Image Erosion Swissness Label Suffers Loss in International Reputation
The strength of the “Swiss Made” brand is waning. This is the key message deduced from a survey conducted by the international management consultancy Globeone on the strengths and weaknesses of Swiss brands. The survey sample constituted 1,500 consumers in Germany, the US and China, ultimately concluding that the erosion of Switzerland’s image as a country of origin has not only affected leading brands but also led to the Swiss financial center relinquishing its leading position in consumer perception in the US. Moreover, confidence in the innovative strengths of Switzerland has continuously deteriorated over the past two years.
At the end of 2017, Globeone conducted the new edition of it’s biennial brand survey, checking in with 19 leading Swiss brands. The results indicate that while the overall brand image is still relatively strong, there are some clear weaknesses developing. Compared with 2015, the “Swissness label” has dropped eight percentage points to 66%. Particularly in China, where Swiss products have always enjoyed a very strong standing, there has been a marked decline (-12%). Individual image dimensions, such as quality (-11%), prestige (-9%) and reliability ( -8%) have in particular witnessed a drastic drop in perception. Carina Hauswald, Managing Partner at Globeone in Zurich, sees the core of “Swiss Made” slowly deteriorating: “The image erosion of Switzerland as the country of origin hits the ‘Swiss Made’ brand right in the heart, because it is above all image dimensions that are noticeably affected, which constitute the core promise of ’Swiss Made’. It is only a matter of time before this image loss starts to affect the price premium of the Swissness label, which could be very considerable,” she warns commenting these results.
In this context, it is no surprise that Switzerland is not perceived as a particularly innovative country of origin. Consumers attest Swiss brands only moderate innovative strengths. Still, 44% of surveyed consumers expect groundbreaking innovations from Switzerland in the coming years. But this is not reflected in Switzerland’s image as a country of origin. In the corresponding dimension, the country has dropped five percentage points down to 11% since 2015 and now ranks behind China (22%). Carina Hauswald attributes this development primarily to the lack of innovation communication among Swiss companies: “Swiss manufacturers, especially the large industrial groups, are innovative and they also invest a lot in research and development – no question. But they do not succeed in anchoring this in the consciousness of consumers through appropriate positioning and communication.”
It is also striking that Swiss brands have a veritable image problem in their neighboring country Germany. Swiss brands are not able to translate their comparatively high awareness profile of around 62% on average into a positive image (around 38% on average). This is different in the US and China: although the average awareness of Swiss brands is lower here (US: 42%, China: 41%), the appreciation of Swiss products in these markets is generally much higher than in Germany (US: 60%, China: 59%). To conclude it would be wise for Swiss brands to consider how they approach their international brand communication and positioning. While the brands have a lot of potential, the results of this survey make it evident that they are not leveraging their resources effectively enough.
First edition of GO studies on consumer perception of Swiss brands in key global markets (Germany, China and the USA).
- Representative survey among US, Chinese and German consumers (n = 1,500)
- Survey period: Q4 2015
- Identification of the Country-of-Origin image (COO image)
- Identification of strengths and weaknesses of Swiss brands as well as untapped potential for Swiss companies and the Swiss economy as a whole
The Country-of-Origin is defined as the country where the headquarters of a company marketing a product or brand is located. This does not require local manufacturing.
Country-of-Origin effect is one of the most analyzed phenomena in consumer behavior in international markets. Consumers and customers associate positive or negative attributes with companies, products or brands when they know which country they come from.
- Increase perceived quality and prestige of a brand
- Promote consumers’ purchase intentions in favor of a brand
- Has potential for increasing brand performance dependent on industry and product category
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