Franziska Gsell majored in Business Administation and Marketing from University of Applied Sciences, Zurich. From 1999-2006 she worked as Brand Manager and Marketing Manager for Carlsberg SA. She went on to become Marketing Director at Lindt & Sprungli AG and International Marketing Director at Navyboot Zurich. She joined Fogal, Zurich in 2012 as CEO and since 2015 has been CMO for IWC Schaffhausen.
ON GENDER AND CAREER CHOICE
I don’t think that gender was in any way a disadvantage for me when it came to choosing my profession. I had always wanted to be in marketing, because it’s analytical and creative at the same time. After university, I started working in sales for a Danish clothing company. Then, I took a completely unexpected turn and became the marketing manager for a well-known international beer brewer, a rather male domain. But it turned out to be a very rewarding experience for me. If you are passionate about a product and you know your customer, you can do a great job anywhere. We women should not take such biases too seriously and put limitations on our career choices and ourselves.
ON WOMEN AND LONGEVITY IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY
The turnover rate in the marketing sector indeed might be higher than in other areas. But I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with gender. I have been in this field for many years now. During my career, I have worked with extremely loyal female employees who were at my side for many years. One reason for this perception of a higher turnover may be that women also happen to have children. It’s still a delicate issue in the corporate world for women to become a mother and to continue her career.
WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP ROLES IN MARKETING
The fact that there are only few women in senior management has nothing to do with the luxury industry itself. I think most other industries are affected by this deficit, as well. I never had any preparation for my leadership role in the luxury industry per se. However, I believe that having worked in male dominated industries has greatly shaped my leadership style. I am not a person who enters a new environment and turns everything upside down in the first couple of weeks. My approach is to listen and understand, and to observe with diligence and patience. First you need to understand the brand equity and processes. Then you can slowly start to improve them. I always stay true to myself and would never change my value system. The most important factor is winning the trust of your employees. You need a powerful team if you want to move things forward.
ON JOINING SCHAFFHAUSEN
Joining IWC was quite logical for me. On one hand, I am a Swiss citizen and my family has roots in the Schaffhausen area. I have known IWC since my childhood days. On the other hand, I was always intrigued to work in the field of mechanical luxury watches. These timepieces have an eternal touch and stand for lasting values. People connect with them on a much deeper and emotional level than with other products. So when IWC offered me this position, I didn’t have to think twice. The biggest challenge was the change of industry and it was not the first time I changed industry. But it was a challenge I was very eager and happy to take on. As an outsider to the Swiss watch industry, it took me some time to become familiar with the detailed processes of the designing, engineering and manufacturing of mechanical watches.
ON IWC AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
I think the foundation for sustainable success is a great product. IWC has laid this foundation many decades ago. And then there is our unique storytelling. We have created meaningful stories around each of our six watch families. We have successfully managed to develop and position all of our product lines while maintaining their rich tradition and heritage. And we are able to deliver our strong messages through various touch points like our boutiques, our website, social media, various advertisements and exclusive events for key customers. Our CEO Georges Kern has been brilliantly executing this strategy, and I think he must be credited with transforming IWC from a local watch maker to a global brand.
ON IWC, BRAND IDENTITY AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Our marketing strategy combines outstanding products, great storytelling and authentic partnerships. Our Pilot’s Watches, for instance, bring the fascination of flying to people’s wrists, while our Aquatimer diver’s watches breathe the spirit of adventurism and the oceans. With our stories, we create a depth that is both compelling and highly believable. In addition, we are committed to sustainability and corporate responsibility towards our social environment. For instance, we support the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation and its projects designed to improve the future of disadvantaged youth. As a partner of the Charles Darwin Foundation, we help preserving the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. These are just two examples. IWC masters the combination of evocative storytelling and social commitment like no other brand in the luxury watch market. During my first twelve months, I have been working together with my team to further develop and strengthen our different activation platforms. One milestone was the launch of our new video talk platform “IWC Schaffhausen Talks To”. This entertaining format is integrated in all our events and allows our customers and media to gain insight into the professional and private lives of our brand ambassadors and friends of the brand, and their connection to – and passion for – haute horlogerie.
ON IWC’s TAGLINE “ENGINEERED FOR MEN” AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH WOMEN
Our tagline may be “Engineered for men”, but our brand attracts women, too. I know a lot of women who proudly wear a large Portugieser on their wrists. IWC has been popular for many years with women who are fascinated by mechanical watches and looking for a powerful means to express their character and attitude. But it is true that we have started to expand our product portfolio and launched watches with smaller diameters. In 2014, we have introduced several models of the Portofino Automatic 37 collection; while in January of this year we have presented the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 at the SIHH in Geneva. With a case diameter of just 36 millimeters, it is one of the smallest watches ever built in Schaffhausen. These watches are an attractive option for women, but they are also ideally suited for men with smaller wrists. While they may be a bit smaller in size, they are still typical, pure and iconic IWC watches and perfectly reflect our tradition of engineering and performance.
ON WHAT SETS IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN APART FROM OTHER LUXURY WATCH BRANDS
I think what differentiates us most is our storytelling. Also, IWC has managed to remain authentic and honest. We live in extremely fast paced times, so maybe factors like consistency and reliability are becoming even more important today. The beauty about IWC is that we look back on 150 years of watchmaking tradition and that we have successfully managed to preserve our heritage, while at the same time remaining contemporary and relevant. After all these years, our customers still perceive us as a pioneer and young at heart.
ON IWC, TRADITION AND HERITAGE AND MEETING THE CHALLENGES IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET
IWC is very open towards change. And we are quick when it comes to observing and evaluating new trends, and, where appropriate, integrating new developments into our strategy. We have invested a lot of time and effort to explore the possibilities of the Internet and digital marketing options. It is impressive and fascinating how fast marketing instruments have changed and evolved in recent years. For instance, today we are intensively using social media to reach out to thousands of people who love our watches. People want to interact with their favorite product and brand anywhere and anytime. So we need to provide a balanced mix of physical and virtual touch points and experiences to allow them to connect with our brand. While the Internet may affect the way we advertise our products or communicate with our customers, it does not change people’s love of mechanical luxury watches.
ON IWC, THE FUTURE AND REMAINING INFLUENTIAL 2025
Our priorities will not be so different in ten years’ time. We need to win our customers with a great product of long lasting value. Our customers expect to wear their watch for a lifetime. Another priority will be to keep drawing from our tradition. If you have roots like IWC Schaffhausen does, then you have to treat them responsibly. If we continuously manage to connect our company’s heritage and legacy with the world and to create deeply rooted stories and emotions around our products, then we will still be influential in 2025.
ON MY WAY OUT, I TAKE…
My IWC Portofino Automatic 37, a clear mind and a big smile.