Brand Protection Calls for a DRASTIC Plan
Fake products abound in all industries today. Despite the rising threat, brand owners have sometimes been caught off guard by counterfeiting and have allowed themselves to become defensive and reactive. Some have perhaps viewed the problem as a law enforcement issue largely outside their control and therefore not amenable to normal management techniques. But by viewing counterfeiters not just as criminals (which they are) but as competitors then we can start to think more strategically about how to combat their activities.
Blue Sphere Health initially developed the DRASTIC* process as a thinking framework for corporate change initiatives. It works in a variety of settings where corporate big-ticket decisions have to be made and where there are no easy solutions. It has specific applications in the design and realisation of brand protection activities, which have sometimes struggled to get the senior management facetime that they deserve. If you are new to these issues, or just want a new perspective on the problem, here is our free guide to DRASTIC planning to help you avoid the potentially drastic consequences of inaction. If you like it, please use it or adapt it and leave me a comment below. Tell others by tweeting it using the button above and join our Twitter twibe ‘SafeMedicines’.
D = Definition (and Decision)
First, you need to agree and formalise the business objectives of brand protection. What is the scope and remit of the project? Make sure that the project has top-level buy-in, from the CEO downwards. He or she is the person who will be on the evening news if people die after using counterfeit versions of your product, whether it is a vaccine, yoghurt drink or brake pad. Brand protection has arguably not yet had a real BP moment, where the public has identified a problem with a specific corporation and a specific executive, and hammered them both, but it will probably happen.
R = Reality check
Many of the public numbers on counterfeits are nonsense. Poor or non-existent data is extrapolated, disseminated and then quoted as fact by people who should know better. Ask yourself the question ‘Do I know what is really happening in my markets?’ Have you measured counterfeiting and diversion as thoroughly and quantitatively as possible? These are very hard things to do, but they are necessary. If a competitor was stealing ten percent of your market share, would you allocate significant resources to finding out how and stopping it?
A = Analysis
Gather and use all available data. This may include information from enforcement activities, both in-house and in cooperation with external law enforcement organisations. It may also include customer-generated information: returns, complaints, “buzz” on social media sites can all provide an insight into potential problems. Monitor baseline data so that changes in profiles act as a warning to check for penetration of substandard or counterfeit product into the supply chain. Once you have analysed the data, you need to segment the problem across markets and products, to establish areas of high risk and areas of lower risk. A balanced scorecard approach is usually helpful.
S = Strategy
Armed with the appropriate analysis of the available data, devise a balanced, proportionate plan of action. Make sure that the product protection objectives are harmonised with the business objectives. If you are worried that brand protection is going to cost money, you are right – it will. But it is an investment not a sunk cost. Penny pinching on anti-counterfeiting, anti-diversion and supply chain security measures is short-sighted. Apply cost control measures by all means, but don’t view direct cost reduction as the only metric of success. The indirect, downstream costs of inaction or inappropriate action will dwarf the direct, upstream costs of brand protection.
T = Tactics
Many companies make the mistake of skipping the steps above and jumping straight to this one, thinking that technology is the answer to brand protection problems. This is a bad idea. Sure, there are some great technologies available and practical solutions are needed but they must be built on a basis of knowledge, be part of a wider strategy and have the unequivocal support of top management. Whatever technologies are chosen (contact me if you need more info on this) they should be ‘layered’. That is, there should be more than one authentication technique available for each protected pack and these should complement each other so that if one is copied or compromised the other(s) will still allow verification of authenticity. Never put all the brand eggs in one basket, however infallible and high-tech the receptacle looks and whatever the claims of the basket manufacturer.
I = Implementation
Often this is the neglected aspect in planning brand security programs. As a general rule, most people are not comfortable with change. This applies regardless of education level or nationality. So don’t expect to be received as a long-lost brother when you tell the plant manager in Mexico that you plan to put new monitoring equipment on his line that will require downtime, revalidation, extra local costs etc. The inertial drag of rolling out large authentication or traceability programmes means that plans need to include appropriate time and resources to deal with issues that are nothing to do with brand protection.
C = Communication (and Continuation)
Clearly, there are occasions when silence is golden: deeply-hidden forensic security features should not be disclosed to anyone who does not have an urgent need to know. These materials provide the last line of defence and are only used as a final resort if authenticity cannot be proved by other means. However, in most other cases telling people is a good idea. If the security feature is aimed at customs officials, pharmacists or other interested parties then produce a technical guide, leaflet or website where they can be educated about the need for brand protection and the nature of your investment in it. If the feature is aimed at consumers then tell them what to look for! This seems ridiculously obvious, yet many brand owners put a visible feature on the product (perhaps to tick the box for liability reduction) but do not tell their customers for fear of stirring up awkward questions about the safety and authenticity of the brand.
C is also for continuation. The DRASTIC process should be repeated at regular intervals to ensure that brand protection is appropriate for the market conditions, which change all the time.
If you would like more information on how to implement DRASTIC, or on any other aspects of authentication and brand protection, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
*DRASTIC process (c) Blue Sphere Health Ltd 2010
Tags: anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, consultancy, strategy