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TikTok dupes: unveiling the darker side of the latest social media craze

TikTok dupe trend may seem great for the wallet, but it definitely has negative consequences for brands, the planet and also consumers.

What is the TikTok Dupe trend about?

First of all, the word “dupe” is a shorter form of “duplicate”, and in the context of TikTok it refers to users sharing their findings of affordable alternatives or knock-off versions of popular brands or products. There are thousands of dupes videos on TikTok, showing products of various types, from clothing to cosmetics.

Sometimes these videos take the form of parodies but many other times the users are serious about showcasing their supposedly great deals. Yes, because the products shown are often perfect copies of much more expensive ones.

Are dupes fake? No. The difference between counterfeit products and dupes is that, in the first case, sellers present the product as branded when it is not. For example, a counterfeiter will try to make the buyer believe that the fake bag is really a Gucci, Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag. Instead, dupes are sold by brands and online platforms as their own products, even if they literally copy the design of other brands' products. So, a "dupe" brand will take the design of Gucci, Chanel or Louis Vuitton bags to make their own bags that look exactly like the luxury ones.

Why dupe culture has come so popular on TikTok?

Affordable alternatives or knock-offs are nothing new. However, there are a few reasons why the TikTok Dupe trend is so strong right now.

First of all, there has been a change of mentality.

Until a few years ago, anyone wearing a blatant imitation of a branded item was laughed at. If you ever walked around wearing an "Adidas" hoodie with only two stripes as a teenager, you know what we're talking about. Today, however, things have changed. On TikTok, users are proud to show off their dupes. In short, in the past, we used to buy knock-offs but avoided showing them. Now they are cool! Why? Dupes allow those with no budget to be fashionable.

It is no coincidence that dupe culture exploded on TikTok. The main users of this social platform are Gen Zs. This is the first generation connected since birth, used to sharing their life on social media, very attentive to trends, but with low economic power. They would like to buy high-end products, but they have no money. Dupes are able to satisfy their need to be on top of trends without spending too much. Even if this means having products of lower quality and duration.

phone opening tiktok app

Is it good or is it bad?

At first glance, the TikTok Dupe trend doesn't look so bad, does it? Still, it causes several problems.

Negative consequences of TikTok dupe trend on brands

Obviously, the brands whose products inspired the copied products are not very happy.

Dupes are taking away market share. Of course, quality and exclusivity are not the same, but the consumer often doesn't know it. And while a large brand can handle lost sales, smaller and independent ones can find it more difficult and have serious repercussions.

Furthermore, in addition to lost sales, dupes pose a problem of plagiarism. Considering that videos using #dupe hashtag have been viewed over 1.3 billion times, it's really difficult to trace these contents and then take design protection lawsuits.

Negative consequences on the planet and local communities

Often the brands that produce dupes belong to the Fast Fashion sector, they are the only ones able to produce all the trendiest products quickly and at low prices. But Fast Fashion is the cause of great consumption of raw materials and water, of large quantities of waste both during production and also afterwards: the garments do not last long and soon end up in landfills.

Moreover, many of these dupes are made and sold by companies that lack regulation and government oversight, which can lead to poor working conditions for the employees making them.

Negative consequences on consumers 

While dupes appear to be a bargain at first, in the long run, their poor quality reveals itself. Garments are easily ruined, cannot be repaired or resold, and are thrown away. In short, they are not an investment.

In addition, since they are produced by companies that may not follow regulations, they may contain substances that are hazardous to health.

Turning your clothes into connected products to face dupes

Connected products are products that connect to the Internet and allow brands to share information with their customers. They are an excellent tool to curb the phenomenon of dupes. 

First of all, they can increase consumer engagement and loyalty by offering a phygital experience, between the real and virtual worlds. This is particularly suited to conquering Gen Z which, as we have seen, is highly connected and particularly engaged by the TikTok Dupe trend.

Paradoxically, this generation is also very value-conscious and interested in sustainability. This means that you can easily educate them. Through connected products, brands can tell them more about their products, the origin of raw materials, the sustainability and ethics of their production processes and what to do when they want to dispose of an item. 

In addition, they allow authentication, protecting those who buy original products against unwillingly buying a 'dupe' and facilitating any resale, which facilitates a more circular economy.  

07 Jul 2023

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