Victorinox has set its sights on Asia and has some pretty ambitious plans for the future. As a Swiss brand that is celebrating 140 years of legacy this year, Victorinox has slowly built itself up into a household name.

While the brand does inherit the Swiss way of doing things with quality, patience, and expertise, this new chapter for the Ibach-based brand does see its share of unknowns and challenges when working towards to future in this exercise of cultural exchange.

Having been introduced the the Victorinox brand at a young age through its watches and the iconic Swiss Army Knife, it has been interesting seeing the evolution of such a historic brand, especially after seeing the collaboration with Off-White, and recent advancements in travel gear and fragrances.

Looking to learn more about this exciting chapter from the brand, we joined Victorinox’s Chief Marketing Officer, Veronika Elsener, the fourth generation of Victorinox’s Elsener family, to discuss what the Asian market means to the brand, the importance of expanding its travel gear category, and some of Mrs. Elsener’s favourite travel essentials.

With such a long-standing heritage, how difficult is it to maintain that brand DNA while looking into the future?
For a company with a long-standing tradition, it can be a challenge to preserve the brand DNA and at the same time, act in a future-oriented manner. It is important to respect and continue your own brand values and the history associated with them. This can be achieved through consistent communication, visual branding, and the maintenance of core values.

Nevertheless, it requires a balance between continuity and innovation, as the brand DNA should be flexible enough to take new trends, technologies, and consumer needs into account. Companies should not view their brand DNA as static. It must evolve to remain relevant. This can be done through strategic planning, research, and the integration of new ideas. We have just evolved our brand strategy which in October 2023 has been rolled out internally and in March 2024 externally. This was and still is a big project within our marketing team since it impacts the whole company. We see our brand DNA as a living organism that adapts but still retains its essence with innovation and expertise at the core of it.

How did travel restrictions impact the brand?
Travel restrictions had first a big impact on our travel gear product category. We experienced a strong decrease in sales for our backpacks, luggage, and other travel items. Besides that, our brand especially in our home country, Switzerland, is also heavily dependent on tourism. Our Swiss Army Knife is a very popular souvenir among tourists visiting Switzerland, and the sharp decline in international travel had a big impact on our sales. Overall, the pandemic was a huge challenge for our brand, but it also provided an opportunity to adapt and innovate.

We like to invest anticyclical, so during slow times, we take our focus inwards to adjust, and our future outlook becomes our priority as we take this time to adapt and evolve. This was our approach with the COVID-19 impact too, the last few years our focus became our evolved brand strategy and aligning our products and outlook more with our target consumer and we are just starting to see this trickle through into our communications and our new product ranges.

How has the brand been able to carry aspects of the iconic Swiss Army Knife into its other products, and how much of that is considered when developing a new product mix?
The Swiss Army Knife is the heart of our brand. That’s where we come from. Therefore, it always serves as inspiration when developing new products, and you will always find a reference to the Swiss Army Knife on all our products. The smart and masterful solutions that have made the Swiss Army Knife so iconic can be seen in all our other products in their way with function-led design and our pursuit of excellence.

What are your travel essentials and do you travel light or pack heavily when travelling out of the country?
Of course, everything depends on the purpose of the journey. For a nice city trip or a weekend getaway, I prefer to travel lightly. A carry-on combined with one of our multifunctional backpacks, where all my belongings like notebooks, cables, and valuable items are well protected serves its purpose expertly.

On longer trips, either business or leisure, it is all about versatility. Here, I prefer luggage with an expandable function to be flexible. Packing cubes are also smart helpers when packing, they help me keep my clothes organized and easy to find. It’s also useful for the journey back to keep clean anything not worn and keep the dirty laundry packed away in one place, ensuring I don’t have unnecessary washing.

What is your earliest memory of the Victorinox brand?
I remember vividly that my first encounter with the Swiss Army Knife was when I was a young child. My father always carried one with him and he introduced me to it. It really fascinated me at the time as it made me believe the possibilities of what you could do are endless.

How is Victorinox differentiating itself from the competition?
We are the makers of the Original Swiss Army Knife, and this is something no other brand can claim, making us different. We have ensured that the expertise we are known for with the Swiss Army Knife is reflected in all our other products with dedicated teams for each product category who ensure we provide smart and masterful solutions to consumer needs. We profit from our long history and strong heritage, and today we are a worldwide known brand, associated with high-quality, long-lasting, and reliable products. We are especially proud of our Swiss heritage, with Swissness being a strong USP.

When opening the new concept stores, what do you factor in when choosing a location?
We like to ensure that our premium brand positioning is mirrored in everything we do, of course, this means that a premium environment and location are important factors to consider when looking for new store locations.

What is the benefit of visiting one of the stores versus online?
Being a multicategory brand, the experience of being in one of our stores and having the chance to see, touch, and feel the whole Victorinox world is difficult to achieve online. Besides that, the staff in our stores are experts when it comes to Swiss Army Knives, cutlery, watches, and travel gear and can give customers the best possible advice. We give great importance to face-to-face interaction with our customers, being able to get valuable feedback and connect with them in real life.

Can you list some other brands you admire and your dream collaboration?
There is a relevance and use for our products in many different sectors and because of this Victorinox is a natural fit across various industries that we can tap into like outdoor, technology, travel, art, and architecture – the list can go on. We have in the past done collaborations with the likes of Le Corbusier,  Tiffany & Co, and most recently adidas and Off-White. Each of these collaborations was unique and combined elements of what makes these brands iconic with Victorinox’s essence.

For me, the best brands to collaborate with are the ones where we can tap into a sector that is a natural fit for us with a brand that creates a strong synergy. Both brands must bring their unique essence to the table and not be shy to explore how they can co-create something new with each other. The outcome should be something that plays to the strengths and unique DNA of both brands and tells an interesting new story. It must have cultural relevance in today’s world as consumers are past the point of just buying new things for the sake of shopping. There must be added value.

The Swiss Army Knife is an iconic companion. If you had to compare yourself to one of the many tools in the SAK, which would you be and why?
I want to be bold here and say I do not wish to be just one feature, but I want to be the whole Swiss Army Knife. I highly value the versatility and multifunctionality of it.

What is one place that is lesser known that you would recommend to our readers for their new travel location?
I went to Sicily last October and Masseria degli Ulivi is one of my recommendations there. Sicily is terrific in terms of culture, food, and nature. I think a holiday as much as it should be about relaxing should also be an exploration and a learning, discovery experience.

It should help rest and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul with experiences. I am heading to Umbria this year and Ristorante Alle Scuderie at Castello di Reschio is on my list. They focus on simplicity in terms of local, fresh, and organic ingredients. It is set in a beautiful Estate, and they combine the rich heritage of it with traditional Umbrian recipes for a memorable experience.

How does travelling alone versus travelling with family change the way you plan your trip?
My children are all grown up now, so everyone’s responsible for their own packing for family trips. Travelling with a young family can require more extensive planning and preparation, and it serves always to be prepared and have extra items with you – whether it be clothes, blankets, toys, or medicine without forgetting the essentials.

To be best prepared when travelling with a young family, choosing the right destination must be the starting point. As a parent, you want to be a good example to your children and get them to understand that travelling should be an enriching experience, a chance to immerse yourself in different cultures and see different ways of living. Experiencing different cuisines, and learning about different traditions and cultures is important – it helps broaden your worldview and can be humbling at the same time. The people you encounter on the trips will be what really makes it a superb experience. So, ensure that you connect with the locals as much as possible. In today’s world, we should really be considered when we think about traveling and see if the CO2 footprint we are creating with the trip is worth it, and really make the most out of being somewhere different.

Do you prefer check-in or carry-on luggage and why?
These days, I tend to go more for check-in luggage. I have found it easier lately and I ensure my travel plans consider this in terms of extra time it may require checking in and collecting the luggage.


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