On the way to the airport Friday I found a Swiss Army Knife at the bottom of my bag. Not much of a knife (and the little tooth pick was gone anyway) so I gave it up to the nice lady at the X-Ray machine.
On the flight I thought about the poor sods who make these things. I assumed they must have been wiped out by 9/11. Since about 75% (complete guess) of Swiss Army knives must be bought at airports and since you can no longer take them on aeroplanes I couldn’t think of a viable survival strategy. Of course, I was totally wrong. Geneva airport is thick with Swiss Army Knife concessions. Giant, mechanical pen-knives open and close silently at every gate and in every souvenir store. They weren’t wiped out at all. In fact, the business insight here is that even the nastiest existential shock might conceal an opportunity.
When you buy a Swiss Army Knife at an airport now, a nifty pre-paid envelope is produced and your new knife is posted back to your home. That’s pretty neat but the leap forward here is that they now (obviously) capture your name and address in the sale and, with your permission, sign you up for the quarterly catalogue, special offers, ads for related products, whatever. 9/11 had the paradoxical effect, for the Swiss Army Knife people, of converting millions of customers from an undifferentiated horde of anonymous foreigners to a rather up-to-date International customer database. I hope they make good use of it.