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Special Report

Holography's Continuing Contribution to Improved Odds

by Ian M. Lancaster; Reconnaissance International

November-December, 2011

Holo-pack•Holo-print®, The Holography Conference, is this year in Las Vegas, so it is an appropriate statement to say that business is a gamble; but in the current global economic climate, this is a doubly appropriate truism. So with the theme of this Holo-pack•Holo-print conference being Improving Your Odds with Holography, it is worth exploring just how much holography can do to help our customers improve their odds for success.

Holography has a strong track record in reducing risk for customers. Fortunately through this benefit, it also helps the hologram or holographic materials producers to improve their odds for business success. Through customer success with holography comes the holographer’s success! This article therefore serves as a reminder of just how successful holograms can be for customers – a key marketing message – with a view of how this is continuing into the uncertain future.

Across all application markets, holography makes an important, continuing (and in some fields, growing) contribution to improving customers’ odds. In the largest markets for holographics, authentication or security and packaging, there are numerous examples and case studies that show this. But also in the less well-known fields in which holography makes a mark, such as in enhancing display screens, the case for holography is very strong.

What the holography industry, including converters and finishers, now needs to do is to make sure this message of the strong contribution of holography gets across to potential new customers. So here’s some information about that success to help convey this message, addressing each market in order of value to the hologram producers.

Authentication of Secured Documents
Strangely, the US is the most resistant market in the world to the use of holograms as a means to protect documents of value. For 20 years or so, holograms have been used to protect the banknotes of many countries, and it is notable that the euro banknotes issued for the first time in 2002 used a hologram on all denominations. These notes (or bills) were probably the most thoroughly researched and tested currency launch, so the fact that the European Central Bank chose to use them was a testament to the efficacy of holograms in protecting banknotes.

Also consider that six new series of banknotes issued this year, in Brazil, Canada, Philippines, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Cayman Isles, use holograms as protection. This is not because they look pretty (although they do); it is because the Central Banks in these countries have seen how effective they are at doing their protection job.

It’s a similar story with ID documents. The US is one among many countries to use a hologram to protect the data page of passports, and many states use a hologram on their driver’s licence. In other countries, holograms are mandated for use on ID cards, driver’s licences and other similar documents. The US came close to adopting a single hologram for all driver’s licences, but the AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) plan was scuppered by resistance from some states.

The same is true with tax stamps, which are small pieces of highly secured paper or other substrate that seal a bottle of drink or pack of cigarettes that signify the required excise tax has been paid. This also is a state responsibility in the US, as it is in other countries such as India. Tax stamps with holograms have proven to be a potent defence against tax fraud, cross-border smuggling and counterfeiting in countries such as the Ukraine ($3 billion in recovered taxes over three years since the introduction of the latest generation holographic tax stamp with built-in taggant covert security), India, Hungary, Brazil and many others. Sadly, the US has not yet recognized the value that such tax stamps can return to them, often because restricted budgets prevent it from investing in such sophisticated pieces of paper. Consequently, a vicious circle of reduced tax revenues ensues.

But it’s not only public-authority issued documents of value that benefit from the protection afforded by holograms. Commercially produced documents often reduce fraud through the use of holograms. This includes sporting event tickets (the Super Bowl, Olympics and others) and transport tickets. Concert or other event tickets also use holograms. For example, tickets issued by Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticketing agency, are protected by holograms, often cleverly laid down across the perforations that mark the point of separation of two-part tickets.

Product and Brand Protection
It’s a similar success story with product or brand protection and holograms, but in this sector the story may be harder to get across. Right now there seems to be a move by brand owners and their trade associations towards serialization and tracking technologies as a means to deliver authentication of product, but this is a misconception. As numerous companies and anti-counterfeiting experts have shown, the best anti-counterfeiting strategy involves tracking the product through the supply chain, using covert authentication features for detection by specialist equipment and being able to show it is authentic with overt (i.e., obvious to the human senses) techniques. And holograms are the best and most proven method of overt authentication.

Plenty of opportunity still exists for the use of holographic labels, seals and hot stamped marks on packaging and/or product. As with banknotes, the proof of the success is in the continued use. Every US major sports league uses holograms to show the authenticity of licensed merchandise, and they’ve been doing so for many years. In this aspect of their work, these are hard-headed business organizations that wouldn’t spend money on a device that doesn’t continue to be effective. In this case, holograms are an effective means that help them to track the sales of licensed goods so they can be sure of getting their royalty, as well as detecting the unlicensed fakes.

Microsoft, too, has been using holographic authentication for years and shows no sign of abandoning this potent tool. Far from it, the company is investing in new designs and holographic techniques.

Continuing innovation and ingenuity in the capabilities of holograms ensure that their contribution to customer protection – for documents and brands – will persist, despite challenges from new products and sometimes sceptical potential customers. Yes, holograms can be copied, but so can everything else. The strength of holograms lies in the fact that they are extremely difficult to copy accurately and therefore, serve the purpose of detecting the fakes. As David Howard, global brand protection manager for Johnson & Johnson, has said, “We no longer deploy technology to prevent counterfeiting. We deploy technology to detect counterfeiting.” And this is how holograms help.

Walk into a store… look at the display of perfumes and fragrances… then stroll over to the toothpaste aisle, and pick up some chewing gum while you’re at the checkout. You will see a large variety of holographic packaging in these displays. This is another example of success breeding business.

Arm and Hammer started the trend of holographic toothpaste packaging, rapidly followed by Colgate and SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline). They followed because holographic packaging on toothpaste and other oral care products has boosted sales and market share. And in the case of some brands, such as Total, it’s become an integral part of brand identity. And it’s not static. Neither the brand owners, nor the packaging designers and the hologram producers are sitting on their laurels. GSK has just launched Aquafresh Extreme Clean in a stunning and appropriately designed set of holographic packs. Similarly in Europe, they’ve launched a new range of Sensodyne with holographically produced Fresnel lenses on the box (no doubt it will come to the US shortly).

Turning back to the perfumes display, look at the recently launched Beyoncé Pulse fragrance, several varieties and sizes all in holographic packaging. This is a Coty product, the world’s largest perfume producer, and they’ve used holographics in the past, so they know it works – hence its use on this important new launch.

These are not small hot stamped holo-patches less than one square inch; these are laminated, over-printed hologram materials using tens of square inches of material. This is good for the customer and good for the hologram producer.

The readers of InsideFinishing will be most interested in the fields I’ve described so far, but a brief word about HOEs – holographic optical elements. These can be described as the ‘essence of holograms’ because they use the functionality of holograms, i.e., to control light. HOEs are flat, light and can deliver multiple optical functions on one piece of film, where conventional optics are thick, heavy and can perform only one optical function. So look out for HOEs on your vehicle’s digital dashboard, on your cell phone or tablet, on the back projection screen at tradeshows and on flat screen TVs. Where laser diodes, liquid crystals or LEDs are used there is usually a role for holographic optical elements.

So with the increase in use of these light and display generators, the potential contribution of HOEs has never been greater. But then that also is true of more conventional and recognizable holograms. Go tell your potential customers!

Reconnaissance International is the leading global source on holography, offering conferences, publications and consultancy on the subject. For more information, visit www.reconnaissance-intl.com.