The Promise of Connected Packaging — from Brand Protection to Customer Insight

Virtually all brands face the threats of counterfeiting and gray market trading. And no industry feels the pain more than pharma. The personal and public health concerns are huge, as is the economic burden—$200 billion annually and rising.

But there are other supply chain challenges that concern the brand owner today. The need to keep pace with interactive packaging technologies for customer engagement is certainly one. At the same time, rapidly expanding global supply chains make it difficult to know exactly where your products are and if they are being sold as intended.

The transformations taking place in the field of connected packaging have the potential to address all these product challenges—protection, engagement, traceability—while delivering powerful supply chain insight.

Engagement-driven brand protection

How many brand owners are willing to ask their customers to check the product they are purchasing to ensure it is genuine? While there are no formal studies around this, it’s safe to surmise the answer is: as close to nil as possible. Brand owners rarely disclose that their products are under attack.

One way to circumvent this obstacle is to incentivize consumers to interact with the product in return for something of value. There are numerous options to drive engagement:

  • INFORMATION – product details, usage guidelines, lifestyle advice
  • REWARDS – loyalty program incentives, cash back, sweepstake prizes

What do these sales augmentation tactics have to do with brand protection? Consider the left side of the figure below. As shown here, the engagement portal would only open after the product is verified as authentic. If not, a flag is raised, and the brand owner sends either a warning message or a request for more information.

The key is that the consumer is not even aware that a brand integrity check is occurring in the background. Consequently, this approach can dramatically increase the number of checks in the marketplace via a large consumer base without disclosing the nature of the protection program. Consumers are driven to interact with the product because they derive a personal benefit, while helping to curb counterfeiting.

What’s more, customer interaction provides significant marketplace insight to the brand owner. There is a substantial amount of business intelligence data that can be mined and analyzed—such as which specific product was scanned, when that interaction occurred and in what geographic location. The collective accumulation of this data would provide brand owners with actionable intelligence to identify counterfeit products in real time, weed out distribution vulnerabilities and modify defense strategies. All this while fostering brand loyalty.

The switch to digital

Traditional approaches to brand protection involved analog offerings where overt visual features such holograms watermarks and color shifting inks represented the mainstay of what was available. None of those solutions could offer the kind of interactive engagement options described here. Instead, the revolution in connected packaging is being driven by digital technologies.

Brand owners should consider these fundamental requirements for a successful program:

  • the ability to engage with their customers to provide information or reward;
  • executed through a packaging technology that cannot be cloned or reverse-engineered by counterfeiters;
  • use the reward-information gateway as a means for brand protection;
  • and do all this (if possible) without changing or adding anything to the package.

These requirements represent a very tall order. As it happens, your packaging is ALREADY connected and ready to do all the above. The secret is in your barcode!

But how? Each printed barcode contains a unique noise pattern that is not discernible to the human eye but can be detected by a smartphone camera. Known generically as fingerprinting, it is this unseen noise that is authenticated using a mobile app. And it is impossible to replicate—even if the package is perfectly copied. No two package barcodes will have the same noise pattern and therefore this feature serves to distinguish each individual package. A simple smartphone scan confirms authenticity and opens the engagement portal.

Three challenges… One simple solution

The current brand protection landscape is filled with a multiplicity of providers all portraying the superiority of their solution. How can a brand owner identify which program to implement? There are three essential guidelines to keep in mind.

Choose digital – There is no upside to choosing an analog solution if the objective is to protect brands and consumers with the additional goal of initiating engagement.

Choose fingerprinting — Fingerprinting technologies provide supreme security assurance because the noise signal in an original package simply cannot be replicated.

Choose experience — While selecting a technology that combines authentication with engagement is key, it is equally important to choose a provider with an excellent track record of delivering brand protection success.

The world’s leading pharmaceutical brands rely on Systech to secure their supply chains. Get connected with Systech to end counterfeiting and engage consumers.

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.