The right marking enables creating a product that cannot be imitated at all. To reach such goal, you need to the right technology, inspired design, and extensive communication.
Not long ago, it was published that Amazon´s portfolio includes some fakes. The internet giant is not deceitful; it just cannot examine all third party items of its vast portfolio.
The case of Amazon is just an illustration of the size and strength of counterfeiting industry. It grew up together with the growth of e-commerce and OECD now estimates that fakes for USD 500 billion are sold each year. If you produce a premium brand product and do not meet fakes, there are only three plausible explanation. Your brand is not interesting enough. You sell too cheap. You just do not know about forgeries.
Protection strategies and processes can be divided into two main groups.
Anti-counterfeit Big Brother
TRACKING PRODUCTS. Information about the move/shipment/inspection of the product is registered across its entire lifecycle. You can see a history of every individual product – day of production, moving between stores and distributors, dates of deliveries, etc. The most advanced products are integrated with tools for automated monitoring of e-shops to cross-check if all items sold are also registered in a tracking system.
These tracking systems are handy especially if a reasonable use of a product is conditioned by complete information (e.g. the latest supervision, measurement results, the number of working cycles passed, etc.). However, it leaves out that anti-counterfeit protection should be first and foremost a service for users. If somebody pays for a premium brand, he/she should be given a tool for genuineness verification.
Products like banknotes
MARKING PRODUCTS. A security element is placed on a product or its packaging. Watermarks and security ink printing (e.f. fluorescent ink) can deter small falsifiers. However, most of the today counterfeiting are realized in mass production factories and this kind of attackers can cope with this sort of protection. The most respectable producers of security inks screen their potential clients, but other ones are happy to sell to everybody. Watermarks and micro letters can be imitated as well.
A hologram is the strongest anti-counterfeit tool, but most of the holograms still do not guarantee full anti-counterfeit protection. Holograms are produced through mass production. If an attacker gets the master hologram, an unlimited number of falsified holograms can be produced. If the product is protected with an ordinary hologram, a sophisticated attacker can buy just one piece of branded product and derive the master from it.
Besides that, sometimes it is possible to create a hologram so similar that users are confused. Moreover, most users have no knowledge of hologram details. Look e.g. on a ticket of Prague City Transit. You can remark a metallic stripe on it. But who knows what letters and visual effects should be looked for. Most likely, any hologram including Prague City Transit logo would be accepted as genuine by most users.
No way without proper communication
Hologram protection can be bullet-proof, provided that the right technology and graphical effects are in place, an inspired design implemented and customer well informed what they should look for.
It can be expected that falsifiers potential will go up. In some cases, their production capacity will exceed the capacity of legal producers. The best premium brand producers will implement advanced anti-counterfeit measures. Products with lower level protection will be targeted. And technological race between attackers and defenders will continue.
The article has been published in Sale, Marketing and Media magazine.