How ‘Slightly Fu**ed-Up’ motivates people to buy into- and work at Freitag – interview with Oliver Brunschwiler, ‘Lead Link’

Oliver Brunwschiler, Lead Link at Freitag

In the land of bags, ‘Freitag’ stands for ‘messenger’, ‘made from recycled truck tarp’, ‘designed by the bros’, ‘hand-crafted in Switzerland’ and … “slightly fucked up,” as ‘Lead Link’ Oliver Brunschwiler tells us .  And he is not only talking about the bags, as it turns out.

As you would expect from a Swiss company, things look and feel very neat and organized when you visit the offices and factory in Zurich (take a visual tour with us here).  The raw ingredients are ‘trash,’ certainly, but those used tarps are neatly sorted, washed, cut and eventually carefully crafted into bags, packs, wallets and such. There are markings on the ground where things are supposed to go on the shop- and office floors and little handbooks are hanging next to the trash can or sitting on desks explaining everything from how to recycle paper plates to what to do with an idea for a new product or what “the 36 principles of building the brand’ are – using graphic schemata, where possible.

And then there are aspects that seem to push back against all this rationality and organization.  There is no traditional hierarchy but a more egalitarian, ‘holacratic organization’ where everyone defines and declares their roles instead. This is how Oliver is the ‘Lead Link’ (among other roles) rather than a CEO. “We tied, and that traditional concept just did not work out for us,” he says.  Oliver also talks about “organized mess” and “carefully arranged slack” as key operating principles and things being “slightly fucked-up, just like the bags” as a core aspect of the organization and brand culture”.

In this interview you will hear how
– ‘slightly fucked-up’ motivates the Freitag organization and product buyers, alike
– fun and functions always comes before the ambition to create a circular future
– mission and culture interrelate and are constantly evolving
holacracy actually works (we are still a bit at a loss and sceptical)
– its not frustrating that the Thai buy the bags to collect them, only… at first
you are invited to a personal factory tour if you mention this interview(!)

.. and so much more.  Click play below and  – Enjoy!

The holacratic organization in front of the Freitag F-abrik


For more insights into what drives the success of purpose-driven brands like Freitag read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.  For how to develop an Ueber-Brand yourself, read our guide “Brand Elevation – Lessons in Ueber-Branding.”

Here is a link to a visual report on our visit to the Freitag offices, plant and shop in Zurich. A link to how holacracy works … at least at Freitag. And a link to the Freitag website mentioned by Oliver.


About JP Kuehlwein

JP Kuehlwein is a global business leader and brand builder with a 25+ year track record of translating consumer and brand insights into transformational propositions that win in market. Principal at ‘Ueber-Brands’ a New York consulting firm, he now helps others to elevate brands and make them peerless and priceless. JP also teaches brand strategy at NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and leads the Marketing Institute at The Conference Board, all in New York. Jp previously was Executive Vice President at Frédéric Fekkai & Co, a prestige salon operator and hair care brand and lead brand- and corporate strategy development and execution at multinational Procter & Gamble as Brand Director and Director of Strategy. JP and Wolf Schaefer have co-authored the best-selling books “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” which lays out what drives the success of modern premium brands and "Brand Elevation - Lessons in Ueber-Branding" a guide to developing and executing a brand elevation strategy. Find the books here:
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