A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

brand loyalty in Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 23, 2008

I’m still breathing fire about the 28 million copies of Obsession that have been distributed to swing state residents over the past few weeks – equal 9% of our total population, and as I noted in my last post, a huge financial investment in hate. I welcome your comments, thoughts, and stories about any reactions you might have heard from people who received the DVD, as well as political and civic leaders.

But I’m also moving back to my usual focus: Lebanon. Today’s topic is: counterfeit products. Its not a completely off-the-wall segue: just imagine how much cheaper the Obsession campaign would have been had the Clarion Fund simply made illegal copies of the film? I bet production costs could have been cut from $1 to $0.10 – including the cost of the movie ticket for someone’s Malaysian cousin to tape the film surreptitiously in a local theater.

On Saturday, this advertisement/announcement appeared in the Daily Star:

What does this mean? I thought to myself.Even if you don’t read Arabic, you can see that the Arabic text is a bit unusual. See the diagonal line over the black word on the far right, and the two diagonal w’s over the black words on the left? Those are diacritical marks, which are only used for less familiar words – words that Arabic-speakers need guidance in pronouncing, which in turn indicates their meaning.

For me, those diacritical marks meant that I had to get out my dictionary.

Here’s what the announcement says:

Congratulations to the 67,000 Lebanese

Who have combated imitator and false products

The red button with Arabic text on it says: Ask for your right. Call 1739.

“Ask for your right?” I thought. And how exactly have these 67,000 Lebanese combated imitations and fakes?

Apparently they have been combating them for the past five years. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, which honored the Brand Protection Group – Lebanon in 2007, it

strives to raise awareness of the social and economic effects of counterfeiting in government as well as in the general public. In 2005, BPG Lebanon launched a national awareness campaign under the message “Ask for your right. Refuse counterfeit products” and repeated it in 2006/2007. The BPG Lebanon is also Commended in the Media category of the GAC Awards 2007.

I do think many products in Lebanon are less-than-licit, even (or perhaps especially) those from major Western companies. But maybe this organization is making an impact. On its website, it lists “useful tips” for consumers and for companies. For consumers, one of its recommendations is: Always ask for the invoice of your purchase. This is your tool to claim back your rights and be refunded.

Receipts in Lebanon can be a very serious matter. Not the ones from Monoprix or the corner bakkala – but whenever I’ve purchased something major, like my wireless router or my television, the seller has ceremoniously attached an official stamp to it, and had me sign over the stamp. Its not merely a record – its a legal document.

Of course, the production of fake commodity-level branded products is just as insidious for their manufacturers. But just as with the designer handbags knocked off and sold on Canal Street here in New York, attacking brand imitators seems to start with high-end products.

And I do like the idea that 67,000 Lebanese were confident enough in the hotline’s efficacy (or mad enough that their purchase turned out to be fake) to call and complain. Accountability is an important part of good governance.


One Response to “brand loyalty in Lebanon”

  1. Diamond, it is 670 thousands people not 67,000 😉

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