Chasing Away Counterfeit Packages
While many times it is obvious that a product is counterfeit, sometimes a knock off is so accurate that it can be nearly impossible to tell it’s a fake. Luckily, an educated consumer can find clues within the product’s packaging, rather than the product itself, that provide a clear giveaway.
Writing in The Dieline, Rob Repta a senior designer and social media strategist at Design Packaging, Inc. says one of the keys to uncovering counterfeit items is if the packaging is of poor-quality, not matching the premium nature of the product it’s purporting to be. For example, a logo may be too large or too small, or not quite in the right place on the package. There could be misspelled words or a packaging element like embossing or texture has gone missing. Colors may be incorrect and registration, wrapping and gluing could all be poorly done. Noting such errors can require an eye for detail, but they often are not hard to spot.
“Prestige packaging focuses the same attention to craftsmanship as the product itself, after all, packaging needs to reflect luxury nuances to deliver the brand promise,” notes Repta.
As counterfeiting becomes more problematic, more packaging clues have appeared, alerting customers to fake items. According to an ABC News report from August, Rosetta Stone, an American-made language education system, has recently been a victim of counterfeiting. But, in a bit of an ironic twist, misspellings on the package of a counterfeit made in China were a dead giveaway.
Cracking down on counterfeits not only benefits the companies being ripped off, it also directly impacts consumers. According to a February report from CBS News in New York, customer health can be in jeopardy with falsified merchandise. Health and beauty products like shampoo, makeup, and lotions can be misrepresented as high-end brands, but actually turn out to be knock-offs containing bacteria or carcinogen-filled chemicals.
A January report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states another danger of purchasing counterfeit items: it funds some $250 billion of organized crime.
“The illicit trafficking and sale of counterfeit goods provides criminals with a significant source of income and facilitates the laundering of other illicit proceeds,” the report states. “Additionally, monies received from the sale of counterfeit products can be channeled towards the further production of fake goods or other illicit activities.”
Though some of this “faux packaging” is improving and becoming harder to distinguish from the real thing, Repta writes that many suppliers are developing new technology to help combat counterfeiting.
Examples include Heidelberg’s invisible printing, which can only be seen using a specific lens. Dupont has created a “track and trace” Izon 3D Hologram security label, which incorporates difficult to replicate holograms that can be incorporated in to packaging, signaling authenticity.
According to an August report in Student Science, a new technology using nanopillars allows for an image to appear on a label when it is breathed on. The nanopillars are printed using special ink on an inkjet printer, and while they’re high-tech, are not expensive to manufacture.
“But it’s not expensive high-tech,” Nicholos Kotov of the University of Michigan says in the article. “And the nanopillar sheets can be made as big as a square meter. Lots of labels could be made on one sheet and then cut to size.”
Brand owners and converters alike are actively seeking out, developing and implementing ways to thwart counterfeiters and help ensure products consumers buy are those they expect. This will continue to add a layer of complexity to package design and production, and probably incrementally higher costs, but the end result is greater security, brand integrity and customer satisfaction.