Last month a much reported public referendum in Switzerland voted to implement a complete ban on the construction of minarets in the country.
The referendum, sponsored by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party sparked numerous national debates and 57.5% of the electorate voted in favour of the ban. This despite the protestations of the ruling pary of Switzerland, religious and business leaders who all campaigned for a no and public polls that suggested a significant majority opposed the referendum.
This is not a political blog so I won’t go into the details, but I am curious to know what people think about the consequences of this decision in respect of the impact it will have on the Swiss brand. Switzerland has an image of a country that has respect for human rights, no doubt influenced, ironically, for a tradition of religious tolerance. Although the decision is likely to be overturned in the European Court of Human Rights, the Swiss image of neutrality and tolerance may have been damaged. If it has, what are the consequences of this, from a branding perspective?
After all, the country is home to many international brands, especially from the financial services industry and luxury brands. These luxury brands and financial institutions are popular with Muslim consumers from all over the Muslim world.
Will we see these Muslim consumers withdraw their funds from Swiss banks and transfer them elsewhere? Will they shun shops selling Swiss watches and other jewellery? Does anyone have any thoughts or firm data on the impact of this decision on the Swiss brand?