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A colorful brand security trick

Gary Lerner of the Red Oak Group shares a simple idea for brand protection that is as overt and seamless as you could imagine, a trick that helped one client dramatically reduce product diversion.

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For a special report on brand protection that apppears in our June issue, we interviewed security expert Gary Lerner, cofounder of Red Oak Group (, who had much more to say than we had room for. Lerner's primary job includes protecting leading-edge products from counterfeiting and gray-market diversion. The Red Oak Group approaches problems from a technology-agnostic perspective and focuses on what unwarranted behavior is to be protected and how best can that be accomplished.

Lerner says a good percent of his company's work is for is packaged product.

Package design plays a critical role in addressing tampering, preventing counterfeiting and minimizing product diversion, Lerner notes. Using the package as a layer in a product protection program can be very involved or as simple as a color change, like the following example attests:

One of Lerner's clients decided to change their products' packaging from a universal global design in favor of a unique package color for all international shipments.

"The change immediately exposed trafficking of gray-market product," Lerner says. "International sales of the legacy packaging spiked as word of the pending transition was known to the channel. As the new packaging became available, international sales declined as product could not as easily be diverted to domestic markets since the difference is so obvious and can be clearly seen. The difference between an exported product and an imported version is as easy to see as black and white."


• The change was straightforward, and makes trans-shipped product dramatically stand out.

• Redesign costs and implementation efforts were minimal

• It increased margins by reducing price erosion, more than offsetting additional costs of segmenting international vs. domestic shipping

• It also upset conventional wisdom that global universal packaging increased brand equity

"The client did a nice job to create a new identity," says Lerner. "The international market wasn't as concerned about the color as it had assumed. Now it has a very visible barrier for goods shipped outside of the U.S. and it's as apparent as black versus white."

If you are wondering how to best protect your brand, send your questions or concerns to Gary Lerner at [email protected].

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