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Profile: Caran d’Ache’s director Carole Hubscher
Caran d’Ache, the iconic brand specialising in fine writing and drawing instruments has, for over a century, been a flagship of Swiss industry, embodying both quality and innovation. Based in Geneva, it employs around 300 people and exports to more than 90 countries on 5 continents. Carole Hubscher-Clements who took over as president of the board of directors in 2012 took some time out to talk to GBN about her role.
In the five years since taking the reins, she has reviewed the entire company, from production to marketing and communications, always guided by the brands values of technical excellence, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.
Not many are aware, for example, that Caran d’Ache recycles the wood chips from the pencil-making process into briquettes. These are then used as an energy source for the central heating. This represents a reduction of 102 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to using fuel oil. All the wood sourced for Caran d’Ache production is certified from renewable sources.
Hubscher-Clements studied at the Hotel Management School of Geneva and Harvard, and worked in the US and Switzerland in various marketing positions. As International Marketing Manager, she helped launch Calvin Klein watches, a division of the Swatch Group. In 2003, she became a partner at Brandstorm, a company that specialises in building premium and luxury brands while simultaneously serving on Caran d’Ache’s Board of Directors.
A strong proponent of collaborative marketing, Caran d’Ache has successfully joined forces with brands including Lalique, Paul Smith, MB&F and Warner Bros Justice League. This same strategy is employed in consumer marketing. Hubscher-Clements believes that transparency is key in creating an emotional bond with its consumers, which in turn encourages loyalty and engagement with the brand.
Can you tell me a little bit about the process of collaborating with other brands or artists?
“Meeting with the designers with whom we collaborate has never been accidental or random. They are all users and aficionados of Caran d’Ache. For me, collaborations must make sense; whether it is through shared values or shared stories. With regard to the development of these special series themselves, everything depends on the complexity of the project. It can take from one year up to five years of development.”
What, in your opinion, is vital in collaborative marketing?
“Collaborations have to be authentic if they are to nurture the brand. They must help to convey a territory and tell a story of its own. If this is not the case, it has no impact with the public.”
Since taking over in 2012, what has been your focus for change or updating?
To re-invigorate the brand on several levels. Branding for instance. We had several active logos for different categories of products. It was necessary to assemble all of them under one logo to clarify communication. Caran d’Ache has 103 years of incredible history and values and we needed to talk about them to demonstrate our differences. Also, innovation in terms of products, production methods, and distribution and a lot of emphasis on communication.”
What have you changed in terms of distribution?
Distribution is undergoing a profound change at a very fast pace. Four years ago already, we launched our online store, supported by a strong presence on social networks. We are also working to strengthen our links with our best customers and partners to strengthen our presence in their stores through a boutique or Shop in Shop.
What, in your opinion, is the one thing that has made Caran d’Ache so successful?
“Quality and creativity”
Where do you see the brand in 10 years?
“The international reference of style and experience in terms of drawing and writing for all generations.”
What are your major projects on the horizon?
“We have found a new site and we have the project of building and moving to Bernex thereby projecting ourselves sustainably in Geneva and to associate ourselves with the industrial future of the canton and with Switzerland.”
What did you want to be growing up?
If you had to have a pet, what would it be?
The country you last visited?
What is your least favourite colour?
If you had a superpower, what would it be
“The ability to create peace”
A word you would like people to use when talking about you?
I did not grow up with Caran d’Ache in school and so I do not have the same relationship with the brand as people who used their pencils as a child. I am however, struck by the fact that the more I learn about the company, the more I admire it. Hubscher-Clements has previously stated that part of the success of the brand can be attributed to “being free of the need to report numbers every quarter, we can work on our long-term strategy. A family company may not grow as fast as a listed one, but it has the independence to develop as the family wants.”
I believe this to be true and my focus is on the words “as the family wants.” These four words represent a value system and I believe that Caran d’Ache’s success is firmly rooted in its commitment to its values.
Photos: Courtesy of Caran d’Ache