With Counterfeiting on the Rise, Brand Security Plays a Vital Role to Both Large and Small Brands

According to the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce®, counterfeiting is one of the fastest growing economic crimes of modern time. Once a cottage industry, counterfeiting has become a sophisticated network of organized crime, accounting for 5 to 7 percent of world trade, worth an estimated $600 billion a year.

Until relatively recently, the black and grey market economies did not pose a significant threat to brand owners. The black market operates illegally outside government-sanctioned channels with the buying and selling of goods and services, while commodities in the grey market are distributed legally, but through channels that are unauthorized by the original manufacturer-commonly referred to as diversion. Customers who would frequently shop in one of these two markets now have the ability to browse the Internet for the same products, posing an even deeper threat to a brand’s reputation and integrity, impacting the world’s biggest brands and smaller brands alike.

With the growth of global brands and the Internet, brand owners face threats from counterfeiters and brand pirates who are attempting to generate large profits by illegally producing credible look-a-like products to sell at deeply discounted prices. Brand owners are being forced to take a closer look at their supply chains and police the whereabouts and authenticity of their products at all times.

In the past, such luxury and high-end goods as designer clothes and accessories, spirits and perfumes, were most likely to be counterfeited. However, times have changed with technological advancements in digital imaging, cameras, scanners, artwork software, color and inkjet printers, aiding counterfeiters and brand pirates to generate a profit from any branded item-pharmaceuticals, electronics, software, cigarettes, hardware and food items like baby formula. Even automobile and aircraft parts are being counterfeited. It has been reported that the majority of counterfeited goods are coming from China, North Korea, Taiwan, India, Russia and parts of Africa.

Pharmaceutical counterfeiting has led to extreme outcomes, including consumer fatalities, which illustrates the importance of brand security. The Food and Drug Administration saw an 800 percent increase in the number of new pharmaceutical counterfeit cases between 2000 and 2006. According to The Lancet*, the world’s leading general medical journal, counterfeit pharmaceuticals will generate $75 billion in revenues in 2011, a 92-percent increase from 2005.

Taking a Defensive Stand
Diversion, pirating and counterfeiting not only have a negative impact on the revenues and profitability of legitimate companies, but they also impact the credibility and reputation of a brand. Counter measures against these practices must be taken throughout the supply chain-from the brand owner, supplier and distributor to the wholesaler, retailer and ultimately, the consumer.

It’s crucial that brand owners stay attuned to brand security in today’s market and become familiar with the array of available anti-counterfeiting solutions. Ignoring the importance of brand security is not an option, because once the damage is done, the cost to repair it can be far in excess of what it would have cost to prevent it from happening in the first place.

To ensure their customers only receive the highest quality and safest products, brand owners have a broad range of anti-counterfeiting solutions at their disposal to protect their brand positioning and brand promise.

It’s recommended that brand owners ask themselves the following questions before implementing a brand protection strategy:

1. What level of security-low, medium or high-do we want to build into our packaging design?
2. Do we want to check for counterfeiting at the shelf or at the warehouse? Do we want our customers to be able to check for counterfeiting at the point-of-purchase by using a visible authentication feature?
3. How much do we want to invest in brand security?
4. How are we going to ensure consistency of our brand security on a global level?

Pressure-sensitive technology is versatile. It enables intricate designs and complex die-cuts, creating labels that jump from the shelf. But even more so, the array of materials, when combined with special printing techniques, can become a metaphor for the product itself.

Layered Protection
With threats to brand security rapidly growing, the need to differentiate fake products from genuine ones is increasing, as well as the need for more advanced authentication technologies that thwart counterfeiters. However, it’s important that brand owners understand that even the most sophisticated anti-counterfeiting solutions on their own cannot prevent counterfeiting 100 percent, but can signal an alert when a threat exists and thereby encourage action to be taken.

In recent years, anti-counterfeiting measures have become increasingly complex and bolstered by the installment of different layers of security. Many of today’s technologies are used in conjunction with other security features that work in concert to heighten the overall level of protection. For example, a low-level of anti-counterfeit technology that is visible to the consumer is combined with a high-level security feature containing a covert or forensic technology. The more layers of security a brand owner applies, the more difficult it becomes for their brand to fall victim to counterfeiting, pirating or diversion.

The most common anti-counterfeiting technologies employed by brand owners include:

1. Overt technology: This level of protection is visible to the naked eye, and allows the brand to be authenticated without the need of a special inspection tool. Overt technology offers only basic protection against counterfeiting, whereby:

a. Devices can include, but are not limited to:

i. Customized security papers-watermarks, paper color or visible fibers embedded in the paper.
ii. Security threads-threads are embedded in the paper and are made of a film, making a label hard to copy.
iii. Two- or three-dimensional holograms-standard holograms are used mainly for decorative purposes, but customized holograms can be powerful tools in security applications.
iv. Tamper-evident films, paper and voids-destructible/frangible films, papers and void materials show destruction upon tampering. Void labels leave a customized “VOID” alpha numeric or geometrical-shape message on the substrate when the label is removed.

2. Covert technology: The security device is not visible to the naked eye, but can be detected by a low-cost inspection tool, such as an UV light, magnifying glass or plastic film overlay. The type of tool depends on the specific protection technology used. Covert technology is an advanced level of protection with hard-to-copy security features and some level of personalization:

a. Devices can include, but are not limited to:

i. Customized security papers-UV luminescent fibers embedded in the paper, chemical protection or verification with a special reactant pen.
ii. Non-visible security threads. Customized security threads can contain ultraviolet (UV) reflection and microprints.
iii. UV prints-various colors and designs can be printed in the laminate of a facestock or liner. Standard and customized UV prints are available.
iv. Infrared (IR) taggants-can be applied randomly in the paper, a self-adhesive laminate or in a custom spectrum that works as a unique signature. IR readers can be tailored to match the custom spectrum, giving off a signal when the right taggant percentages are detected. Uniquely encoded, IR taggants are virtually impossible to duplicate.
v. Inorganic taggants-can be added to inks, coatings, varnishes, adhesives, plastics, etc. Authenticity is confirmed using a special reader that gives off signals when a particular taggant is detected.

3. Forensic technology: These security devices are not visible to the naked eye, are hidden within the product and require laboratory analysis for authentication. Forensic technology is the highest level of protection from unique and personalized security features:

a. Devices can include, but are not limited to:

i. DNA taggants-microscopic or nano materials that are uniquely encoded for a brand. Provides a forensic chain of evidence that is trusted by police and recognized by courts globally. Large botanical DNA is acquired and then segmented, shuffled and reassembled to form a unique secure signature DNA marker that becomes patented technology. DNA taggants cannot be counterfeited, digitally copied, scanned or re-engineered.

To effectively deploy one of these technologies requires close collaboration between the brand owner and technology supplier.

Brand security is an investment that directly impacts the bottom-line for a consumer packaged goods company. It does this by protecting the brand from counterfeiting and diversion. And it also protects the brand owner from potential liabilities should a counterfeit product result in a consumer injury. Due diligence to protect your brand is a vital strategy that cannot be overlooked.

Las Vegas Shopping – THE Place to Shop

Many things come to mind when thinking of Las Vegas. Sprawling casinos, world-class shows, a hotel strip like no other in the world – and lots and lots of fabulous shopping. From the glamorous Forum shops with top designer names to the open-air Premium Outlets with great deals on brand-name merchandise, shopping in Las Vegas is as fun and unique as the city itself.

Some of the hotel shopping on Las Vegas Boulevard is an absolute must, as much for the surroundings as for the boutiques themselves. A great place to start on the strip is the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (3500 Las Vegas Blvd S.) Even if you don’t spend a dime you will enjoy the architectural details of this famous shopping venue. Designed to reflect the grandness of a Roman street, this shopping arcade features marble statues, a massive atrium with a domed skylight, and the much-copied sky painted ceilings that make it feel like you’re outside even though you aren’t. The shopping is also pretty remarkable. There are over 160 stores including mall favourites such as Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch, alongside top international luxury brands like Gianni Versace, Louis Vuitton and Roberto Cavalli. Notable boutiques include the chic fashions in Nanette Lepore, the incredible bags by Balenciaga, and the trendy pieces in Intermix. You will find fashions for your home as well, from the handcrafted crystal at Baccarat to the sleek designs at Nambé. If you hit the jackpot, the Forum Shops are the place to splurge – and so is the extraordinary collection of boutiques at the Wynn Esplanade in the Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Blvd S.) Oscar de la Renta features classic couture and shoe lovers particularly will enjoy the sexy styles on display at Manolo Blahnik. If you REALLY hit the jackpot you could even treat yourself to a shiny new car at the Penske Wynn Ferrari Maserati dealership.

For more great shopping and opulent settings, head to the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Resort & Casino (3355 Las Vegas Blvd S.) It has a canal complete with crooning gondoliers, cobblestone walkways and a re-creation of Venice’s famous St. Mark’s Square. Shoppers are serenaded by musicians, jugglers and various entertainers as they stroll along the canal. There are plenty of luxe labels to browse including Burberry, Jimmy Choo and the stylish and sexy designs at bebe. If you want to pamper your skin, the luxurious soaps, lotions and fragrances at Acca Kappa are simply divine. Other highlights include the one-of-a-kind porcelain designs in the Lladro boutique, and the acclaimed panoramic photography in the Peter Lik Gallery. Other notable shopping on the strip can be found at the bustling Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (3663 Las Vegas Blvd S.) which offers hip stores like H&M, Marciano and Ben Sherman.

There are some gigantic malls in Vegas and shopaholics should prepare themselves for a shopping extravaganza at Fashion Show (3200 Las Vegas Blvd S.) At nearly 2-million-square-feet with more than 200 stores, this shopping centre is one of the biggest in the US. Located in the heart of the strip, this mall features an 80-foot retractable runway for the fashion shows that run regularly. You’ll find renowned department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales, and cutting edge shops like Zara, Betsey Johnson and Ed Hardy. And there are plenty of popular chains like Hollister, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. More in the mood for Old Navy than Emporio Armani? Then check out The Boulevard (3528 South Maryland Parkway.) Just minutes from the strip and downtown, it is the second largest mall in the city after Fashion Show, and features a Sears, JC Penney, and many other mall favourites.

Off the strip, head downtown to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets (875 South Grand Central Parkway.) This open-air shopping venue has over 150 stores with a mix of brands, many of which are unexpected for an outlet. The uber-trendy on a budget will love browsing through the fashions at Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors and A|X Armani Exchange. Need to accessorize? Head to Kate Spade, Coach or Cole Haan. From sportswear at Adidas to crystal at Swarovski, this is outlet shopping that really delivers the designer goods. There are also lots of upscale finds at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas (32100 Las Vegas Blvd S.) located about 40 miles south in Primm, Nevada. Shuttles are available from the MGM Grand Hotel, the Miracle Mile and Fashion Show (round-trip fare is $15.00 and includes a coupon book.) Highlights include Neiman Marcus Last Call and the Williams Sonoma Marketplace, which is worth the trip itself for deep discounts on high-end kitchenware.

5 Personal Fitness Tips to Follow After Delivery

Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding take a drastic toll on your body. After childbirth, a woman’s routine becomes much hectic because of the newborn baby! A mother may at times, feel blessed to have even a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Nevertheless, personal training experts say that a proper fitness program and nutritious diet can help you get in shape quickly.

Be cautioned though. A mother of two and a personal training expert says that transformation does not happen overnight. However, with regular exercises she eventually had a body, which was better than she ever could have at her age! So, if you are planning to undertake some post-pregnancy exercises, now is the chance to get a body that maybe you dreamed of having, all those years!

1. Develop realistic goals
We know the first few months after having a baby are very special. Your baby is dependent on you for everything and you can’t leave their side for long too! However, you have to take out time for yourself. Do not exercise to fatigue. Take it slow but do not ditch exercises completely. Exercise when your baby is asleep and go for walks with your baby.

2. Exercises to do
Start practicing Kegel Exercises whenever you have spare time at hand. Take a deep breath and while exhaling, imagine your vaginal opening getting pulled up toward the inside of your belly button. Relax when inhaling. Repeat this procedure 20 times.

Another exercise to do is Tommy Toner. Inhale while expanding your belly. Pull your belly button toward your spine as you exhale. Again, repeat this 20 times.

3. Use dumbbells
Weight training is one of the most effective ways to have a better-shaped body. Even 2 or 3 sessions in a week, each of 20-30 minutes can bring some noticeable difference.

With weight training, you will have more lean muscles and less of body fats so not only do you lose weight but you also become stronger.

4. Don’t eat snacks or fast foods
With less time at hand and more tasks to do, some women may grab processed snacks and fast food without thinking about the damage they are doing to their fitness program!

If you are busy, have shakes instead. Eat healthy and more natural snacks such as nuts, fruits or a cup of low-fat yogurt. You could go to a nutritionist for some great snack ideas.

5. Hydrate yourself
Drink plenty of water, before, during and after your fitness training exercise. Lactating mother should have at least 8 ounces of water before and after their exercises. If your urine is clear or pale yellow in color, it means you are drinking enough water.