Brands aren’t physical, but the products they build their reputation on are. Learn why awareness of the dark side of retail protects both types of value — public image and profits.
The brand your business has worked so hard to build is a multi-faceted jewel, and the security measures taken to protect it must be equally so. Single-tier brand protection is not enough in the face of misuse and misconduct that can dent even the most well-protected reputation. Perhaps commercial giants can bounce back from lost public trust and a lack of faith at retail. For smaller enterprises, a bruised or broken brand could mean going out of business.
Why so much talk about this risk? Because counterfeiters are working day and night to wage a global criminal war on brands everywhere, seeking to flood the market with fakes and compromised products while the brands, their customers, and wider society foots the bill.
There’s not much counterfeiters can do to damage the more abstract aspects of your brand such as its likability and trust. At least, they can’t harm that directly. Instead, they seek to compromise your physical product. From there, public disenchantment with your brand’s tangible aspects will take root, and once that damage is done, the negative impact may spread to infect the entire brand.
The importance of protecting the physical product
Businesses and customers build their relationship on the two tiers of value – how trusted the company is in the public sphere (your reputation) and how much the product costs in comparison to quality (your price).
The livelihood of your business depends on both. When the public trusts you, they come to buy your physical product and that generates the returns that keep the business alive. But counterfeit merchandise can undermine that entire system, and, as I mentioned briefly in my previous article, businesses are increasingly waking up to the threat posed by the counterfeit marketplace.
The anti-counterfeit packaging market shows signs of surging to more than $248 billion by 2026. This is great news and evidence of the increasing security commitment by retailers. To expand on that, let’s look at some of the tangible anti-counterfeit measures being deployed to authenticate and verify the physical product.
Two kinds of physical protection
Overt security features are those visible to the naked eye and/or tactile to our hands. Features like barcodes, colored inks, and holograms fall under this category, as do some special stickers which, should criminals try to remove them, leave behind an indelible logo of the original brand. Taggants (typically radio frequency microchips) and other kinds of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) are further examples of overt solutions.
Covert security features are visible only to experienced item examiners using specialized lights and lenses, or maybe smartphones with the proper app. Examples of these are hidden images and/or text and ultraviolet images. The deepest stage is forensic security, where only microscopes and highly specialized tools can pick up embedded features like document DNA or nanoimages.
Combine these with other innovations in anti-counterfeit packaging and it may seem like businesses have brand security all wrapped up. Sadly, relentless criminals and ongoing world events require a lot more to stay safe.
Trouble ahead from tariffs and trade war fallout
Counterfeits are a perennial problem. There will always be someone looking to make a profit at someone else’s expense, but businesses today — and consumers around the world — are facing a potential tidal wave of counterfeits that could prove to be brand breakers.
An early 2019 article published by CNBC perfectly captured the struggle law enforcement, customs and border patrols, and even huge brands like Amazon currently face in stemming the physical tide of counterfeit goods.
Criminals are deluging the retail world with subpar goods and clever imitations while mastering tangible protection technologies like 3D printing and other methods. This makes it easier for them to evade detection and create what authorities are calling “super fakes.” Counterfeiters even go so far as to use legitimate channels to hijack a brand’s entire identity and masquerade as the real thing.
Not only this, but U.S. tariffs on legitimate Chinese imports are making them more expensive as the trade war continues. This may drive many consumers to choose, knowingly or otherwise, counterfeit items. Again, this was already a problem for businesses — some consumers simply don’t care how something is made if it makes them look good — but increasing prices is yet another advantage for bad actors.
There’s a tide of counterfeits coming that may be the biggest in history. What can a brand do if even the most high-tech physical protection measures are being compromised?
The layered solution of total product protection
Physical product protections must be utilized in every possible way, but just as criminal activity can impact products at the tangible level in ways that spread holistically throughout the brand, security solutions must apply at every stage of creation in order to be effective as total product protection. This means safeguarding the whole process from conception and design to manufacturing, packaging, and distribution.
I’d like to recommend you download our scryptoTRACE® brochure to see what I mean. Our quick video will introduce you to end-to-end brand value and product protection that goes way beyond the physical, and the U-NICA team is standing by to answer any questions.
U-NICA is a team with a single purpose: supporting you in the fight to protect your brand’s integrity and value. Our staff operates globally and partners with universities and agencies to deliver the future of brand protection. Connect with us for more information on our constantly evolving open solution suite.