They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to business, imitation can be a huge problem. Last month Inc.com featured an article on counterfeiting and the impact on the US economy. Product piracy has affected many industries such as software, airplane parts, fashion, music and pharmaceutical drugs to the tune of billions of dollars in lost revenue every year. Some individual companies have had to lay off workers because of the lost business due to counterfeiting. So how does a company fight back? The best place to start is with your own packaging. For years companies have used holographic labels on their products but with today's digital printing technology there is a much better way. HP in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry have developed a system that can put a unique identifying color barcode on every product item - they call this "item level serialization" where every item in batch has a unique barcode. These color barcodes can contain large amounts of information that are virtually impossible to duplicate. In a 1" square you can encode 700 characters worth of information, which is roughly the length of this paragraph. The beauty about this system is that with a scan of the label you can know exactly what day the product was bottled, where it was bottled and how it was distributed. This can also help with product recalls. So that is the sophisticated way to fight counterfeiters and implementing this system will be effective but also cost upwards of $100,000. Now, most businesses don't have that much money to address counterfeiting. There is a much simpler approach that just involves using Excel, a simple barcode and leveraging the power of digital label printing. Here is an example of how this can work. Say you have product run of 5,000 and so you want to order 5,000 product labels. Use the RAND() function in Excel to create 5,000 random numbers. You can multiply this random number by, say, 1,000,000,000, so you can create a list of 5,000 random numbers between 1 and 999,999,999. You can then encode these random numbers with a simple barcode such as Code 128. Then allocate a small space on your label for this barcode, making sure you separate it from your UPC code (you can read more about barcodes here). With digital label printing we can print a different barcode, encoding your random number, on every one of your 5,000 labels. Now, if you see your products in a retail store and you suspect they might be counterfeit you can simply scan some of the barcodes and compare the numbers to the random numbers on your spreadsheet. The numbers should all be different and should all match numbers on your spreadsheet. If not, then you have a counterfeit product. If all this sounds too complicated then don't worry, here at Lightning Labels we will be happy to do the hard work for you.
Monthly Archives: May 2008
At first glance the photo above is nothing unusual - a picture of a dozen bottles of red wine. But if you look at the labels you will see that each label has a slightly different design. These labels are the brainchild of Jeffrey Caldeway, a leading wine label designer in Napa, CA, who created these unique labels for St. Francis Winery's new wine called simply "RED".
RED is a reasonably priced wine aimed at the younger market, so Caldewey decided to do something completely different in order to catch their attention. He created 12 different red paint spatter pattern images for each of the 12 bottles in the case. So on the shelf in the liquor store customers will see different patterns on each bottle. To ensure that there were always 12 different labels in a case these labels had to be printed sequentially and then repeated down the roll so they could be applied to the bottles with their label applicator.
The only way to do this was through digital label printing. Now, to be clear Lightning Labels did not print these labels, but it is such an interesting use of variable image printing that I wanted to mention it here. It is a great example of leveraging digital label printing to enhance a brand. The overall design stays consistent, just one component of the label changes to give each label a unique look. When RED was launched it was ground breaking for the wine industry - no one had done anything like it before.
This is just one idea that you can use to create a truly unique label for your products. In the last issue of our newsletter, the Lightning Flash, I wrote about five product label ideas that can help you break through the clutter at the retail store. With digital label printing there are so many new opportunities for label and packaging designers that simply were not available a decade ago. Forward thinking companies like St. Francis Winery can really differentiate themselves by being one the first companies to leverage this new technology.
A few weeks ago HP came by our offices to do some filming in order to produce a short video featuring Lightning Labels and our digital label printing presses, the HP-Indigo WS4500. After six hours of filming the result is this five minute video below. Even though the intention here for HP is definitely to promote its presses, the resulting video is more informational than promotional. Hope you like it as much as we do.
As you might have heard Google wants to get into the mobile phone business. Instead of writing all the applications themselves, in typical Google fashion they are having a competition called the Android Developer Challenge and awarding $10 million to developers. One of the winners in the first round is Jeffrey Sharkey, a graduate student at Montana State University, who developed an application that can scan barcodes with the camera on your cell phone.
Of course, it does more than just scan a barcode. His software actually analyzes the barcode to determine the UPC or ISBN numbers and then using the internet connection on the cell phone it looks up a database to give you more information. For example, a scan of the UPC code on a music CD (pictured above) returns information about this CD. You get reviews on Amazon, a list of the tracks on the CD, and most importantly a list of places selling the CDs including prices. It searches both online stores as well as brick and mortar stores near your location.
Right now this software only works for CDs, DVDs, and books, but it will only be a matter of time before this spreads to all retail products with a UPC code. Imagine you are about to buy a nice $25 bottle of wine from your local liquor store, but you are not sure whether you are getting the best value. A quick photo of the barcode and within a few seconds you will have a list of all the places near you, as well as online, that have this same wine available and the prices they are charging.
I thought this technology might be ten years away or more, but after seeing this new application it will probably be less than five years when the above scenario becomes reality.
I have spent several hours a day for the past 25 years staring at a computer screen. So, like many people my age, I have to wear glasses to read. However, I don't need them to drive, so when I am out and about on a weekend I often find myself at the supermarket without my reading glasses. Most of the time I browse the aisles with no problems and find what I need.
But if a product is going to catch my eye when I don't have my reading glasses the product label had better be easy to read. All the important information such as brand, flavor and the product tag line should be featured prominently. There is no hard and fast rule here, but the larger you make the type the more people will be able to read your labels. And with the youngest baby boomers now in their late 40's, designing product labels for easy readability is going to become more important.