Individuality key to beating counterfeiters, say design experts

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

The explosion of the digital sphere in recent years has meant that brands are increasingly at risk from counterfeiters using more sophisticated methods to emulate day-to-day products, online properties, and entire retail footprints.

While it’s not as commonplace in the West as it is in the East, counterfeiting and by extension copying are threats that brands still feel the need to invest in stay competitive. Pitch spoke to design experts from Echo Brand Design, JKR and Seymour Powell (click on the links to see more of their work) to discuss what branding strategies work best to stave off imitators.

Nick Dormon, Founder and MD at Echo Brand Design

Nick.Echo

“If you’re really clear and precise about what your brand is and are consistent with its designs across all the channels it’s available in, then it’s much easier to protect. For the recent work we’ve done for Axe, we had to create branding that not only gave the product clear differentiation on the shelf, but also held all of its brand concepts together.

A benefit of doing this is that we created a very protectable product, which is not only consistent across all the variables it’s available in, but can also be clearly defined from a legal standpoint. If this isn’t achieved then it’s impossible for consumers to define what your brand is, so consequently both counterfeiters and competitors can copy it because the branding is so eclectic.”

Andrew Knowles, chairman at JKR

Andy.Knowles.JKR

“In the west, brands are more at risk from emulation without blatant copying, which isn’t counterfeiting in the strict sense but rather falls in the unfair category. The way that branding is designed can make it very difficult for people to copy both legally and implicitly if you structure it in a distinctive way, we call this process ’Brand First’.

We designed a new can for Guinness last year and used the company’s trademarked golden harp image, to symbolise the it’s 250 year-old Irish heritage. By amplifying the thing that is unique to Guinness we’re making it harder for people to copy. The only solution to counteract counterfeiters is to try and design something that disregards visual clichés and has a degree of individuality.”

Richard Seymour, co-founder of Seymourpowell

Richard Seymour_SeymourPowell

“Combating counterfeiters can push designers to be more creative, because you’re pitting yourself against somebody who’ll try to outwit you. Many brands are making life easier for the counterfeiter as they strive to reduce unique complexity in their products, especially in packaging.

The move to refil as a sustainability strategy in FMCG further exacerbates this, as we now have to think about how the ’stuff’ inside the pack can be uniquely identifiable. With the tools now emerging in digital printing and rapid manufacturing, the counterfeiter is going to have much more sophisticated tools at heir disposal in the near future.”

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