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3 Ways to Protect Your Cannabis Brand from Counterfeiters


People say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But in the cannabis industry, counterfeiting can cause lasting damage to a brand’s good name. 

Counterfeiting affects nearly every consumer product, from clothing to watches to cosmetics. According to the most recent Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, the total value of counterfeit products is expected to reach $1.2 trillion this year. Now, counterfeiters are capitalizing on the demand for popular cannabis products by recreating their familiar packaging and labeling designs. 

Counterfeiting was especially detrimental to the brands that were copied during the Vape emergency last year. Unscrupulous basement processors copied the packaging of brands like Cookies, TKO Organics, and Refine. Once news outlets started covering the emergency, these brands, and pictures of their counterfeited products, were featured in key national stories. The New York Times proclaimed on its front page that “Dank Vapes, TKO, and other THC Vaping Brands are Linked to Illness, CDC Says.” Thankfully it was soon reported that it was not the legal market that was being affected, but that headline will live on the internet forever.

While no industry is immune to the impact of counterfeiting, there are proactive steps you can take to protect your cannabis products and the integrity of your brand. 


Design intricate, hard-to-reproduce packaging

Well-designed packaging is your first line of defense against counterfeiters. Consider using uncommon packaging materials or shapes to set your brand apart on the shelves. Aim for consistency in the logo and colors you use. But be aware, if your brand-building is successful, it will make your product an even more desirable target for counterfeiters. Fake packaging for wildly popular cannabis brands like Cookies and Jungle Boys is readily available on Amazon or eBay. To stay ahead of the scammers, brand owners need to think beyond creative packaging. 


Incorporate anti-counterfeiting labeling features

When combined with well-designed packaging, custom cannabis labeling solutions add an extra layer of security to your product. For example, tamper-proof labels cannot be removed cleanly, which prevents someone from reusing the packaging. Other solutions include customized holographic seals, special inks, coatings and embossing on the label. You can even print a hidden, UV-reactive serial number or image on the label, making it visible only under a blacklight. Get creative with solutions like this. Your designers will appreciate the challenge!


Interact with your customers, and tell them where to find you

With cannabis, it’s not just your brand’s reputation at stake; it’s also the health and safety of the end-users. Unlike regulated cannabis products, fake cannabis products are not made in licensed facilities with regulations, or quality and safety controls. They may contain dangerous chemicals like pesticides. This makes it all the more important to educate consumers about your products and how to tell them apart from knockoffs. Tell your customers whenever you can about your retail partners, and where to find your real products. Encourage your customers to call out counterfeits and alert you to fake products they find.

Incorporating a QR code on the cannabis label is one simple way to communicate with end-users. With a quick scan of their smartphone, consumers can connect to your brand’s app or webpage to verify the product’s authenticity and access detailed product information such as testing history, dosages, potency levels, product effects and consumer reviews. QR codes can also be used as a marketing tool, allowing customers to unlock exclusive content or promotional deals. 

As augmented reality (AR) technology becomes more accessible, we’ll likely see cannabis brands using scannable AR labels to interact with customers and animate aspects of their label designs. A few wine and beer brands are already using this attention-grabbing approach! This is a technique Delta9 is really interested in, and predicts will become an integral part of cannabis labeling and branding.


Protect your brand (and your customers) from counterfeiters

You may not ever be able to stop counterfeiters, but you can make it harder for them to tarnish your brand and trick the customers you have cultivated. Implementing unique packaging, custom labeling solutions and interactive technology will set your company apart and enhance the customer experience. 

Delta9 Systems' custom label manufacturing capability is unparalleled in the cannabis industry. We can produce and deliver standard sizes of blank label stock, as well as proprietary custom product labels that take your brand to a higher level. We’ll work with you to create one-of-a-kind labels for cannabis products in any shape, size, and color, with special features like topcoats, embossing and foil stamping. The possibilities are endless! 

Bottom line… Looking for great-looking cannabis product labels, that can protect your brand? We got you! 

Contact our experts today to learn more and get a free quote. 

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Chris Guthrie
Chris is the General Manager of Delta9 Systems, a division of General Data Co. He is an expert in the cannabis industry, having participated in the birth of the cannabis industry in Washington, and has operated one of the first and oldest medical dispensaries in Seattle. For a decade, Chris has participated in the design and managed the construction of dozens of indoor gardens, and has been involved in cultivation, processing, retail operations, as well as industry activism.
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