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Is 'Fake Supply' a Bad Thing?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The way marketing and advertising affect the business environment is truly fascinating. That's why we appreciate those professionals who have a wide array of business knowledge; they know the effects certain marketing activities may cause. As marketing and advertising are elements of the language of business, it should be deemed worthwhile to know how that language is received.

That is why we enjoy applying economic principles to our understanding of marketing. Especially when it comes to the American economy, economics and marketing cannot stand alone. In a consumption society, they are implicitly joined.

This concept brings us to the subject of today's post: fake supply.

A recent Freakonomics article wrote about fake supply. The example provided was one about the "shrunken heads" industry. As people traveled and learned about the practice, they wanted shrunken heads as keepsakes, souvenirs, and so on.

The industry took off.

No longer could "real" heads be found, so heads of monkeys, goats, and other animals took their place. Fake supply.

No doubt museums and other entities promoted the idea of shrunken heads; it wasn't just a popular, unknowing trend.

But is it bad?

It depends.

The goal for businesses is to provide a product that satisfies its customer's needs and wants. The goal for marketing is to make sure the customer knows of the product that is able to do it. If something not "original" does the trick, then is it truly a fake supply? In this framing, not necessarily.

Now, it would entirely depend on how it was promoted. If the advertising and promotion declared "original heads done by [such and such] tribe," then not only would it be fake, but also misleading and deceitful. But if it generally stated that shrunken heads are for sale, then the customers will find what they are wanting.

It would then seem like the business and the marketing did their job. So fake supply? Only "fake" if the consumer deems it as such.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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