Swiss brand still stands for quality
Swiss products continue to enjoy a high international reputation for quality and reliability, but firms have been urged to do more to promote innovation and style.
A survey of 8,000 foreign consumers has confirmed Switzerland's image as a land of expensive but efficient goods. The report coincides with a debate on how to protect the Swiss brand from fraud.
The Swissness Worldwide report, unveiled on Wednesday at the Swiss Brands 08 conference in Zurich, presented an overwhelmingly positive perception of Swiss goods and services.
Respondents from 66 countries strongly associated Swiss products with high quality, reliability and luxury. An international comparison of goods and services saw Switzerland ranked highest of 12 countries, including Japan, Germany and the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Switzerland received top marks for watches, banks and hotels, but was ranked behind Germany and Japan for engineering and manufacturing. The Swiss scored badly for price competitiveness, innovation and in the field of information technology.
Karsten Sausen, from marketing consultancy firm htp St Gallen, believes Swiss companies are not promoting their latest inventions with enough gusto.
"Swiss products have an excellent reputation throughout the whole world. But they also have a conservative image and people do not see them as being innovative or trendy," he told swissinfo.
"Many firms are not actively communicating their Swiss origin. If they did, it would have a positive impact on the image of Swiss products. Companies are our ambassadors and they should be aware of the power they have of transporting the Swiss image."
Johannes Matyassy, director of Presence Switzerland – a federal agency that works to promote the country abroad – agreed that it was time to go beyond the stereotypes.
"Switzerland has the chance to improve its image and show that it has more to offer than the Alps. But we need concrete examples of how innovative Switzerland can be," he said.
Politicians and the business community are currently weighing up measures to protect the reputation of Swiss goods by cracking down on abuses of the "Made in Switzerland" and Swiss cross labels.
Former Justice Minister Christoph Blocher launched a campaign two years ago to amend patent laws to counter increasing incidences of Swiss branded products being made abroad or containing non-Swiss ingredients.
"An increase in fraud could reduce the value of the Swiss brand. It is very attractive to use this label because it has such a strong reputation that you can charge more money for it. There are more people misusing our brand and we have to fight this," Sausen said.
But Felix Addor from the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property warned that proposed changes to the patent laws could also affect Swiss companies that choose to manufacture their goods abroad to save on costs.
"Companies must decide if they want to take advantage of globalisation by producing goods in Indonesia and having them packaged in Mexico, or to have the Made in Switzerland label. You can't have it both ways: cheap goods and Swiss made," he said.
swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich
Swissness Worldwide survey
The Swissness Worldwide survey was conducted by marketing consultants htp St Gallen and adverting agency McCann Erickson together with St Gallen University between February and March this year.
A total of 8,007 consumers from 66 countries responded to the questionnaire asking for their perception of Switzerland and its goods and services.
Some 37% associated Switzerland positively with its products, 35% with the mountainous landscape and 19% with its neutrality. Negative associations included over-formality, recent anti-immigration political campaigns and controversial tax policies.
Most respondents thought watches, chocolate, banks, cheese, holidays and hotels were the most typical Swiss products and services.
Goods scored high marks for quality, reliability, tradition and luxury and low marks for price and innovation.
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