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Consumer trends

Dupe Culture: The Moral Dilemma of Accessibility

Courtney Firth

If you’ve ever worked in or with PR, you know that accessibility is a major buzz word that is thrown around left and right. So let’s talk about that: what makes a trend or lifestyle accessible? Enter "dupe culture," a phenomenon that, in recent years, has absolutely exploded in popularity predominantly due to social media (ahem, TikTok.) This shift allows consumers to closely follow trends, act as exclusive members of an influencer’s “inner circle” and become privy to products and brands that are part of a lifestyle that, frankly, not everyone can afford.

What is a dupe? (See: “dooop”, as popularized by the iconic Alix Earle.) For the most part, a dupe is a product designed to imitate or replicate a popular, often high-end product at a more affordable price point. And thus, a mass demand for budget-friendly alternatives has formed. Additionally, innovations in manufacturing and the availability of cheaper materials have made producing dupes faster, cheaper and easier - a development that is not without controversy.

Let’s look at the recent “takedown” of Matilda Djerf and her lifestyle brand, Djerf Avenue. This massively popular influencer is catching a lot of heat across social media for messaging (threatening?) micro influencers and other small creators for simply referencing “dupes” to her brand’s most popular products.  

In doing so, one can argue that she (by way of her team or IP firm) is acting selfishly and impulsively, hindering the success of small creators, some of which were actually supporting her brand, claiming the product was of better quality than the adjacent dupe. After all, it is the companies themselves ripping off small brands that are, arguably, just trying to make it - but should small creators speaking transparently about this be the ones who are penalized? Either way, Djerf has since deactivated her account.

Further, creating a “look for less” is not a new concept, and has been breadcrumbed through our society for decades, making its way through popular magazines throughout the ages (“Steal Her Style!” “Splurge vs. Steal!” - sound familiar?) Translation: this isn’t the first time we’ve seen “it girls” swap Prada for fast fashion, and it certainly won’t be the last.

The fact of the matter is: nothing is inimitable (just ask DHGate) and dupes span nearly every consumer category - from makeup and skincare to apparel and accessories. The rise of "dupe culture" speaks to a massive, but not unpredictable, shift in consumer values. It highlights a desire for affordability and a rejection of exclusivity.

For consumer brands in this day and age, it’s important to have a detailed messaging strategy and plan surrounding ways to approach these hot button issues and avoid a similar style of  social backlash. If you’re interested in learning more about how trends like these could affect your brand or engagement with your audience, you can find us at Let’s chat.

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