Commentary & Analysis
The Growing Role of Digital Printing in Brand Protection Strategies
For marketers and manufacturers of consumer products, true value lies not only in the products themselves but also in the recognition and reputation of the brand. Unfortunately, brand owners are facing more risks as counterfeiting and diversion activities increase around the globe.
By Gregory Gresock
Published: March 10, 2014
For marketers and manufacturers of consumer products, true value lies not only in the products themselves but also in the recognition and reputation of the brand. Unfortunately, brand owners are facing more risks as counterfeiting and diversion activities increase around the globe. Whether in packaging, promotion, ticketing, or other applications, counterfeiting is having a negative impact that results in a loss of revenue along with a compromised or damaged reputation.
Consumers trust in the brands they know, relying on the manufacturers and distributors to deliver consistent quality and value. So eliminating counterfeit goods and ensuring that products get to the right place through the right channels is a top priority. It’s a big responsibility—one that is more easily addressed with today’s digital printing technology and the many security features that are possible.
Experts estimate that brand owners lose hundreds of billions of dollars each year as their products are counterfeited or diverted from traditional distribution channels. However, the risks can go well beyond sophisticated counterfeiting or black market activities. For example, in print applications, fraud can be as simple as reprinting or duplicating an offer or promotion, or as complex as creating fake admission tickets, counterfeiting currency and financial documents, or tampering with expiration dates and limitations.
Easier with Digital
With today’s digital printing solutions, whether toner- or inkjet-based, there are many opportunities to incorporate features that help ensure products are legitimate and documents are valid. The more marketers, designers, and printers understand about the trends in this area, the more successful the deterrent solutions are becoming. Additionally, the ongoing advances in digital print technology are bringing new options to the table all the time.
Brand security features typically fall into two major categories—overt and covert. Overt solutions are printed in open view for detection, making it obvious to counterfeiters that you are protecting your brand or product. The use of barcodes, QR codes, serial numbers, dimensional printing, specialty inks such as metallics, and variable data make it more difficult for fraud to occur, and can prove to be effective impediments to fraudulent activities. For example, serialization codes can be used with databases to validate codes or detect duplicate redemption attempts.
Covert solutions are not visible with the naked eye, making them extremely difficult to duplicate. Covert printing methods include watermarks, microprinting, UV and fluorescing inks, and hidden serialization codes. Covert solutions also can include pre-printed substrates that incorporate hidden or pantograph images. These covert solutions are typically checked and approved with very simple viewing tools made available at the point of validation.
Solutions to Meet Your Needs
One of the common misconceptions around security features is that they are difficult or costly to implement, though that is not necessarily true. Many of the solutions are easily designed into the package or document, and may require one additional print station, but add very little complexity to the process.
Applications where these security features make sense include packaging (especially in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics & personal care, wines & spirits, and other consumer packaged goods), coupons and promotions, custom or seasonal products in limited release, legal or healthcare documents, ID products, ballots, bank statements and checks, and tickets and passes.
Kodak has a long history of expertise and success in the area of brand security, and the broad Kodak portfolio of digital printing solutions offers security options that address a wide range of needs, from brand protection, to fraud, to tracking and auditing. The key to developing an effective solution is getting all the stakeholders together and agreeing on the best approach for the particular application. No one solution will fit in every case, so knowing the strengths of each is critical in the decision. Kodak offers an experienced team to help customers evaluate the situation and choose the right solution.
No matter which technology you employ, remember that your products and brand are your most valuable corporate assets. Protecting those assets from fraud and counterfeiting has become a strategic imperative in an environment where digital technologies make it easier than ever to duplicate or falsify any type of product. Fraudulent activities such as duplicating coupons, offering counterfeit goods, or misusing brand names and logos on packaging or marketing materials can inflict real damage to both your profitability and your brand equity.
For a free white paper discussing best practices in digital print brand protection solutions, please visit this link (PDF).