Knocking Out Knock Offs: Brand Protection & The World of Counterfeits

By Elizabeth Bellaver

[An article by Chief of Operations, Lori Campbell, appearing in FTA's April 16 FLEXO Prepress]

I think it is safe to assume that I’m not the only one in the converting industry who scrutinizes labels on products and in stores. Don’t you sometimes just look at a print and let out a “tsk tsk” over the poor quality and—admit it—sometimes use that as an avenue to get a meeting with the brand owner? Don’t you wonder how, in this hyper competitive industry of ours, such poor registration and even misspellings can get produced by a company and make it to a store shelf?

But what if that product isn’t that product? How often does it occur to you that the poor print job you’re seeing is not on a genuine item but is actually on a counterfeit product? Do you think counterfeiters spend much time wringing their hands over things like plate to die registration? They don’t need to; they only need to make sure it looks close enough on the store shelf to fool the complacent and naïve consumer, not a loupe wielding flexographer.

If you think the items targeted by counterfeiters are only high end goods like Nike shoes, Gucci handbags and Rolex watches, think again. Here’s a very short list of just some of the counterfeit products being seized around the world today:

  • Razor blades
  • Olive oil
  • Automobile airbags
  • Chain saws
  • Canned vegetables
  • Golf balls
  • Toothpaste

It’s hard to imagine that someone would actually take the time to counterfeit low cost items, as well as the high end products we all know about, but today’s reality is if there is a price associated with a product, someone is very likely counterfeiting it!

And that means that some of your customers may be targets of this crime. But counterfeiting isn’t the only issue plaguing brands today. Product diversion, gray market activities and fake websites are all on the rise, chipping away at your customers’ bottom lines and, worse, exposing them to huge liabilities if the public’s health and safety are affected.

Combatting these crimes can be an enormous drain on a brand owner’s resources. But if their products are labeled or in a printed package, you can help. Label and package converters are uniquely positioned to offer assistance to customers seeking cost effective means of protecting their brand.

Talking With Brand Owners

You’d be ill advised to walk into your next meeting with a potential customer, tell them they’re going to lose a billion dollars due to counterfeited goods eating into sales and then offer a solution. Tread lightly when broaching this topic—fear mongering is not the way to go. Brands will be very sensitive to discussing attacks on their reputation, and their products’ safety and integrity. As a result, using brand protection as a conversation starter with prospects will likely be coolly received. Your key customers with whom you already share a level of trust and comfort are the best places to start.

Be prepared before walking in the door or picking up the phone—this won’t be a typical sales meeting. It may not even be a meeting with the sales team. Identifying the right decision maker is not an intuitive process. Strategic responsibility may lie within any of the following departments:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Legal
  • Even at the CEO level

Typically, the more executive the position, the more serious the organization takes its brand protection efforts.

Tags: Security Labels, Product Labels