By Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, Head of Presence Switzerland
Postponed by a year to allow all participants to navigate the impact of Covid-19, the next world expo will be the first international major event happening with an audience. Around 25 million visits are expected at the Expo 2020 Expo from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
The Swiss pavilion will take centre stage at Expo 2020, promoting Switzerland’s traditional image as well as its innovative strengths. In these difficult times, our pavilion is a symbol and a driving force for the recovery we all need.
World Expos provide a unique platform through which participating countries can provide an emotional experience for the visitors and present themselves in surprising ways. Again, World expos enjoy a high profile in the media and among the public, both internationally and locally. In terms of nation branding, they are effective in reaching a wide audience, both directly and indirectly, via new and traditional media channels.
The national pavilion will provide the Swiss government with an attractive platform to showcase its priority themes in international communication: business, science, education, the environment and culture. It is a long-term investment by different actors in different fields, such as exports, tourism, education and politics. It will cast the country as innovative, competitive and responsible, while at the same time highlighting its deep-rooted traditions.
In order to maximise a country’s pull factor, nation branding experts capitalise on the perceptions of their country and its symbols to promote the brand image. Switzerland’s most important brand identity drivers are the products it exports. The ‘Swiss made’ label is viewed by many consumers to be a guarantee of quality, whether in the machine industry, the agri-food sector or the luxury goods sector.
The challenge for communicators is how best to use this perception to get the message across. Chocolate, for example, is one thing people spontaneously associate with Switzerland and can be used as a communication lever to explain how without Swiss innovation chocolate would not even exist.
Switzerland enjoys a positive and stable image abroad and is regarded as an important player in the global economy. However, this positive image cannot last forever without constant attention: we have to maintain the high quality of the offer and invest in presenting it in a positive light. Using communication to best leverage your assets is a challenge for all countries. That is the secret of nation branding – capitalising on your country’s known strengths to generate positivity towards it.
These communication dynamics are at the forefront of world expos. Each country presents itself through a national pavilion, and while general perceptions of a country play a crucial role in drawing the crowds, once inside the pavilion, visitors expect a memorable experience. Providing that experience is the only way to ensure a long-term impact on the perception of visitors.
As a founding member of the Bureau International des Expositions, Switzerland has taken part in most world expos. Over the years, the Swiss pavilion has gradually established itself as an attractive brand, often drawing some of the biggest crowds and gaining much media coverage. Regular surveys among visitors confirm that the pavilions leave a positive impression of Switzerland.
At Expo 2020 in Dubai, Switzerland aims to present itself as a country of innovation which remains true to its traditions. The pavilion has therefore been modelled on a journey, travelling through Switzerland the hub of innovation and Switzerland the land of bucolic splendour.
Along the way, visitors will discover Switzerland’s values, its strengths in terms of education, research, innovation and business, but also the qualities and savoir-faire specific to Switzerland that give it the ability to provide answers to the challenges of the future. Expo 2020 is an important communication opportunity in the region.
See you in Dubai in October 2021!
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