Counterfeit is a mindset.

The current crisis is putting businesses and brands under the microscope in unexpected ways.

Those that have made vision, mission and values statements in the heat of a relaxed offsite are finding themselves in the spotlight as their real commitment to those values is tested in the heat of the crisis.

Nobody would question the need for dramatic action to protect the business, but the way in which many large and well known businesses have done it demonstrates where, for them, the boundaries of the business lie. Often with the senior management and shareholders, with those who actually do the work treated as replaceable parts, who can be sent off to fend for themselves like animals in a barn fire.

Counterfeit Products

I spent a decade of my life in projects to defend brands from counterfeits, looking at the the risk to brand values from them.

It coincided with the time when offshoring was at its peak.

It was instructive. Brands would offshore high margin items – luxury goods, trainers, pharmaceuticals, which involved degrees of technology transfer, and significant amounts of know how, and then be outraged when new facilities would spring up, adjacent to the ones they has offshored to, who produced identical products, often using labour which had transferred from the authorised site.

I remember one raid in particular, where the counterfeiter argued, with passion, that his products were genuine. It was the brand that was fake. Whilst legally wrong of course, he had a point. The product was actually excellent, it just didn’t carry the marketing overhead of the brand.

Counterfeit Relationships

Counterfeits are fakes or unauthorized replicas of the real product. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product


What the current crisis exposes are those the have, in a similar way, sought to get a free ride on the back of an established brand, except that in this case the brands are ideas.

Sustainabiity, Conscious Capitalism, Artificial Intelligence. Values.

Ideas that are “of the moment” but which require real effort and investment to realise authentically. It’s much easier, faster and cheaper to adapt a website, or a PR claim, or a sticker on the packaging than to actually really do it.

There are those of course, that do. To their credit, and our benefit.

But like counterfeit products, the difference comes when you put them under pressure, to the test. Do they do what it says on the tin?

Countefeits do not only apply to products. Today, they are equally at home in services and relationships, and as the crisis runs its path, we’re seeing which brands are authentic, and which are free riders.

Counterfeits, Brand Values and Personal Values

In more normal times, employees are exhorted to “Live the values of the Brand”. It is however, a two way street.

As we get the other side of this crisis, as individuals, each of us with our own “Brand” – skills, integrity, character – we may want to ask ourselves does the company we work for live ours?

Values are not a statement, it’s who we are.

We become the average of the five people we most associate with. One of those is the brand of the company we work for.

  • It seems likely that the aftermath of this crisis will result in far more flexible ways of working. This crisis has forced it, what’s coming down the track, including adapting to climate change requires it. Flexibility means choice. Of what we do and who we do it for. Choose carefully.
  • This crisis has shown that all the systems in the world cannot compete with human ingenuity driven by care, compassion and love. It’s why each one of us is uniquely valuable. When the going gets tough, humans, not systems, get going. Build who you are, as much as what you do.

More on personal development at

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