Switzerland was named the world’s strongest nation brand according to Brand Finance Nation Brands 2021, published by brand valuation consultancy, Brand Finance, which looks at the strength and value of the nation brands of 100 countries.
The top 100 most valuable nation brands in the world have recorded a 7% increase in brand value since 2020, signalling that recovery is underway from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Brand Finance Nation Brands 2021 report.
Although this is a positive sign, uncertainty lingers and nation brand values have not reached pre-pandemic levels yet. At US$90.8 trillion, this year’s total brand value of the top 100 ranking is still 7% lower compared to 2019.
US & China lead the pack
There has been no movement in the top 10 this year, with each nation retaining its rank from last year. All the top 10 have recorded a modest uplift in brand value, however, in line with the global trend across the ranking.
The United States and China remain in a league of their own, claiming the first and second spot in the ranking, respectively. The US has recorded a 5% brand value increase to US$24.8 trillion in a year that has been marked by great political and economic change with President Joe Biden taking the helm. Similarly, China saw a 6% uptick in nation brand value to US$19.9 trillion. Both nations have celebrated economic recovery since the outbreak of the pandemic, contributing to their uplift in brand value. China’s economy was the first to recover – doing so at a meteoric pace – as the only nation to register positive GDP growth at the end of 2020 and growing at record pace in the first quarter of this year.
Many thought that relations would improve between the two superpowers under Biden’s leadership, following the turbulent Trump years, but this has not been the case thus far.
Switzerland is world’s strongest nation brand
In addition to measuring nation brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of nation brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating brand investment, brand equity, and brand performance. The nation brand strength methodology includes the results of the Global Soft Power Index – the world’s most comprehensive research study on nation brand perceptions, surveying opinions of over 75,000 people based in more than 100 countries. According to these criteria, Switzerland is the world’s strongest nation brand with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 83.3 out of 100.
Switzerland’s BSI score has remained stable, while the nations around it saw theirs take a hit, resulting in Switzerland moving to the top spot for brand strength. According to Brand Finance’s research, the Alpine nation saw external perceptions slightly rise following its strong response to COVID-19. It used a mix of compulsory and non-compulsory measures during the pandemic to control the spread of the virus. For example, non-essential businesses had to close, but the government’s order to stay at home was only ever advisory – entrusting the people to make the decision for themselves.
This is reflective of Switzerland’s model of government, with the public allowed to voice their opinions on laws through frequent referenda – last year the population rejected a motion to end its freedom of movement agreement with the EU and voted to make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal.
Germany slips to 5th
Last year’s strongest nation, Germany, has dropped down to 5th position in the brand strength ranking, following a 2.3 point drop in BSI to 82.6 out of 100. Despite garnering praise on the global stage for her strong and stable leadership spanning 16 years, Angela Merkel sees mixed results on home soil. Domestic perceptions are consistently less favourable across the metrics to their overseas counterparts, particularly in regard to the Global Soft Power Index Business & Trade and Influence pillars.
Breaking the Western monopoly
Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have broken the Western monopoly in the brand strength ranking, claiming 4th and 11th position respectively. Scoring particularly high for Global Soft Power Index pillars of Business & Trade and Governance, Singapore continues to prosper both in the Southeast Asian region as well as globally. The city-state – renowned for its high-quality and economically efficient healthcare – has already fully vaccinated 82% of the total population. Singapore is on the right path to achieve the government’s aim of a “whole new normal”.
The UAE has climbed three spots in the brand strength ranking following a 2.5-point increase in its BSI score to 79.1 out of 100. Overseas perceptions of the nation’s prowess in the Education & Science pillar are high, and the successful Emirates Mars Mission is clearly a factor. The UAE also stands out for its COVID-19 response, and scores high for the Influence and Business & Trade pillars, both of which should see a further boost from Expo 2020 inaugurated in Dubai this month. The UAE’s continued increases in brand strength and value are testament to the nation’s strategy of diversifying its economy for long-term growth.
COVID-19 hurts perceptions of world’s largest economies
At the same time, the UK, US, Japan, and France have all fallen out of the top 10 strongest nation brands ranking due to the perception of how they handled COVID-19.
The UK, falling from 2nd to 14th with a BSI score of 77.4, and France, falling from 9th to 16th with a score of 75.4, recorded average Global Soft Power Index scores for overseas perceptions of their handling of the pandemic, but perceptions domestically were particularly low.
Japan, falling from 7th to 15th with a score of 76.7, saw a similar story with the perception at home that the pandemic was mishandled. However, this is polarised when compared to their perception abroad, where it achieved some of the highest scores in the Global Soft Power Index research.
The US, dropping from 4th to 17th with a score of 75.1, saw poor scores at home and abroad, and was also one of the lowest ranked nations by the specialists.
Despite their brand strength taking a hit, these nations all still feature in an unchanged top 10 when ranked by nation brand value.