Victorinox Brand Identity | Zürich University of Applied Sciences

1. Brand Image and Identity

A company’s brand identity consists of the collection of all of the brand elements created to portray the desired position in the mind of the consumer. In the case of Victorinox, this has been divided into ‘brand values, vision and personality’, ‘brand design’, ‘logo’, ‘typography’, ‘colour’ and finally, ‘brand imagery and composition’.

1.1 Brand Values, Vision and Personality

Founded in 1874 by Karl Elsener, Victorinox’s Swiss Army Knife has become a family name. The brand’s values – durable and enduring, Swiss, loyalty, service, preparation and punctuality, quality and craftmanship – are closely interlinked with Swiss culture and therefore hold authenticity when it comes to marketing the product line. In fact, since the original Swiss Army Knife was produced in 1884, very little design-wise has changed – it has remained almost entirely the same, with the exception of additional features such as USBs, as consumer demands have altered. Of course, in 2017, Victorinox does not only produce Swiss Army Knives – the product line has expanded to include high quality cooking knives, suitcases and travel goods as well as clothing (Victorinox, 2017). While these items may not initially appear to be perfectly suited, Victorinox is establishing itself as a lifestyle brand, where conservative versatility is the common denominator.

As a further indicator of Victorinox’s brand values, vision and personality, it is evident that the managers hold a strong commitment to building a sustainable future for the company. Every move is strategically analysed – the company spent eight years searching for the right location for their flagship store in London (2008) and have since opened stores in Geneva (2009) and Zürich (2014). While development may be less dynamic than in smaller, less-established brand, it is carried out as a vision for longevity. To illustrate, Victorinox has not removed an employee from service for economic reasons for over 80 years. Instead, during financial crises within the company, management implemented procedures in order to keep employees, while slightly reducing shifts, encouraging time off and subcontracting others to surrounding businesses for up to 6 months at a time (Lee & Cardona, 2010). When the crisis was averted, employees returned holding a sense of trust and loyalty towards the company.

1.2 Brand Design

Victorinox’s brand design is composed of four key branding elements which are applied to all of the brand’s touchpoints to ensure a consistent image. These include: the logo (representing the brand promise), Victorinox’s splinter design (inspired by the multi-functionality of the Swiss Army Knife), a touch of red (the corporate colour and the colour of the Swiss flag) and the Swiss Army Knife signature brand stripe (which communicates heritage and brings structure to the entire design).
1.2.1 Logo

Victorinox has two logos which are both registered within the brand. The combination of the Victorinox ‘cross and shield’ and the logotype ‘Victorinox’ or ‘Victorinox Swiss Army’ form a defined relationship with one another and should not be separated, otherwise the brand identity may be weakened. The first logo, with the logotype ‘Victorinox’ is considered the standard brand application for all products, while the ‘Victorinox Swiss Army’ logo is “never used to advertise or brand products that do not fulfil the Swiss requirements in terms of Swiss origin” (Victorinox Brand Design, 2015, p. 7). This subtle difference is important to note, as it prevents companies which manufacture outside of Switzerland from using Switzerland’s country of origin positioning to indicate quality and prestige. It should also be noted that the Swiss-inspired cross and shield can only be displayed in red on products made in Switzerland. Any product not originating from Switzerland must use the cross and shield in another colour, such as silver or dark grey, which is commonly displayed on many of Victorinox’s products. This silver or dark grey cross and shield is particularly evident in regards to the luggage, watches and cutlery, indicating that with expansion from the original Swiss Army Knife, production has increasingly moved offshore (Victorinox, 2017).

The brand name itself, Victorinox, is formed through the combination of Karl Elsener’s mother’s name, ‘Victoria’ and ‘inox’, which comes from French to refer to stainless steel (Victorinox, 2017). The founder’s use of his mother’s name in the brand indicates the importance of family to the company. Indeed, even following the 9/11 crisis, which called for stronger regulations and banned the sales pocket knives in airport terminals (a primary market for Victorinox), the Victorinox family held strong. Despite a 30 percent drop in sales within three months, the company managed to ride out the crisis without losing a single employee (Lee & Cardona, 2010).

In reference to this commitment, the logotype is a hardy, bold, all-caps serif, which is mimicked in the curves and hooks of the cross and shield. In looking at the integration of Victorinox’s design elements, that is, the precision and attention to detail, it is clear to see how this seemingly small brand became renowned within Switzerland and internationally.

1.2.2 Typography

Victorinox’s corporate typeface is Trade Gothic, however it can be substituted for Arial in MS Office Applications (Victorinox Brand Design, 2015, p. 16). Trade Gothic was designed by Jackson Burke (of Linotype, US) in 1948 and is a grotesk sanserif typeface with sturdy characters that hold a touch of earthy naturalism – it is particularly popular in “books, magazines and newspapers due to its spacious counters and legibility” (Typedia, 2017). Interestingly, the typography used by Victorinox has not been designed by a Swiss foundry, however the grid formation and the way in which it is set in advertising and communication is indeed in line with Swiss design principles.

As a result, consumers are likely to perceive the communication as ‘Swiss’ and in turn, complementary with the image presented from Victorinox’s product range.

1.2.3 Colour

Colour is a very important element for Victorinox as it brings the brand elements together to create a consistent platform and message. In accordance with Swiss positioning, Victorinox’s corporate colour is a deep red (Pantone 201 C). In regards to Victorinox’s country of origin approach to positioning, red signifies the company’s alignment with Swiss values, however, in addition to this, red can also be interpreted as a representation of strength, leadership, courage, vigour, determination and action, which positively correlate with the company’s product range.

While Victorinox’s brand does use other colours in its communication, such as muted blues, silver, grey, white and black, these tend to act as foils to ensure the red has the highest impact. It should also be noted that, in regards to Swiss positioning and communication, the alps are often depicted with the colour palette, lending a sense of crispness to the image, as if the viewer were standing atop the peak themselves, breathing in the air, complete with their own red Swiss Army Knife.

1.2.4 Brand Imagery and Composition

Victorinox divides its advertising objectives into either brand communication or product communication. For the purpose of this section, only brand communication will be covered. Brand communication imagery is composed of a splintered lifestyle shot and product shot. The splinter is a “visual framework that can run across all communication, from brand advertising all the way to point of purchase” and is designed to mimic the flexible system of the Swiss Army Knife (Victorinox Brand Design, 2015, p. 25). The composition of the splinter is very important in keeping with brand identity – the image and copy splinters should always come from the bottom left to the top right, with the signature stripe acting as a bottom anchor.

Victorinox’s headquarters are located in Ibach, Schwyz, which is “often regarded as one of the most old-fashioned, promordial, if not plainly conservative regions of an already conservative country” (Zonco, 2017). Perhaps as a result of this, Victorinox’s brand imagery is derived from natural sources, though is generally conservative, indicating that the company culture too comes across in the brand communication. Additionally, in regards to the position of the logo in communication, this is placed in the top right hand corner (or in the centre for a slim banner), which is, according to aesthetic principles, the first place the eye is drawn. This is intelligent communication as, not only does this end up creating a disagonal between the Swiss Army Knife signature stripe and the splinter, but reminds viewers that once they have exhausted the material, the logo is the essential element they need to remember.