Is The Label Industry Ready For The Future Of Brand Protection?

Last updated: 09-15-2020

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Is The Label Industry Ready For The Future Of Brand Protection?

Is the label industry ready for the future of brand protection?
Expert's Opinion
Is the label industry ready for the future of brand protection?
While the pandemic has increased online sales, there's been an ensuing surge in counterfeit goods, putting brands at risk.
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Ron Ducharme09.09.20
The global pandemic has turbocharged online sales. Consequently, there has been an ensuing surge in counterfeit goods, putting brands at risk.  Manufacturers are losing out on vast amounts of revenue to counterfeiters.  And a brand’s reputation can be threatened when a faulty counterfeit is mistaken for a legit product.
Technology breakthroughs have resulted in various packaging solutions to secure products from counterfeiters and diverters. But advanced label technologies have proven to be the most effective means of improving brand protection from counterfeiters.
The label printing industry has experienced many changes over the last 20 years.  The most recent advances in digital technology present some of the most exciting and challenging.   Digital technology allows a printer to print a single label or up to more than 20,000 labels.  Each label can be the same or can have some variation in color or be serialized. 
Do Your Current Substrates Provide Enough for The Printer and Brand Owner to Prevent Counterfeiting?
Brand owners and manufacturers strive for optimal messaging on the labels and boxes to attract customers to purchase their products.  So, why not have the proper labeling encourage consumer engagement and authenticate the product?  Security labeling technologies can be incorporated into the packaging itself and made to be part of the brand. Whether you use overt security (what should be seen) or covert security (what should not be seen) this is where digital technology plays a significant role in labeling. Digital technology offers the printer and brand owner the opportunity to serialize inline and/or vary each label. 
Tracking and Tracing Products with Serialization
Along with a security label, a track and trace system to verify that the information on the label is valid is needed. Widely used in the pharmaceutical industry, due to the enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which requires that all pharmaceuticals be serialized, track and trace systems are now beginning to gain traction in consumer goods. Track and trace systems use unique product identifiers, such as serial numbers, to track individual products throughout the supply chain, from production to end consumers. These systems significantly help manufacturers reduce counterfeiting by ensuring products can be easily identified. Modern track and trace are cloud-based systems and provide 24/7/365 access for product verification.
Intelligent Next-Generation Labeling
With the printing industry joining the digital world, it is time for the security world to be a part of the digital age. In the past, most security applications used just invisible or covert labels. Now, the most effective labeling technology solutions against counterfeiters are multi-faceted.  They combine both overt/covert labels into the package decoration, incorporate unique holograms, take a fingerprint of the label, and leverage GS1 barcoding for serialization as well as utilize the consumer’s smartphone and an APP to authenticate the product. 
Authenticate with a Smartphone
Consumers can use their mobile device to scan the label’s unique barcode, which reveals hidden information that is analyzed and validated to immediately determine the product’s authenticity. On the spot, consumers know whether the product is fake or not. The GS1 certified barcode allows the consumer to track and trace the entire trip the product took through the supply chain to get to them. When combined with each label's unique fingerprint, the consumer can access a landing page or a loyalty program for the selected product.
This type of multi-layer brand protection gives manufacturers the ability to protect against counterfeiters and improve everyday business services such as recalls, return process, new and sample product tracking. Another benefit of this intelligent labeling technology is the valuable insight it can provide to brand managers.  The resulting data can help brand managers develop market information for marketing campaigns and define the necessary supply chain components.  Each time a product is scanned, its location, and potentially the consumer’s whereabouts, are identified and stored in the cloud. With this information, brand managers can build and enforce a loyalty program, and ensure products are in the required locations to maximize sales potential while minimizing the risk of counterfeiting.
Counterfeiting will undoubtedly continue to rise as the pandemic lingers, as will the need for intelligent labeling.  Manufacturers’ fight against fakes will place an even higher burden on printers to employ game-changing digital capabilities and serialization technologies.  And to partner with companies who can offer intelligent substrates to provide top of the line labeling and security technologies. The use of intelligent next-generation labeling materials that combine both overt and covert technologies will give consumers the tools to immediately authenticate a product and help mitigate the online shopping risk.
About the author: Ron Ducharme serves as Vice President of Business Development at Covectra, a leader in track and trace solutions.  Ron can be reached at rducharme@covectra.com .
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