Most Swiss companies are well on their way to being at least partially credible for a purpose-driven positioning, according to the results from a new “Purpose Readiness Survey” released by Globeone, a management consultancy co-located in Zurich. The study uses Globeone’s specially developed “Purpose Readiness Index” (PRI) to analyze a selection of consumer-facing Swiss brands from various industries. The index consists of 15 purpose-relevant image attributes grouped into five image dimensions that help determine whether a company is ready to credibly present its purpose to the public.
From the brands represented in the survey, nearly three-quarters (71%) were perceived as predominantly ready to credibly position a purpose. In relevant image dimensions such as sustainability, authenticity, honesty and profit-orientation the brands do not show any serious reputational issues. Even one-fifth (22%) of the brands received such positive marks that they were already considered fully purpose ready in the Purpose Readiness Index.
According to Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister, Managing Partner of Globeone, pressing issues like climate change or the current corona pandemic are increasing awareness of the importance of purpose positioning and are also reflected in the public brand perception. “We currently observe many companies that are in the process of defining their purpose – also as a reaction to the current social climate. Some are more successful with this, others not. It is therefore pleasing to see that compared to the results of our German study, Swiss companies rank significantly better regarding their purpose credibility. This is a clear precondition to credibly communicate a purpose to customers, employees and society,” commented Schaffmeister on the results of the survey.
Over 1,000 Swiss citizens participated in the nationwide online survey to rate the reputation of 45 best-known Swiss corporate brands appealing to end customers, along purpose-relevant image dimension. Companies with a PRI value of less than 50 on the index often lack a suitable basis for credibly communicating their purpose, while those with a score above 70 are considered fully purpose ready, meaning that their purpose credibility is hardly overshadowed by negative associations.
Retailers and Premium Brands Well Ahead
Among the clear winners are Migros (PRI-Value 78,0), Victorinox (77,4) and the WWF (73,8), the latter already serving a clear purpose by definition. Much like its sister survey to the north, the retail sector once again outperformed the rest of the brands represented, in addition to a stronger performance of Swiss premium brands as compared to German luxury items. They were generally seen as honest, authentic and responsible, benefitting from high levels of daily customer exposure. Among B2B companies that are typically not directly focusing on end consumers, Schindler and ABB convince with very good scores.
Carina Hauswald, Managing Partner of Globeone Zurich, sees this as one of the great strengths of Swiss companies, albeit one that has so far remained untapped. “From previous studies we know that only a fraction of Swiss companies openly communicates a purpose. That does not necessarily mean that they do not have one – rather, that they do not always communicate it properly. The predominantly positive assessment among Swiss consumers now shows the untapped communication potential and the receptiveness of Swiss consumers to this topic.”
Backlog Demand in Finance Pharma Commodities
However, not all Swiss industries perform well in the Purpose Readiness Index overall. In particular, the Swiss flagship industries – the financial sector as well as pharma – suffer from a lack of purpose credibility, affected by public skepticism towards their levels of sustainability, honesty and clear pursuit of profit. “Even if the purpose credibility of entire industries is in disarray, individual companies can still position themselves successfully with a purpose. To do so, however, they must keep the negative image of their industry in mind and address it thoughtfully,” advises Hauswald regarding the poor performance of these sectors.
Companies that are prone to scandal and industries known for business models that endanger human health or the environment were the clear losers in the Globeone PRI ranking, facing even more difficulties. For instance, Glencore, a Swiss commodities trader, has been tied in recent years to corruption and money laundering allegations in the press, damaging its public image as particularly greedy and lacking societal contribution. However, consumer brands like Nestlé and Philip Morris also face widespread criticism in the media for their manufacturing processes and the negative environmental impacts of their products, appearing to directly undermine their purpose credibility in the public eye.
The Swiss Purpose Readiness Survey was published as part of Globeone’s ongoing “Image of Swiss Brands” series. A similar survey ranking the purpose credibility of the 48 most popular German consumer-facing brands was released in summer 2019. Both surveys were commissioned by Globeone and conducted by a large independent opinion research institute.