Echo-Interview with Carl Elsener, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Victorinox AG
elipsLife echo: Mr Elsener, Victorinox is a world-renowned brand. How did a pocket knife become so unbelievably successful?
Carl Elsener: Quality and function certainly play a decisive role. Thanks to their many uses, Victorinox pocket knives are much more than just useful and reliable tools. They go with people everywhere, not only in their daily lives but also when adventure beckons, whether to the North Pole, Mount Everest or a tropical rainforest. Victorinox knives are even used in space, as they are part of the official gear issued to all space shuttle astronauts. A journalist wrote once that a Victorinox pocket knife is “a friend, not just a knife”, in other words, a companion for life. In his autobiography, the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield talks about his experiences in space and describes what happened when the space shuttle docked to the Russian space station Mir. When he could not open the hatch, he remembered his Swiss army knife, which he used to break into the space station. His conclusion: “Never leave the planet without one!”
Victorinox AG not only sells pocket knives, but also offers travel gear, clothing, watches and even perfumes. How would you define your company today?
We see Victorinox today as an authentic Swiss multi-product brand, but the Swiss army knife is and will always be our core product. It also serves as the inspiration for all our other product categories. We try to apply the values that made the pocket knife successful to all other product categories.
What are these values?
Customers everywhere in the world trust the quality, functionality, innovative strength and iconic design of the Victorinox products. These four values always take centre stage when we develop new products. The common element linking our product categories is the fact that all our products, whether pocket knife, clothes, watch, travel gear or perfume, accompany people in their everyday lives. Perfume is actually the only product category that did not originate in our heads, but was added to our product range with the products of Wenger, a company we took over in 2005. Wenger already sold perfumes 25 years ago.
Victorinox embodies the term “Swissness” like no other brand. How important is Swissness for the company's future strategy?
For me, the term Swissness encapsulates all the attributes that are expressed by the brand Switzerland. These include quality awareness, reliability, a high level of work motivation and modesty, but also a cosmopolitan attitude and forward thinking. Our competitive advantage clearly lies in the strength of our Swiss brand with its history going back more than 130 years. This strength is derived from the interaction between history and tradition as well as from the brand's openness and innovation. Victorinox is synonymous with quality, reliability, innovative strength, courage and a pioneering spirit. These are typical Swiss values and a strong part of our identity. These values will continue to play a decisive role for us in future, too.