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Common sense shows that most consumers –as long as they can afford to – will always choose products and services of quality, originality and authenticity. However, this belief is not so true; there are trends and buying habits that are pulling in the opposite direction.
One of them is the significant consumer market for fake products that exists nowadays, and how well it is doing. Consumer interest in the so-called “faketastic” (both fake and fantastic at the same time) is expanding in more markets and countries, for many such items are the perfect combination of good quality, low price and convenience.
They also shock and surprise… and they make one feel fantastic. The faketastic trend appears at a moment when the concept of what is authentic seems to be in the process of being redefined. Welcome to the world of fake, but overwhelmingly fantastic, things.
Quality and good taste remain the most respected values for any brand in any market, but there are some trends that make those concepts clash. One of them is the definition of faketastic, which, according to language experts, is very recent.
At first, the word was used in the United States to describe foods in which the artificial ingredients became more popular. From food, the concept broadened to take in diverse spheres, very different one from the other: like gated communities, synthetic perfumes, herbal sleep remedy toothpaste, residential cruise ships and daring residential and commercial, often mixed, architecture.
In addition, soon the expression was not just being used to describe products, but also experiences. In fact, faketastic is also “the emotion you feel when you are so entrenched in the plain and ordinary, but must fake the excitement associated with feeling fantastic.”
The English word faketastic has become popular only in Anglo Saxon countries, mostly in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. The concept, however, is expanding towards Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. But not everything is faketastic. It has to be “deliberately” fake – cheap counterfeit imitations are not ‘real’ faketastic’ – and it must surprise, and be practical or fun.)
Quality, price and convenience have been some of the features that up until a few years ago were related to an “authentic” product. However, things are shifting, and now there exist “fake” products of unknown brands that may offer the same –or even better- value at a better price.
An example of this is the “Series 6 Synthetics” line from Japanese brand Comme des Garcons, which, during the worst stage of the financial crisis, launched five “anti-perfumes”, based on unconventional materials. Each one uses an assortment of “fully synthetic ingredients to create unusual, yet reportedly wearable, fragrances”, and half the price of the average market one! The product is being imitated by other companies, which are reaping the benefits of this counter trend to the consumer quest for authenticity in a market like the fragrances and cosmetics one, in which “authenticity” is (or was?) a fundamental value.
In the Asian market, during the crisis, the so- called Geely Excellence Limousine appeared, practically a copy of the original Rolls Royce (especially the waterfall grill, the winged hood ornament and the woollen carpets). The new car is not pricy and proves, once again, that what is authentic may have lost some of its value.
The coffee chain store Starbucks is also suffering from the challenge from fake products, which do not aim at creativity, they simply copy formulas. In Latin America, for instance, where Starbucks has been expanding, McDonalds –amongst others- now offers similar products –even the names are similar- at lower prices.
The examples of what is fake-but fantastic are multiplying: push-up bras, watches and fantasy jewellery, fake landscapes in buildings and parks (Helmut Smits Creates a Clear Blue Sky Billboard), clones of well known products (like the OpenFrame Home Phone Communication System by OpenPeak, a copy of the iPhone for landlines) and the Blood Energy Potion, an energy drink launched for Halloween in late 2009, which looks like blood.
Things faketastic are making their mark due to their good quality, affordability and convenience; which means they have a real use.
One of the irresistible draws of the faketastic is the surprise effect. This is what makes things faketastic tempting and fun for the consumer. Among the rub-off tattoos and the neoprene suits giving the impression of nudity, there are thousands of creative products that base their future success on their head turning effect. This is why in holidays like Halloween in the United States or the Day of the Dead in Latin America, false but fantastic products are at their best.
There are times when people even act faketastic. These are consumers that take on activities, knowing they are not real, but they proceed anyway because of the great sensation they produce. Besides fake tattoos, there are also products such as fake breast implants, hair extensions or coloured contact lenses, and their sales all depend on the way the trend goes.
There are also hundreds of services that are related to this market, such as internet websites that allow you to upload your picture to the cover of Time magazine, a trick very much repeated all over the world. “We liked the design, but we did not want them permanently. We really did it to annoy our parents, which was the best part”, two teenagers aged 15 and 16 wrote on a children’s fashion website, after they got fake tattoos. Even though there are no serious studies of the trend, most of the fake but fantastic products are aimed at the teen audience.
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… this is possibly the best part. This may be the secret formula of Guitar Hero, the video game which turns users into rock stars overnight. “To be able to play a song without mistakes is simply fantastic… even though it ends once I turn off the PlayStation”, explains Nicolás, an Argentinean 28-year-old fan. Guitar Hero may be the best example of the fake but fantastic trend.
According to specialized media all over the world, like Wired and 1up.com, the Guitar Hero series is a “cultural phenomenon” and one of the “most influential products of the first decade of the 21st century.”
Another trend related to the faketastic products is the growing popularity of the “Do It Yourself (DIY)” concept in segments and markets until recently considered an issue for “pros”. Online, blogs and websites that talk about and boost “Make your own…” are mushrooming in more and more markets. Especially in regions like Asia and Latin America, where the DIY concept is appearing.
In China, for instance, “shanzhai” (imitation/pirated) culture continues to grow in popularity, driven largely by the internet. The term now has taken on a broader meaning, denoting fake, unprofessional or homemade, a slang term for anything that steals ideas from or pays homage to established styles. While some shanzhai products clearly infringe intellectual property rights, others parody or reinvent trends.
Source: GartnerNote: Data for 2010 and 2013 is estimated.
Fake but fantastic things follow users, and this is why the chosen format nowadays is the mobile phone. Thousands of Apps, destined to be used in iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile or Symbian OS operating systems are, in fact, software that pay homage to the faketastic.
One of the first to appear was the popular iPint App, from beer brand Carling, which gives “virtual” beer pints for free: the iPhone become a glass filled with beer and when it is turned, it gave the sensation that the beverage spilt over.
Guitar Hero or “real life” musical instruments have also been replicated in Apps like Guitar free, TouchChords and Virtuoso, usually located among the most downloaded versions of the iTunes Apps globally. There are also lots of faketastic apps, from fingerprint scanners to seismometer simulators, such as “Seismometer”, curiously, the most downloaded application in Chile during most of February.
While the word faketastic is an English one, the concept is known all over the world, with regional differences by continent. In Latin America, it is typically related to forged articles and piracy; especially in Mexico, where there are consumers declaring themsleves “addicted” to fake products. Nonetheless, the trend is linked to the “faketastic beauty” issue, the increasing use of prosthetics, botox and artificial products, even among men.
In North America, faketastic is related to the artificial, especially in the food market. It is also linked to software substitutes such as Open Office, a product considered “non authentic”, but one that fascinates Americans. In the Asia Pacific region, in countries like China and India, faketastic is linked to the DIY concept; while in Europe, it is linked to entertainment, and expressed in the large number of TV personality impersonators appearing on YouTube.