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Victorinox Embarks on Novel Path for New Scent

No longer just the brand of pocketknives, Victorinox Swiss Army is carving out a new niche in the fragrance world with the introduction of Swiss Unlimited.

No longer just the brand of pocketknives, Victorinox Swiss Army is carving out a new niche in the fragrance world with the introduction of Swiss Unlimited, its debut scent for men.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Chairman Veronika Elsener, a member of the fourth generation of the founding family, acknowledged that “it took us 125 years for the first launch of a Victorinox fragrance.” But she quickly added that the fragrance is expected to add “more emotional and playful attributes to enhance our brand.”

With an emphasis on alternative forms of distribution and guerilla-type marketing strategies, the 125-year-old, family-run company is embarking on a business model, which is anything but traditional as far as fragrance launches go. The project is being spearheaded by retired Clarins executive Vera Strübi, a fragrance industry trailblazer whose pioneering work on Thierry Mugler’s Angel franchise set a high-water mark for innovation during the Nineties.

Just as Angel benefited from out-of-the-box thinking, Victorinox clearly has been searching for alternative marketing concepts and methods.

The company will focus primarily on e-commerce, which according to company executives will likely account for as much as 70 percent of Swiss Unlimited’s total first-year sales. The company will also try out three new kiosk systems to be positioned at airports and retailers that will allow customers, via touch screen, to sample and purchase a scent that can be shipped to the purchaser’s home.

“The industry is so overloaded with products — to launch like everyone else would make no sense,” said Strübi during a press event last month at Victorinox’s showroom. “Going outside the point of sale direct to the consumers works very well, and we’ll also sell it on our e-shop, which we then hope to expand to the mobile phone.”

Victorinox will also layer on more conventional channels of distribution in both Europe and the U.S. Last month, Swiss Unlimited had an exclusive bricks-and-mortar launch at Colette in Paris and this August, the scent is scheduled to make its U.S. debut at 35 Bloomingdale’s doors nationwide, where Victorinox’s timepieces and luggage are already carried. Company executives said that while plans haven’t yet been finalized, they are considering a shop-in-shop concept, as well as a “You Fill” station, where customers can come and refill their Swiss Unlimited fragrance bottles.

“We will not roll out to additional doors later this fall or spring,” said Benjamin Gillikin, Strübi’s old colleague from Clarins whom she lured on-board and out of retirement to oversee Swiss Unlimited’s North American marketing and distribution. “We’ll do the rest through guerilla marketing.”

The company now boasts an airstream trailer, whose interior is outfitted with a retrospective of Victorinox, that is making its way through key markets in the U.S. and Canada, where a company representative is distributing scent samples directly to potential consumers and gathering e-mail addresses.

Last month, Swiss Unlimited launched exclusively in Europe on Victorinox’s Web site. The initial launch plan kicked off in January, when the fragrance made its debut in the brand’s home territory of Switzerland at about 15 Victorinox points of sale and 10 ski resorts, where company spokespeople dressed in red Victorinox ski suits and handed out samples directly to skiers.

Swiss Unlimited could generate about $5 million in retail sales in its first year, according to industry sources.

Designed to represent the crisp freshness of the Swiss Alps with energizing notes of absinthe and the woody aroma of white pine, Swiss Unlimited’s pale green scent was blended by perfumers Christine Nagel and Jean-Christophe Herault of Fragrance Resources.

The fragrance’s rectangular glass bottle is encased in red rubber and hooked with a carabiner. In keeping with Victorinox Swiss Army’s tradition of utility and practicality, the packaging is unbreakable and the bottle is refillable courtesy of a novelty pump system.

The eau de toilette will come in three sizes, a 2.5-oz. glass bottle for $55; another 2.5-oz. size encased in rubber for $75, and a 10-oz. glass bottle with rubber case that will sell for $55. Rounding out the line is a 6.8-oz. hair and body wash for $30, and a deodorant stick, which will retail for $23.