Being Iconic: Victorinox’s Cutting Edge Business Thinking!

We all know Victorinox’s pocket knife, the multi-functional iconic product that has been the official Swiss Army Knife for more than 130 years. What started as another cutler’s business in Switzerland, back in 1884, is now a brand with sales in 120 countries.

Exploring Victorinox’s history we can learn a lot about how innovative and restless business thinking can help a brand become a game changer in its product category.

  • In 1891, cutler Karl Elsener, notes that the Swiss Army uses German knives for its soldiers and decides to create a pocket knife made in Switzerland. Tip: Examine what’s missing in your market of interest before deciding what your business is going to be.
  • Karl Elsener decides that the best way to win the pitch over the German knives was to surpass their product in innovation and the first multi-functional pocket knife is born. Tip: Study your competitors and create a product that beats the competition in your customers’ minds.
  • The year 1897 finds Karl Elsener not very happy with his product. He goes on adding new features in his product thus extending its already multi-functional character. Tip: Never rest. Your customers will always look for something new and better. Foresee their needs and keep them happy!
  • On the same year, Wenger Knives emerge threatening Elsener’s business. He patents his design and creates the shield logotype and Victorinox brand name. Tip: Competitors will always be there. Study their moves, understand their business thinking and react accordingly!
  • A hundred and thirty four years later, Victorinox is a lot more than just pocket knives. It has acquired Wenger SA and Travel Gear SA, thus expanding its business in a wide range of products such as: men’s and women’s watches, luggage, briefcases, wallets, apparel and fragrances, all under the concept of adventure. Tip: Every product belongs to a greater product category, if you’re thinking of expanding your main business look at what is close and around your original product idea, this way your customers will know that you know what you ‘re doing and trust your new product. Par example, a wine maker shouldn’t move to the dairy business, soft drinks or beer should serve him better.

Conclusion:  A successful brand knows its “enemies” and is always at war. The war of pushing further its limits. A successful brand foresees or even creates the future needs of its customers.

* Being Iconic, is a series of short articles examining the many different aspects of branding and design.

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