First, flashy Aunt Suzy showed up with that Gucci handbag with the slopppy stitching. Then Sid, your unemployed cousin, started sporting a “Rolex.” And finally, there was the disappointment of your friend Jody’s “pre-release special edition” DVD of Spiderman. (Remember? It looked as though it had been shot with a hand-held camera at the metroplex.)
Yes, we’ve all been aware of the problem of counterfeit products for a while now, and businesspeople certainly have been, more so than most of us, particularly those folks who produce “quality” products (which would include everything if a poll were taken of the producers). One’s business guard must always be up to prevent cheaters from making a buck off one’s “good name,” especially in that the dollar in some sense is being stolen from you…both via the individual transaction, and likely into the future. That is, once a counterfeit owner of “your” product realizes firmly that he’s been taken, he’ll probably avoid your stuff forevermore. (“It’s all suspicious!”)
The question here is: when does the guard against counterfeit products become paranoia, or worse, silliness?
This morning NPR’s “Marketplace Report” presented a curiously entertaining story among the stock futures report, the joy of yesterday’s Dow ending above 10,000, and their always cutting-edge closing musical selection. It seems that Kellogg’s, the cereal maker, is mulling over branding individual flakes of their signature corn flakes with their signature, well-known K. In England.
The story was tantalizingly short on details or answers to begging questions, but apparently it is possible to use a laser in this very precise way. Of course, many already know about such tiny laser brandings, but branding a diamond seems to me different in kind (or at least problems to be addressed) from branding individual, very much unlike flakes. (I mean, some of those bumps on one flake have to be different from some of the bumps on others, don’t they?)
Does a corn flake have to be pinned down to be branded? They’re pretty light. Is the laser room ventilated?
Such technical questions about this matter, though, are perhaps less interesting than the aforementined begging questions:
Could those thieving Brits actually be counterfeiting Kellogg’s boxes and filling them with inferior flakes? If so, wouldn’t it be a bit more cost-effective to seal packages with holographic tape? Lasers and laser technicians don’t exactly grow on those proverbial trees, and Wal-mart certainly isn’t running a sale on the former.
Or could I be missing the point, which may be what’s loosely called marketing? In other words, in a world-wide recession, is there actually someone at Kellogg’s who believes that there will be a bump in sales of corn flakes if they’re branded? Maybe there’s a combination of factors at work here. Perhaps the “mad men” at The Big K wake up at night with the sweats from bad dreams:
“Smithers, could you come here a moment?”
“Are these actually Kellogg’s corn flakes?”
“I believe they are, sir?
“But are you sure? I mean, look – here – at this flake – where’s the K?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t help you with this. That particular flake is rather covered in milk, I’m afraid.”
“Smithers, you’re not trying to pull a fast one on me here, are you?”
“Sir, I’d never….”
As Brando once rasped, “The horror…the horror….”
“Marketplace Report,” Morning Edition. NPR. WHYY. Philadelphia 15 October 2009.