When a cheese hole becomes a brand

Das legendäre Schweizer Skidress mit den Käselöchern rückt durch eine Markenanmeldung wieder in den Fokus. Das Beispiel zeigt exemplarisch, wie sich ein Identitätsmerkmal als Marke im Kopf festsetzen kann.

The Swiss national team’s ski racing suits are in the headlines again. Photo: Imago

Identifying features need to be protected because they are valuable. This is why brand managers try to create as many positive associations as possible for the consumer. They achieve this by defining a specific brand identity, which includes choosing a suitable brand name and appropriate communication efforts in order to familiarise consumers with the brand over time.


Brands that have managed to anchor themselves in the minds of consumers can also benefit from an invaluable bonus years later. Why? Because humans have a keen memory for brands... so much so that we can remember slogans, special designs and features even years later.


Brand identity in skiing

Swiss ski stars are currently battling for tenths and hundredths of a second again with the aim of winning the world champion title or a medal. They’re supported by the sports industry’s latest technical achievements. Yet who knows what the inside structure of a winning ski looks like or the material the winner’s ski outfit is made of? What does remain a tradition, though, is the fact that every ski racer uses their last ounce of strength to thrust the tip of their ski bearing the manufacturer’s logo in front of the camera at the finish line. The really fast skiers even rub or kiss their ice-cold metal skis for the viewers at home.


Some ski brands also try to make their race series’ skis memorable to customers by always using the same abbreviation as a seal of quality. Brand names such as RC4, Racetiger or Laser can earn a lot of money by subtly suggesting to amateur skiers that they are now skiing like a star. So with all this product placement, the ski outfit is something that’s usually forgotten.



Everyone remembers the Swiss cheese ski suit

An exception, however, is the legendary Swiss cheese racing suit worn by the Swiss national ski team. For six years, popular ski stars such as Didier Cuche won victories racing down the world cup slopes in a cheese-yellow racing suit. It was even named the most original garment of all nations by Times Magazine at the 1994 Olympic Games. However, when the main sponsors of the Ski Association changed, so too did the designs of the racing suits.


Is the cheese hole becoming a figurative mark?

The Swiss cheese ski suit design is being rediscovered this year, though, because the Emmental AOP consortium applied to register the holey cheese design as a figurative mark (851/2021) on 19 January 2021.


The trade mark wasn’t registered only for cheese, though. It was also registered for sportswear. The Emmental consortium seems to be appealing to our brand memory and is attempting to benefit from the positive emotions of the successes achieved with this design. To protect itself from free riders, the consortium is leaving nothing to chance and is registering the trade mark to secure a monopoly on the design for the goods and services it wants to protect. This proves how important it is, in this day and age, to also legally protect identifying features. In today’s saturated markets, unmistakable unique selling propositions (USPs) are an extremely valuable commodity that can only be achieved with a very large financial outlay. Triggering our brand memory, therefore, seems to be a clever move from this point of view.


Only time will tell whether more ‘cheese representatives’ will again populate the ski slopes in the future, or whether just Emmental cheese will be served up in its own packaging. The aim of legally securing your own USP is good advice all the same.

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