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Posts Tagged ‘Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters’

The principles of marketing and branding apply in equal measure to countries as much as they do to businesses. Just like in Swiss Zermattthe corporate world, marketing can merely help a great product to reach its target customer segment more effectively. However, best laid marketing and branding plans can fail if the product or service on offer lacks inherent strengths or USPs which make it useful to the customer.

Switzerland is one of the countries we admire, particularly for the manner in which it has built up a unique brand identity for itself over the centuries. A strong commitment to innovation and quality, an imaginative foreign policy based on neutrality, higher importance to the services sector and an excellent work-life balance it offers to its workforce are some of the USPs which make Switzerland the toast of the planet.

Its population is less than that of the capital of India. In terms of per capita GDP, at USD 45,418, it ranked 9th in the world in 2012. Low taxes, low debt, a reasonable rate of growth, public budgets in the black, low unemployment at 3.1% and a trade surplus – these factors just about sum up Switzerland’s economic stature. The country is home to many large MNCs – ABB, Roche, Nestle, Novartis, Logitech and Tetra Pak, to name a few.

A Multidimensional USP  

For a commoner, it is the land of milk, chocolate and cheese. For the lay tourist, it offers captivating natural beauty which is Swiss naturemany notches above than what the likes of Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth have described in their works. Placid lakes, snow-capped mountains, leafy wooded greens, well maintained caves and water-falls and a rich culture make up for a heady combination.

The reason why postcards, calendars and movie frames look so appealing is because the real views are twice as dreamy. Take a funicular train at a gradient of 47 degrees up in the mountains, and you get a series of breath-taking views all the way to the top. You realize that homo-sapiens can pierce a tunnel through a mountain, but it takes a divine power to create one in the first place.

For a businessman, it offers a friendly and stable regime, with world-famous banking services to boot. For its citizens, it signifies orderliness, tolerance of neighbors, peace, prosperity and a healthy work-life balance. For the world at large, it stands up for armed neutrality and peace. It hosts a number of international institutions.

For those wanting to hone their skills in hospitality management, it offers several options. There are several institutes of international repute offering courses in diverse streams of sciences and humanities. For centuries, royalty has used its finishing schools to groom its delicately nurtured princesses.

The Humble Origin of the Brand – The Oath of Grutli

The Switzerland we see today is surely not an overnight miracle of sorts. The Roman Empire granted autonomous control to Swiss Federal Charter 1291three regions in the early 13th century – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. In August 1291, they decided to renew their earlier alliance and took an oath of mutual allegiance. The newborn Confederation Helvetia faced several challenges over the centuries – peasant revolts, civil wars, religious wars, French invasion, liberal revolutions, conflicts between liberals and Catholic conservatives and innumerable false starts in industrialization and revising its constitution.

It has not been in a state of war since 1815. In 1848, the federal constitution converted all the cantons into one federal state with one common military, postal service and legislature. Today, it is recognized as the pinnacle of economic prowess, self-preserving neutrality and racial tolerance. It pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace keeping initiatives globally. It boasts of the highest per capita number of Nobel Laureates in the world.

The Finer Aspects

Foreigners it has welcomed into its fold include many great personalities, like Lord Byron, Charlie Chaplin, Leon Gambetta, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Calvin, etc.

The country has over 900 well maintained museums. National Museum in Zurich and the Museum of Photography are not Swiss Federal Palacethe only ones which merit a close look.  Musee d’alimentation in Vevey – owned by Nestle – is all about the history of food. The Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds explains different aspects of watch-making. Then there is the captivating Toy Museum at Basel and the Natural History Museum at Lucerne.

Art and culture are an integral part of the life on offer. Public toilets are unbelievably clean. For those from the developing countries, trains are disturbingly punctual.

Tremendous Soft Power

Building and construction, tunneling and excavation, hydro-geology, rail road planning contribute much towards its GDP. Unique topography has led to innovations in all these fields. Swiss architect Othmar Ammam came up with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Then there is the gigantic Itaipu Dam across the Amazon in South America, not to forget the flyover bridges in Alexandria in Egypt, all of which have come up based on Swiss expertise.

The Swiss are known as hardworking, conscientious, reliable and punctual to a fault. Efficiency of its people is legendary and leads to self-sufficiency.

Keeping the Brand Shining

A vibrant direct democracy, Switzerland has been a safe haven for the wealthy and for business. Banks have had a cult Palace of Nations Euro UN HQ Genevastatus, what with their fabulously wealthy client lists. Where our clients get their money from is none of our business has been their refrain so far.

However, with the signing of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, Switzerland recently became the 58th nation to join the comity of nations which hound tax evaders across borders. By doing so, it is going to break its own time-honored and time-tested traditions of banking secrecy.

The country is now aligning itself with global norms of financial transparency, thereby giving a fitting boost to the morale of tax administrators all over the world. Swiss banks obviously do not have much to worry about. Given their maturity and the political and economic stability of the country, international investors would continue to repose their trust and faith in them.

In the coming decades, the brand equity of Switzerland is unlikely to lose its allure. Therein lies a great lesson for many other countries in the world which could surely do with an image makeover.

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