The fashion industry has been dealing with counterfeiting for over a century but it’s only been in the last decade that online markets and modern manufacturing have made it possible to counterfeit almost anything. And the counterfeiters are out there. If you haven’t found a counterfeit variation of your branded products being sold on eBay or Amazon yet, for many brands it’s only a matter of time. In order to steal business and make a little more money off low-quality no-brand products, counterfeiters are instead printing fake labels and packaging their knock-offs as surplus stock of genuine brand products.
This is even worse than the unauthorized competition created by third-party sellers because at least with the third-parties, customers are getting your actual products. Counterfeiters can effectively drag your brand through the mud when customers don’t realize that their crummy products are not actually produced by your brand. But perhaps the most dangerous part is when customers actually try to use the counterfeit products. Fraudulent companies are counterfeiting everything from software to over the counter pharmaceuticals meaning that people are installing unverified and possibly infected programs onto their computers and trying to use knock-off medicines that could hurt them while bearing your brand name.
But what is a brand to do in the face of the whack-a-mole environment of suppressing one fraudulent seller only to see two more pop up with new unrestricted usernames and seller accounts? While you can and should put in the effort to quash the counterfeiters at their source, the best way to protect your brand and your customers from the constant onslaught of new scams is with authenticating details. Like the trademark stamp and zipper pulls of an authentic Louis Vuitton handbag, you can start protecting your brand with little details a counterfeiter won’t be able to replicate. Here are five techniques to get you started that can be seen in online product pictures so your marketplace customers will be able to see signs of authenticity for themselves.
Watermarks have been used on US currency for decades to indicate whether or not a dollar is genuine or counterfeit and the technique works equally well for protecting non-federal brands. Watermarks require slightly more advanced printing technology, particularly if you decide to actually emboss them to create a textured difference as well. A detailed watermark will make it exceedingly more difficult for counterfeiters to simply print up fake packaging and labels that appear to bear your brand and packaging design. Embossed images are also particularly useful because they require extra effort and special materials to enact. This can be a great way to prevent counterfeiters from effectively spoofing pharmaceutical bottles.
2. Special Fasteners
An interesting lesson taken from the luxury fashion market and their battle with counterfeiters is how often the fraudsters make their crucial mistake with hardware. The snaps, fasteners, zipper pulls, and the zipper teeth themselves are often the least authentic-looking aspects of a counterfeit handbag. You don’t need every detail of your product to be stamped and gold-plated, but including a few custom choices in your packaging is a great way to trip up careless counterfeiters. A unique chain to attach tags to your product, a special zipper pull, or even just a brand logo stamped somewhere unusual is a great way to add identifiable authentic detail without breaking the bank. Many boxed-software and computer hardware companies have started including special gifts and items inside the box to prove authenticity as well as to delight customers.
Another interesting approach to making your products easily authenticated or proven counterfeit is microtext in your labels and packaging. Counterfeiters often try to recreate your packaging on cheap image editing software which means they will often miss smaller details. This is often seen in using the wrong font or inaccurately replicating the way a company prints its name because they don’t realize the name is a hand-crafted visual asset created by graphic designers. You can trip them up in a slightly different way with microtext, text so small that it can be mistaken for decorative detail instead of actual content. You can then invite customers to zoom in close on pictures of the packaging. If the microtext isn’t copied perfectly, then it’s sure to be a counterfeit. Microtext is particularly useful for boxed products with stylized packaging because it can hide as a graphical detail.
4. Track and Trace Labels
Many brands are taking up the cutting-edge labeling and product tracking technology already in use for eCommerce inventory management as a form of anti-counterfeiting as well. Some brands are embedding RFID chips into their labels, the same way that wave-pay or tap-pay cards work, while others are going with QR codes, 2D barcodes, or holograms with embedded tracking data. When every one of your products has a unique label allowing it to be tracked and identified anywhere, counterfeits are easy to prove if you get your hands on even one false product. Some businesses are even going so far as to include forensic or DNA markings that can be proven with lab analysis to combat more precise counterfeiters.
5. Government & Software solutions
While the previous suggestions have all had to do with what you do with your products, you can and should also take more extensive measures to get counterfeiters shut down for good. The IACC (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) has a software product called RogueBlock that shuts down the merchant accounts of counterfeiters so they cannot accept payments. You can also report counterfeit producers to the government depending on the industry and they can help you get counterfeiters off the market. You can find a wealth of information at stopfakes.gov. Finally, don’t forget that the market is also a legal arena. With the right attorney support, you may be able to push the process through much more quickly.
Counterfeiters are everywhere in today’s eCommerce environment but you don’t have to let them get a hold of your brand or your customers. With a combination of authenticating measures and a comprehensive plan to identify and take out counterfeiters when they are detected, you can protect your brand reputation, customers, and authorized sellers from the rising trend of product fraud. Just be sure to also release a guide for your customers that lets them know which signs to look out for to prove authentic or counterfeit online listings.
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