Opinion Series: Fake Me – Counterfeit Packaging and Consumers

Rob Repta, Senior Designer and Social Media Strategist at Design Packaging, Inc., talks about counterfeit luxury packaging and the ways to spot them with preventative measures. 

 

Most of us know at least one person toting a faux handbag, or purchasing knock-off cosmetics and skincare products; it’s an epidemic. Street vendors that once sold counterfeit goods in public arenas turned to shadowy figures in dark alleys and secret rooms which weren’t exactly safe. Now with the rising e-commerce market, those same figures have morphed into URL’s, where anybody from the comfort and safety of their home can purchase counterfeit goods. Of course this is nothing new, counterfeiters have existed from the beginning of time. What has risen however is the greater use of fraudulent packaging. The same way hidden boutiques and legitimate–looking sites draw the veils of deceit, counterfeit packaging falsely authenticates counterfeit products.

When analyzing packaging, there are some basic indicators that can either authenticate or discredit it as counterfeit. In one word, it’s: quality. 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. Is the logo inconsistent in size or positioning compared to the original? Is it spelled correctly? Does the brand have a signature embossing, texture, or pattern that’s missing or variant? Is the coloration similar or disparate when comparing multiple packaging components, is it even the correct brand color? Visibly poor craftsmanship in wrapping, gluing, or registration should be initial indicators that something is amiss. 

With faux packaging culminating to the point where it’s virtually indistinguishable from the original, what can be done? The answer is neither easy, or clear-cut. Technology is one area that can help identify counterfeit packaging. MIT has developed invisible micro-particles that can be identified by a smartphone and a separate lense. Favini, an Italian manufacturer, developed a micro-embossing technique that embeds minuscule custom messages, logos or patterns. Heidelberg developed an invisible printing method that can only be revealed by a special lens. It can go as far as Dupont’s “track and trace” Izon® 3D Hologram security label. While all these are viable options, they do come at an additional cost. Many countries have anti-counterfeiting legislation, but with the demand for counterfeit products being wide-spread and rabid, it makes implementation increasingly difficult. Another way to help reduce the risk of counterfeit packaging is for vigilant brands and manufacturers to monitor supply chain including overruns, waste, ownership and possession of special tooling, materials, hardware, etc… through partnerships, various memberships, certifications and third party audits.

The hope for ethically-sound consumers is to be informed and make smart decisions. Counterfeit product purchasers, are often unaware that through their purchases they can expose themselves to health risks as reported by CBS New York, fund organized crime by providing significant income, and promote forced labor with unsafe work environments. Brands and design studios, must adhere to strict government regulations, to ensure that not only the product and packaging is authentic, but that it’s safe and ethical. The best way consumers can know they’re purchasing an authentic item, is purchasing products directly from the company or an authorized dealer, and understanding the brand both visually and tactually.

Generally, if you feel something isn’t looking or feeling quite right, you’re probably onto something. 


About Rob Repta

Rob Repta is both Senior Designer and Social Media Strategist at Design Packaging Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona. Together with Creative Director Evelio Mattos and the multi-talented creative team, provide clients with luxury and experimental packaging designs.

Much to the pressure of his parents, Rob begin his career in the medical field (because they believed there was no money in "drawing") where he worked as a surgical technologist at a plastic surgery clinic and eye clinic. It wasn't until he began his nursing school that he realized it wasn't his passion in life, so he did a 180, and went back to his artistic roots. He received his bachelor's degree from the Art Institute of Phoenix with honors and quickly became involved with the AIGA Arizona community, joining the board as Membership Director.

His first job was with Design Packaging, then left for the Corporate PetSmart Packaging Division, and then returned to Design Packaging. "The prodigal son returns", Rob says laughing.

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