For many students in the United States, the first day of school is less than a month away. This means the back-to-school shopping season has started. Teenagers, middle schoolers, and fashion conscious parents of elementary school children will visit malls and outlets in search of new clothing, shoes, and accessories. Many of these shoppers will also visit the websites of retail stores and e-commerce websites.

Brand owners can use these weeks to teach shoppers about a topic that may not be part of the traditional K-12 curriculum: the dangers of purchasing counterfeit products. Counterfeit products, which include back-to-school essentials like apparel, footwear, cosmetics, and electronic devices, have a serious harmful global impact. And frankly, counterfeit products are just not cool.

One meaningful educational resource on the subject of counterfeit products and the harm they cause is the International Trademark Association (INTA). INTA’s Unreal Campaign uses videos, social media postings, and visits to school to educate and encourage teenagers to purchase authentic products. The Campaign raises awareness of the harm that counterfeit products cause to the people who use such products, and to the brands themselves. INTA’s Unreal Campaign includes videos of teenagers “vlogging” or holding video chats with friends, in which they express their disappointment in the quality of the counterfeit products, their chagrin at being “duped,” and their alarm at learning that counterfeit products are harmful in numerous ways. You can visit the INTA website for more information on its Unreal Campaign: http://www.unrealcampaign.com.

There are several reasons why a teenager, or a parent, would buy a counterfeit product. A tight budget is a common factor. A consumer unable to afford the authentic purse or shoes in a retail store, may search for the item on the internet. There they may encounter e-commerce websites with photos of the real products, but which are, in fact, selling counterfeit products. Even worse, they may be sham companies which never deliver any product at all. Hopefully, most teenagers and parents when hearing or seeing the word “counterfeit” realize that the product is not legitimate. But words like “imitation,” “style,” “like,” and “inspired” have a more ambiguous tone, and consumers may believe that there is nothing legally suspect about their purchase. Unfortunately, that “imitation designer” purse is very likely a counterfeit product.

Brand owners want to preserve the good image of their brand. To do so, they must take steps to maintain the quality of the products sold in connection with the brand. Yet, brand image is only part of the story. Teenagers and parents should be motivated to purchase authentic products because of the genuine harm that can result from using products of shoddy construction, and the genuine harm caused by lining the pockets of retailers who may be the front for criminal or terrorist organizations.

The humanitarian and safety issues stemming from the sale of counterfeit products should hopefully inspire consumers to forgo the fake. A student who cannot afford the real luxury handbag, can still be “cool” with an authentic product from a less expensive brand. The ultimate “uncool” product is the one that falls apart, or enriches people who are definitely not making our world a better place.

There is still some time before the back-to-school shopping season is over. Brand owners can contact INTA about their Unreal Campaign, and share some of the Unreal Campaign’s tweets or Facebook posts on their own social media. Brands can initiate their own campaign to educate consumers about the negative impact of counterfeit products on global trade and on global humanitarian conditions.