Q&A: Volker Bartels, executive management board member of German audio brand Sennheiser

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Marketing Week (MW): How much of a problem is online distribution of counterfeit goods compared with offline?

Volker Bartels (VB): Online sales are a bigger problem. We scan websites for fake product offers, we buy products advertised online that we think are fakes and check them. Once we determine it’s a fake, we close the website, take the person to court and make it public to let them know we won’t just let it happen.

MW: With many fake goods still coming out of China, what sort of operation do you have in that territory?

VB: We have people in place there who speak the language and know local customs. It’s very hard to monitor activity in China from a remote base – you have to be on the spot and work with local agencies. The Chinese authorities are much more co-operative than they used to be. The country has been trying to improve its reputation as a reliable trade partner. But this will only continue if brands speak up. If brands find it too intimidating to make this problem public, it will continue.

MW: What kind of resources do you dedicate to tackling counterfeit goods?

VB: Each year we have had to dedicate more budget. We have many people in our legal, marketing and engineering departments dealing with the problem. If we don’t fight this problem publicly, our reputation will suffer.

MW: What else can you do internally to discourage the production and sale of counterfeit goods?

VB: Speed is our asset – we can develop new products quicker than they are being copied. Once we know a product has been copied, we take it off the market and quickly come up with its successor.

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