The phrase “Connect to tomorrow” has appeared prominently on the Greater Zurich Area website for a few weeks now. What is this all about?
Reto Sidler: This is the new brand slogan for the Greater Zurich Area. The message cuts right to the heart of our brand. With this slogan, we are inviting innovative businesses and entrepreneurs to contact us and form part of an ecosystem comprising talents and forward-looking technology companies. After all, the world of tomorrow, the future of our very society, will be heavily influenced by the role of technology. The Greater Zurich Area offers an opportunity to directly shape this future to anybody with the conviction to take on this challenge.
What makes the Greater Zurich Area stand out from international competitors?
The Greater Zurich Area is where world-class technology meets Swiss reliability. With talents, universities, established businesses, start-ups and world-class patents all concentrated to such a high degree across such a small area, Greater Zurich really is unique in Europe. When we then factor in the reliable environment in Switzerland, the difference in comparison with other European locations is self-evident. For this reason, the Greater Zurich Area offers international companies genuine added value and peace of mind for their strategic expansion.
Why is there such a strong emphasis on technologies?
To put it plainly, Greater Zurich has a world-class offering in this area that companies and talents highly demand. In terms of cutting-edge research, the universities and companies based in the Greater Zurich Area are playing in the Champions League. Global tech leaders such as Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Disney, Huawei, ABB, Siemens, Biogen, Johnson & Johnson and Roche all operate R&D sites here or collaborate with local universities. We have the required experts on hand and offer an innovative, entrepreneurial environment that allows businesses to thrive. And by offering access to the European market as well as other international markets, technologies and their applications can be marketed and commercialized directly from the Greater Zurich Area.
You have mentioned the reliability of the business environment as one of Switzerland’s strengths. But what does this actually mean in the context of competing business locations?
International growth strategies are laden with various risks and a whole host of uncertainty for businesses – while a technological breakthrough or commercial success might be the overall aim, success is anything but assured. So with this in mind, if at least the environment in which you are operating is stable and predictable, this is all the more of an advantage. In this context, reliability is to be understood more as a holistic concept: It is about the stability of the political and legal system, currency, sound public finances, the tax system and business-friendly regulations in general. This also includes functioning infrastructure, social security, education and healthcare. Reliability in this sense also covers Swiss quality in all areas of life. It is an extremely attractive proposition for international companies.
The Greater Zurich Area covers almost half of Switzerland: is it possible to make such diversity visible as part of a single brand?
It’s certainly a challenge, because the nine cantons that make up the Greater Zurich Area are diverse and the business landscape is quite heterogeneous to boot. There are cities alongside more rural areas, even Alpine regions. Cutting-edge technologies flourish in some parts, while more traditional industries dominate in others. Linguistic and cultural differences must also be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, during discussions with the cantons about the brand, a consensus quickly emerged that technological competence and reliability should both be highlighted as part of the brand positioning. Each canton boasts its own specific competencies that contribute to the overall strength of the Greater Zurich Area.
Individual cantons and cities are also developing their own brands. What is the relationship between these and the transregional Greater Zurich Area brand?
The individual cantonal brands and that of the Greater Zurich Area as a whole have different roles. The strong Greater Zurich Area brand with international reach helps to put the region on the radar of global companies. The cantons contribute to this appeal with their specific technological competencies, their universities and companies. However, when companies are in the process of deciding where to actually establish their business, the brands of the cantons and cities come more into play. These are used to highlight their specific strengths and USPs. The transregional brand and the individual cantonal brands enjoy a symbiotic relationship by ultimately serving to strengthen each other.
How do you plan to bring the brand to life?
The aim is to give our target groups a sense of what the Greater Zurich Area is all about at every touchpoint. In terms of communications, we achieve this with news, success stories and webinars, among other aspects. However, brand management goes beyond this: our intention is to highlight our brand in direct client contacts, meetings, trade shows and elsewhere. We are increasingly embedding this approach in our global team, but it is also becoming a feature of our work with our partners in the cantons. In order to ensure that everybody on our team is aware of the boundless opportunities this region has to offer, we recently launched an app with the aim of continually optimizing brand touchpoints and so that we can all learn together. This is just one example of how we are bringing the Greater Zurich Area brand to life.
How does the Greater Zurich Area benefit from brand management?
Just as every business or every product is a brand in its own right, the same is true for every business location. Ultimately, it all comes down to how systematically you plan to manage this brand. If you don’t do it yourself, then your customers or competitors will. I am firmly convinced that a strong brand helps us to better fulfil our mission of creating value for the region by attracting forward-looking companies. Our brand helps us to select the companies we target. It helps us to find the most persuasive arguments in our favor. It allows companies to recognize themselves whether or not the Greater Zurich Area is a good fit for them. A strong brand provides both clarity and guidance and helps to create an identity. For all these reasons, a strong brand can be regarded as a value-driver for the Greater Zurich Area, for GZA in its role as an investment promotion agency as well as for companies and talent interested in the region or who are already active here.
Interview: Smilla Diener
Reto Sidler is Head of Communications and Marketing at Greater Zurich Area Ltd (GZA).