I can only imagine how furious the owners of the big grocery brands feel when they find other companies, usually supermarkets, blatantly plagiarising the packaging of their prized assets. The big brands spend millions on marketing their products every year, and for supermarkets to introduce a copycat that not only eats into their market share but also makes them look exorbitantly overpriced must be incredibly frustrating. Aldi even has the temerity to take out TV ads which highlight how much more expensive the brand leader is compared to their similarly packaged products. They’ve done it with everything from Dairylea Cheese Triangles (£1.18 vs 69p) to Heinz Tomato Ketchup (£1.95 vs 69p) and even Moet & Chandon champagne (£25 vs £9.99).
So, if the cheaper product is infringing on a trademark, why don’t the big brands just instruct m’learned friends? Well, one or two have, but this type of disagreement tends to get settled out of court, so we rarely get to hear about the outcome (United Biscuits vs Asda in 1997 was an exception – Asda was ordered to change the packaging of its Puffin chocolate biscuit after it was found guilty of copying Penguin’s).
Of course, if the supermarket is a big buyer of other products from the brand owner, and by definition every supermarket is a big buyer, then the trading relationship will probably be seen as too important to risk over a ‘local issue’ such as the packaging of a single product.
The adult sector is different in that it’s the product that tends to get ripped off rather than the packaging. There have been many instances over the years of clones of successful products appearing, and sometimes the market leader does take action, though the outcomes are usually subject to confidentiality agreements, so the press are not privy to them.
Why am I banging on about this? Because after visiting eroFame I feel it’s important that retailers and the trade get behind the companies who consistently create innovative, reliable and safe products; who supply stores with POS materials; who advertise and promote their brand, and thus the industry as a whole, to the mass market.
An industry full of me-too clones might be good for margins but it would be disastrous for all the other things we’ve come to take for granted.