Bad Influence(r)

We’ve written before about the increase in investment scams that are being reported to the authorities during lockdown, especially those that have their roots in Social media. Taking one particular platform as an example, Action Fraud, the UK’s Police National Reporting Centre for fraud and online crime, have been a huge increase in cases related to Instagram, with monthly financial losses attributed to scams that originate on the popular network hitting almost £200,000 a month.

The presence of genuine influencers, people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic, on social media has led to a significant rise in copycat individuals, who will use the same approach and tactics to give the impression that they are “in favour” of particular brands and so garner authenticity for what they are promoting, either directly or indirectly.

Influencers make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who are influenced by the products or services the are talking about. Consequently, brands benefit because the influencers are trendsetters and reach audiences in ways that they often can’t.

For a platform such as Instagram it is all about the image, or images. A picture can tell a thousand words and because of the amount of time the current millennials, now becoming the latest generation with disposable income, spend on Social Media, most big brands will have a strategy not only for how to build their audience online but also how to use influencers.

Sometimes the line is blurred between who is a real influencer and whether they are officially endorsing a product. That is one of the reasons behind the increase in reported fraud – savvy social media users become too trusting over time.

One particular case, reported last week by the BBC underlines the issues that the Social Media platforms face, where a 24 year old lost the best part of £17,000 having been approached by someone he followed on Instagram, offering him an investment opportunity.

“I was following this guy on Instagram and he always posts with his car, a rose gold Maserati, saying that he’s rich and self-made and really young, he’s only 21,” the victim said. The approach was to invest in a similar foreign exchange trading scheme that had made him so much money. He started off with a £1,000 investment and initially made some money before investing significantly more and slowly seeing it disappear, unable to withdraw his funds as part of the scam.

New investment schemes including those featuring digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum have become very popular because of the significant gains that can be made in a short-term. However, the risk of high losses also exists in such volatile markets. Nevertheless, the issue in this case wasn’t the unpredictability of the financial assets but the scheme it was invested in.

Despite the fact the instigator of the investment offer potentially owning such a unique car, he has disappeared and so has the victims case.

“There’s no place for fraudulent or inauthentic behaviour on Instagram. We have a safety and security team of 35,000 people working to keep our platforms safe and we block millions of inauthentic accounts every day,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.

The warning is clear from Facebook. “People are sucked in and want to believe it and want that lifestyle, especially these days, with young people struggling to get jobs. You definitely see more people looking at different and newer ways to make more money. We have a safety and security team of 35,000 people working to keep our platforms safe and we block millions of inauthentic accounts every day.”

Now more than ever it is important we keep our wits about us when we are using Social Media. It is far too easy for fraudsters to create a believable persona with pictures of glamorous lifestyles in luxurious destinations that can be used to hoodwink others. Always take any offers with a pinch of salt and do your own research, remembering if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Do I not Like that?

Last week we looked at the increasing trend on Social Media for scammers to use multiple domain names for the same adverts. But that isn’t the only approach that those who want to steal our personal and financial information use. Let’s look this week at how the bad actors play on our incessant need to grab a bargain.

But first we need to make a very important, clear statement. Despite what you may see, it is very rare for major brands to give away something in exchange for a like, share, comment or retweet. It doesn’t matter how benevolent they may seem, you need to ask yourself one simple question before you engage. Why?

In our COVID-driven, recession-fuelled need for a bargain, we often leave sense at the door when it comes to giving away our personal and financial details online. There is a belief that if there is a logo in an advert it is genuine. Social Media wouldn’t let anyone pretending to be someone else advertise on their network after all, right?

Wrong. Fraudsters use exactly the same methods to win “customers” as genuine brands, whether that is via SEO, email marketing, cold calling and extensive use of social media. Many platforms allow advertisers, whether they have good intentions or not, to target their adverts to have the most impact or return on investment. They use a strategy to grab attention, create interest and then watch their offers grow as unassuming social media users share the information among their networks, creating multi-layers of opportunity from one initial, low cost, advert.

Let’s take the advert below as an example. For those who aren’t aware, Argos is an established High Street brand in the UK that sells a wide range of goods through their stores. You can go online, choose the products you want and either have them delivered or collect in store. However, they would never choose to advertise in this way.

For starters, let us ignore the poor grammar and spelling but concentrate on the offer. Argos has 50 “Curved” TVs. The picture shows they are Samsung TVs. Why not say that for a start? Perhaps because the word Samsung would be picked up by the Social Media platform as a brand name and be more likely to be scrutinised.

Secondly, why would Argos be prepared to give them away. What is stopping them selling them? If there was little damage, why wouldn’t they sell them as such? Retailers also have insurance that covers for stock damage which for 50 TVs would be worth a few thousand pounds.

Third. Why do you think the only criteria is to share and like the post? Because by liking and sharing it give authenticity to the offer. If 2,000 people like something it doesn’t sound fishy at all. They have 50 to give away and so it becomes very easy to choose 50 (or almost certainly more than 50) at random from the likes to give the TV’s away to. Except they aren’t giving them away totally for free. In scams like this you will be asked to pay a delivery or an admin/insurance/warranty fee – maybe something small like £50 but if 100 people are all doing the same, there is a nice profit from a small ad at minimal cost. Naturally, there isn’t any TV and once the money has been paid, the “brand” will disappear.

Looking at the advert itself is enough to surely make you realise all is not well. The spelling (aloud rather than allowed, fulling instead of fully) and the grammar (capital R in Returned, TV’s rather than TVs) would not pass inspection with any brands who were advertising on or off line, whilst there is no branding in the photos that would back up this was a genuine offer.

Major brands do not offer goods and services this way. Whilst we may want to believe it is true and the general altruistic values they may have, there is no value for them in doing this.

The more people that do engage, like and share, the more the fraudsters will continue with their nefarious campaigns. We all have a part to play in this. Always question why a brand may be offering such deals, bargains or the like and remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf

Last week we wrote about the five tell-tale signs Social Media scams. There tends to be two different types of ways that fraudsters look to exploit social media users for their own financial gain.

  • Setting up Facebook groups that pretend to be owned and operated by brand holders
  • Buying adverts on different Social Media platforms that look the same but use a network of different domain names

In this post we are going to focus on the latter scenario.

The growth of Social Media has been nothing short of phenomenal. Almost every Social Media network is a living example of a tipping point, as described by the best-selling book of the same name by Malcolm Gladwell where it experiences explosive growth as internet users jump on the latest fad. The fact that most platforms now essentially do and offer the same thing is irrelevant – for a significant number of social media users it is all about how many friends/followers/likes/retweets and comments they get.

It is no surprise that social media advertising revenue growth continues to outstrip revenues streams from many offline businesses. In 2019, Facebook generated nearly $70 billion from advertising, accounting for more than 98% of the company’s total revenue. With 2.7 billion active users, that means that for every active user, they are responsible for generating $25 for Facebook. That’s pretty impressive and why Facebook and others are continually looking at increasing the number of advertisers and the volume of ads we see.

Because of the way that Social Media platforms capture the data we voluntarily add, as we as some of our search habits, interests or what advertisers we have engaged with before, they offer highly targeted data for businesses big and small. Whereas traditional advertising, such as print or TV can be targeted at a wide demographic – advertising in The Standard newspaper for instance is relevant for a London-focused campaign, it is hard to be able to target any ads through the newspaper on specific age or interest groups. The Social Media’s huge databases of actionable intelligence allows advertisers to be very specific on who they want to target, with which message, on which days, at what times and what the call to action is. Social Media advertising has been a game changer for many small businesses.

But is has also allow those with nefarious intentions to use exactly the same actionable intelligence, the same tactics and the same calls to action to commit fraud. It is incredibly difficult for the Social Media networks to stop many of the advertisers with illicit intentions from launching a campaign although they are relatively quick at taking them down once they are notified of issues.

But that can be days or even weeks in some cases, during which time ads could have been seen by thousands, even millions of people and significant damage has been done. In our previous post about social media scams we focused on five tell-tale signs that an advert could be a scam, with the advertiser’s aim in gaining your personal and financial details. Often the only way anybody will know that a website which is advertising on Social Media is a scam is when any goods or services that have been ordered fail to materialise. Naturally, the scammer may appear to be helpful in dealing with perceived delays of orders. “It’s Christmas and the Royal Mail has severe backlogs”, ‘Brexit has meant our goods are stuck in a warehouse in Belgium” or “Our delivery firm have got a COVID-19 outbreak”. All genuine reasons for goods being delayed, but also very handy for the scammers to continue their illicit practice before their websites and ads are shut down.

One tactic that some fraudsters use is to register a bunch of domain names that on the face of it seem relatively harmless and don’t draw any unwarranted attention from brand holders by using trademarks or key terms but all appear on Social Media as identical ads and resolve to identical websites. Why? Because they use the different domains to focus on different demographics of users. The fraudsters have SEO and Social Media advertising experts who will tweak their ads to get the best return on investment. So when you see the same ad time and time again it is worth checking on the domain name being used and doing a Whois search to see when it was registered. The chances are it would have been relatively recently and the registrant details will be protected with a privacy company’s details.

Last year, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 467,361 complaints, with reported losses exceeding $3.5 billion. This will be the tip of the iceberg. Many victims will not report the crimes they experienced to the authorities for a variety of reasons. According to the study last year, 94% of respondents who had admitted to have been scammed online said that they had originally connected with the fraudsters via Facebook or subsidiary platform Instagram.

There are some fantastic small businesses who use Facebook ads to generate their revenues. The ads provide low cost ways to reach targeted audiences across the globe and have undoubtedly contributed massively to the global economies. But that bonhomie has also allowed the fraudsters to grow their illicit businesses. We all need to play a part in limiting their successes by being vigilant and aware of potential scams. If you do see multiple ads for good and services on Facebook, stop and ask why a company would be doing that. Do you own research and then decide whether the potential reward is worth the risk.

Five tell-tale signs of a Social Media scam

We’ve all seen the ads on our Social Media feeds. Items that look too good to miss at prices that seem like real bargains. We resist the temptation to buy but then we keep seeing the ads appear again and again over the course of the next few days. Some may believe this is down to the Law of Attraction, a hypothesis that if our subconscious wants something, we will become more attuned to seeing that object in our daily lives. Alas, it’s not “fate”, “destiny” or some magic that conspiracy theorists will attribute to 5G. This relates to the complex algorithms that the social media networks are constantly developing where the constant objective is to match buyer demand (social media users) with seller products (advertisers). It is a classic economic model of supply in most markets will meet demand.

There is no doubt that the use of Social Media has been instrumental in the growth of a number of brands as well as our choice as a consumer. It has allowed small brands to be seen on the widest possible stage without the need for huge marketing budgets. I, like many of you, will have bought items via seeing ads on Social Media that are tailored to my interests – craft beer, wall art and football shirts, for instance. Every time I click on an ad that data is recorded and used by the Social Media networks with other advertisers to serve the most relevant ad to me, whether they offer genuine products or not.

So how can you tell whether an advert that we see on Social Media is a genuine bargain or a scam? Fraudsters use the same tactics to grab the attention of Social Media users as genuine brands do but in the vast majority of cases they are looking for a quick return on their investment in Social Media advertising campaign

Whilst there are a number of ways to determine the legitimacy of any offers or adverts on Social Media, the five most common signs that should raise a red flag are as follows:

  1. Poor spelling and grammar – I’m not sure why something so simple to correct is often the biggest giveaway that an ad is a scam. Just as luxury brands will never use words such as “bargain” or even “discount”, standard ads that have spelling errors and simple grammatical mistakes are a giveaway. “Their” rather than “They are” or “a loud” rather than “allowed”.
  2. Eye-catching pricing and deep discounts – “If it looks too good to be true”. The best way to grab a Social Media users attention is to promote products that appear to be amazing or are at amazing prices. I’m sure we have all seen the fantastic coffee tables that have a giant iPad surface or projectors the size of a matchbox that can beam an image on the side of a building. The images used in the adverts are often all identical computer generated ones, meaning that any logo can be added based on the users preference.
  3. Lack of standard contact details and overly positive reviews – On the website of the company look for the contact details. If it is simply a contact us form then you should be suspicious. Most reputable companies will have a phone number, email address or even live chat to address any questions or issues. Also, look at the address of the company (if there is one). Check if it is a legitimate address. Search the address via a Search Engine and see what the results are – if there are multiple companies listed there it could simply be a poste restante, an address a company hires to have any post delivered to. Also, look out for overly positive reviews
  4. Multiple adverts, offering the same product using different domain names – If you start seeing the same ad time and time again but the domain name being used is different every time then it is worth considering why? Few brands will use a different website to offer the same products and services – any SEO expert will tell you the dangers to search rankings of duplicate content. But for the advertisers, having multiple domain names gives them some protection against domain names being suspended or taken down.
  5. Domain security including SSL – One almost sure-fire way to see if a website is suspicious is the date when the domain name was registered, which you can check via a simple lookup through http://www.whois.com. Most organisations will register domain names many months in advance of a product or brand launch, building their web presence and social media marketing from there. However, most of the Social Media scams tend to be published on websites where domain names have been registered recently. In addition, any websites that requires personal or financial data need to be protected by SSL. Few of these websites have that – in the final image above you can see there is an SSL logo but that is all it is, it isn’t a real SSL.

There are more tell-tale signs that can be used to distinguish between ads for real products and the fakes or non-existent ones but these five are the most commonest and quickest to use to verify the legitimacy. And remember, if an ad looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Day 12 of avoiding Christmas scams – Social Media scams

Where do you start with scams on Social Media? You don’t have to look far on Social Media to find some sponsored ads or messages that are designed to hoodwink people and drive financial gain into the hands of the fraudsters and scam artists.

One common ploy used by scam artists is to pretend to represent a well-known brand who are desperate to give away stock or sell it off at cut price.

One instance we saw frequently during lockdown in 2020 was Facebook groups set up using the Argos brand. A typical example can be seen on the left where the brand is claiming to be giving away 50 damaged expensive items in exchange for sharing the post and liking the page. What harm is there in that?

Naturally, if you do that then the fraudsters will contact you to say you are one of the lucky 50 and they just need a few more details from you…oh, and the delivery fee. Naturally, by the time people realise they have been scammed, the Facebook pages no longer exist.

They can easily add credibility to their posts and pages by buying likes and even comments from companies that offer a story. The scam looks a lot more genuine if people are adding comments saying they have their items and they work perfectly.

There’s a number of warning signs that posts like the one on the left are not genuine. Firstly, the spelling and grammar is poor – “Returned” not “returned”, “Curved” not “curved”, “for a numerous reasons”, “fulling working” and “aloud” rather than “allowed”.

And then there is the fact as to why a major retailer such as Argos would be simply giving away stock – why wouldn’t they do that through their shops in the first place if they did had such items? My main issue with the photo used (the top one) is that worrying crack running along the floor to the left of the TVs rather than the damaged stock.

Unfortunately, it is far too easy for the scammers to set up these pages, cause damage and then move onto the next scam. Whilst the social media networks need to up their game in detecting and stopping brands being abused, social media users also need to heed the warning signs and stop simply handing over personal and financial details so willingly. If there is not demand, there will be no supply.

And that’s it for our 12 Days of Christmas Scams for another year. Let’s hope that in a year’s time we will be living and working in happier times and these posts can tell stories of how consumers have beaten the scammers and not vice-versa.

The $500m gift that doesn’t keep on giving

It’s Christmas time which can only mean one thing in the world of cyber security – festive-related scams.  It amazes me how many of my normally sensible friends somehow lose their sense of due diligence when presented with offers that simply look too good to be true on Social Media.

If someone we’d never met before came up to us in the street as we were doing our Christmas shopping and offered us $5,000 simply because they were feeling generous, we’d be very sceptical indeed.  But it appears that if that stranger appears to be a famous brand or a celebrity online, then all sense of precaution goes out of the window.

This week a scam was uncovered on Instagram that beggar’s belief, yet thousands seem to have been hoodwinked into giving away personal details.  Oprah Winfrey has over 40m followers on Twitter and around 11.3m on Instagram and is considered to be one of the most successful media stars in the US.  But would she really be giving away $500m to random followers on Social Media?  Well yes, if you believed the Instagram account @OwnChristmas.  To add some “authenticity” to the giveaway, a doctored Twitter message was added to the page, supposedly showing the promise to give away the cash from Winfrey’s verified Twitter account.

All you needed to do to get the cash was to send OwnChristmas their personal details including bank usernames.  It is unknown how many followed the instructions before the account was identified and removed from Instagram but significant damage could have been done.

It wasn’t only Oprah who was giving away cash to complete strangers – boxer Floyd Mayweather apparently was going to give $1,000 to the first fifty thousand followers of his new Instagram account – all people needed to do was follow him and send him a Direct Message as to how the money was to be paid, or in other words, to give a complete stranger your bank account details.  Whilst Mayweather is a successful sportsman, who motivation would be have to give complete strangers $50million?

Another ‘too good to be true’ offer that I saw this week was a free holiday for four to Hawaii, provided by First Choice on Facebook.  Now, there is a very well-known and successful holiday company called First Choice Holidays that has been operating for years in the UK.  This wasn’t anything to do with them, but the wording of the advert suggested it was something that one of their High Street stores was offering.  All you had to do was ‘like’ the offer, add a positive comment and someone would be in touch to confirm your entry via email.  The ad soon disappeared so we don’t know what the ultimate aim of those behind the scam were – it may have been simply to harvest some personal details that could be sold on, or they may have approach numerous ‘participants’ congratulating them on their win and asking for an admin fee to process the holiday.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to create scams on Social Media with little in the way of verification of adverts and offers.  Fraudsters also buy Social Media followers and likes to give their online presence a sense of authenticity for a few dollars.  Whilst the window of opportunity is normally limited before a tipping point of complaints force the Social Media networks to remove the offending adverts, all they need are a few to bite and submit personal or even financial details and they will be in significant profit.

Whilst many well-known brands will actively use Social Media to engage with customers, and many will offer competitions to build their social media footprint, they will never ask for information such as bank account details or usernames and passwords.  Always ask yourself if it’s too good to be true, and if it is then it is more than likely to be a scam.

Just because it is the season of giving, do not be one of those who are taken in.

Is brand loyalty dead?

Billions of pounds are spent every year by organisations to build brand loyalty within their customer base.  One of the traditional cornerstones of marketing theory is that consumers are loyal followers of a brand, whether through aspirational desires or simply that customers are content with the convenience that a brand gives them – a classic tale of needs and wants.

But the world is changing.  We are becoming less loyal to brands and as a consequence, brand holders need to adapt their traditional strategic marketing plans.  Why is this happening?  No one can put a finger on one definitive reason but we can suggest four theories that have contributed to this shift in consumer behaviour.

  1. Consumer empowerment – Twenty years ago the number of customers who switched their main banking organisation was minute. With the banking system still in the early stages of adopting the technological shift that now gives us so many advantages, the risks of things going wrong in the movement of a bank account far outweighed the benefits that a better deal on an interest rate may give.  Today, technology means that switching banks is as painless and risk-free as changing supermarket brands.  In many instances the banks and service providers we used have simply become slightly different shades of grey.  Whether we know (and are prepared to admit it) we are commodity buyers.  Supermarkets today offer the same products, the same services and often share the same postcode.  They fight for our attention by promising to be cheaper than the others.  Gone are the days when companies used to offer to “beat any price by 1 pence”.  That isn’t enough for the savvy shopper.  We know that we can shop around whilst sitting on a train, at our desks or from our sofa.  Comparison websites have done the hard work for us, acting like football agents, happy to play one party to a transaction off against another for a small slice of the pie.  Whilst we may not totally realise it, we are the empowered generation.brand-loyalty-word-cloudWe were also loyal to utility and service providers because they were able to keep barriers to entry in place after they had been deregulated.  Telecommunications, Gas, Electricity and television services have all been able to continue to discriminate in terms of price and service, offering attractive deals to win new customers, whilst keeping existing clients on old deals.  As these markets have liberalised, consumers now have the power to move from provider to provider to get the best deal, or customer service, showing no remorse for brand loyalty.
  1. Peer reviews – Which? The UK-based Consumer Association were always seen as the customer’s champion, happy to butt heads with some of the biggest brands in the world over poor service. However, it didn’t really help us make decisions here and now.  Today, the Internet allows us to search for recommendations and reviews for products and services with no boundaries.  Peer reviews have become more important and valuable to a restaurant or a hotel than a Michelin Star or Five Star rating.  The Global Financial Crisis has meant we have all had to become a bit more careful with our hard-earned cash and so we make more researched decisions using the power of Social Media and peer review sites.  As Warren Buffet once said, “A great reputation is like virginity. It can be preserved, but it can’t be restored.”

Supermarket shoppers now value cost and access over brand loyalty.  Mark Price, Managing Director of Waitrose, recently summed up this changing trends in UK Supermarket shopping in an interview with The Telegraph.

“People are buying food for now.  The notion that you are going to go and push a trolley around for the week is a thing of the past.  All these trends are effectively pulling people out of the big box, out-of-town retailing”  With a number of the low-cost, no frills chains now firmly established in High Street sites, vacated by the big brands as they moved to out of town megastores, customer loyalty to a particular brand is slowly disappearing.  There is no longer any shame in using these budget supermarkets, especially as a number of their products are winning awards for quality over the more established retailers.

  1. Market disrupters – 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the Social Media revolution. Today, Facebook has over 1.2 billion “users” – meaning that 1 in every 5 people on Planet Earth uses the Social Media site.  Katy Perry has more followers, hanging onto her every word, on Twitter than the combined populations of Australia, Sweden and The Netherlands combined.  A software application that has never created a dollar in revenues from its basic product set of allowing someone to send a message to another user was sold for $22 billion in early 2014, a basic service that has been used since mobile phones were created.  Try and work the return on investment out on that!  But these are the organisations that shape our behaviours today.  Tomorrow’s disrupters are still in the minds of their inventors and founders, waiting for that compelling event, the bright spark, to launch them into the world.  The users of these products are complete brand agnostic.  If it is the latest trend, the craze that all of their friends are talking about, then they will engage.
  1. Privacy – Every organisation we interact with online wants our personal data. They want to understand what makes us buy goods and services, and what they need to do to make us buy more.  Loyalty cards were all the rage ten years ago, our wallets bulging with cards for every retail chain we used.  We stayed loyal to a brand so that we could earn more points, and ultimately get the rewards which normally meant spending more time or money engaging with the brand.  The brand holders were clever – they realised this and ensured that the information they were getting back from our spending patterns allowed them to start targeting promotions at us.  That behaviour has now simply switched to our online world, with our every move now tracked, and whilst we used to marvel at the fact that ads used to appear on websites for products we were just thinking about, we now know that is because of the footprint we leave every time we take a step online.

Whilst there have been changes to what data can be collected, by whom and when, we are lazy consumers, rarely taking time to understand the warning notices on websites about Cookie collection, clicking “accept” so that we can simply get to the main details on the website. And the more data organisation can collect on us, about who we are, where we live, what we buy and therefore what we may be thinking about, the more valuable as a “data file” we become.  Our profiles are sold on multiple times without us ever knowing.  Knowing how certain brands use the data we give them makes us less likely to ever be a brand ambassador for them.

People are simply not as loyal as they used to be. Our Socialnomic world means that we are happier interacting with nameless, faceless entities online, content to make short-term decisions for instant gratification of our needs and wants.  The consumer is revolting, in the nicest sense of the word, becoming more educated and happier to change their spending habits.  Brand loyalty to some shoppers simply refers to them visiting a particular store to find products before they “showroom” online to find the best deal.

This all sounds great.  The consumer revolution is here.  But what about the dangers it brings?  Our natural habit when searching for a product or service online is to use the words “cheap”, “free” or “discount” in our search terms.  We want quality but are rarely prepared to pay the market rate for it.  We buy into the concept that the consumer is king and as such feel that we deserve a discount for not being loyal to a brand anymore.  Consequently, we open ourselves up to danger online.

Just as brand holders realise that they have to make their online presence more compelling to attract the “floating voters”, so too do cyber criminals who understand how they can exploit our new-found brand freedom.  They will use the same tactics as brand marketers, offering headline promotions and deals to reel us in to their websites.  In many instances they even go as so far as building copycat websites to give us that warm glow that we have genuinely got a bargain.  That is until the goods turn up at your door (if you are lucky), looking nothing like or performing like the real thing.  Trying to retain brand loyalty for many organisations online is now also a matter of managing reputation and supply chains.  Someone who buys a “fake” Mulberry handbag may genuinely believe that they are buying into a brand, even though the item is counterfeit. In reality they are simply buying it because in their eyes they are getting a bargain.  By removing the fake items off the internet does not mean they will buy a real product at twice the price instead.

One area where brand loyalty remains is in technology.  That loyalty may not be through choice, rather than through convenience.  Technology companies have never really wanted users to be able to switch to alternative brands – a simple look in my plug cupboard at home will reveal over a dozen mobile phone chargers, all different depending on the manufacturer.  Digital media, such music, films and books in most instances cannot be transferred between devices made by different manufacturers, nor in theory can they be passed onto friends or family such as a physical CD, DVD or a book can.  The popularity of Spotify, Netflix and Kindle, which are all vendor-independent has had a massive impact on digital piracy, with users happy to pay a small monthly charge (in the case of the first two) to access genuine and quality content.

Loyalty is dead. The consumer revolution will continue to shape our spending habits, and with e-commerce now worth over £13bn per annum, brand holders need to re-align their thinking on how they can build a more compelling brand argument that focuses not solely on loyalty but on value, consumer choice and above all quality.  The brands that will emerge as winners in the 21st century will be those that get their engagement strategy right whilst retaining some of the old fashion values of convenience, price and above all customer service.