines the four stages of this journey, helping you recognize where your organization currently sits, the tools you can use to progress, and the value to be achieved by doing so.