Think for a moment. Is it easier to name ten Swiss people or ten Swiss brands? Despite having lived in Switzerland for almost a decade, I get stuck naming Swiss people after Roger Federer, Marc Forster, and Bertrand Piccard. But Swiss brands, well, here’s a few:

If you’re detail-orientated (and therefore possibly Swiss at heart), you noticed that I went crazy and listed eleven famous Swiss brands. And I could keep going. Naming Swiss brands is that easy—even if you haven’t spent a lot of your career trying to make them even more famous than they already are. So what can we learn from Swiss brands—besides the fact that they’re more famous than Swiss people? Well, here’s what they taught me after spending over a decade helping advertise them to the world.

For global fame, align your brand with your country’s reputation  

What do most Swiss brands have in common? If you said high quality, then every Swiss marketing department is now applauding. Most marketing briefings for Swiss brands are basically the same: “Get us known for quality and Swissness,” the clients say. Despite my initial American frustration with the lack of differentiation in these briefings, it was hard to argue with them because they worked.

The bigger question I kept pondering was: why did they work? Switzerland is synonymous with high-quality products. The entire “Made in Switzerland” label that Swiss brands love to use is an example of the guaranteed quality and reliability that Switzerland represents. When a Swiss brand delivers on this promise with their high-quality products and services consistently over time, they solidify their position in the global marketplace.

The Swiss reputation for quality also keeps prices high. According to a recent op-ed in The New York Times, author Ruchir Sharma says, “Such is the reputation of its engineers and chocolatiers that customers readily pay more for Swiss goods.” And the entire Swiss economy benefits from this reputation. According to Mr. Sharma, “The premium the world is willing to pay for Swiss goods and services helps deter capital flight and stabilize the economy.”

This is a country that runs like clockwork—and sells watches. This is a country that smells like chocolate (okay, at least near its chocolate factories)—and exports its greatest amount. And this is a country dotted with cows—that markets and sells some of the world’s best cheese. It’s hard to separate the country from its products. So most Swiss brands figure, why bother?

Don’t differentiate 

In a world where every American brand tries to differentiate itself to great lengths, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on in-depth research for the insights that will help them find whitespace in the market and determine what they should stand for, the power of Swiss brands—whether they originate in “big” Swiss cities or in small provinces—is their ability to earn a collective reputation for quality and “Swissness.” Swiss brands somehow manage to create one position in our global mind, and it turns out to be a smart strategy.

The strength of the overall national Swiss brand provides a huge amount of leverage in the minds of consumers. According to Tim Hoppin, an American creative director who spent over a decade working at Switzerland’s largest advertising agency, “Swiss brands are very consistently aligned with their national brand. In other words, they have an entire nation’s mythology to rely upon and have used it to their advantage.”

Consistency means resiliency

Swiss brands are powered by consistency, which is a hallmark of good branding practice. According to Calin Hertioga, Brand Valuation Director at Interbrand’s Zurich, Switzerland-based office, Swiss brands demonstrate some of the best consistency in the world. But he adds that consistency doesn’t mean the brand sticks to the same old experience, rather that it stays true to its core idea while adapting the experience that conveys it in a relevant, timely way.

Most Swiss products focus on an almost singular platform. For Swiss watches, it’s precision. For chocolatiers, it’s craft. And for knives it’s design. All of which, of course, have that national “Made in Switzerland” reputation at their core.

For Mr. Hoppin, Omega is a good example of a singular platform well executed. “The Omega brand story is razor sharp. It’s all about precision, and it’s executed across their sponsorship, traditional communications, and product stories. Omega is the official timekeeper for the Olympics. The first watch in space. The commander’s watch for 007. All of their activities, in their own ways, tell a story of precision.”

Wait a lot. Then innovate a little.

The Swiss are not known for recklessness. Big, established Swiss companies talk about innovation more than they attempt it. In fact, there’s a pattern among many Swiss brands when it comes to innovation: wait and see where new trends are headed, and then pick the best innovation and implement it in a big way. “The long-term survivors are the smart adaptors. They watch the true experimenters and then copy when it makes sense,” says Mr. Hoppin.

It’s hard to be a disruptor when you have a long company history, for example, like Swiss banks do. So instead of disrupting in a big way, many Swiss brands do it quietly. “Under the radar, Swiss private banks invest a lot in IT capabilities – they arguably entered the game rather late, but now have the benefit of a wider array of technological solutions to pick from,” says Mr. Hertioga. But he cautions that some brands, like Swatch, might be waiting too long to react to the smart watch trend.

Ensure your own citizens are your brand’s best ambassador

Because of Swiss brands’ strong reputation, they not only are desired, but they command high prices. And no one is more willing to pay higher prices for Swiss products than the Swiss themselves. I’ve watched firsthand as a fellow Swiss advertising colleague chose the Swiss strawberries over imported Spanish ones at our local Swiss grocery store—even though the Swiss strawberries were double the price.

Mr. Hertioga points out that of the two major Swiss grocery store chains, Migros often ranks higher than Coop in the Swiss Brand Power list. The difference? Migros has mostly its own brand products and local produce, while Coop, its competitor, sells all the multinational brands. Coincidence? If Swiss citizens are a Swiss product’s greatest champions, then a store filled with Swiss brands is probably going to be more successful than a store filled with international brands—at least in Switzerland.

In any case, Switzerland’s most famous product is its high-quality chocolate, and the Swiss proudly consume the most of it—23 pounds per person, per year.

But never mind the large amount of chocolate consumption. It’s the fact that such a small country has created such larger-than-life brands that impresses me the most. These brands come from a place that’s only a third of the size of Illinois and yet they have achieved fame that’s as far-reaching as the world. Now that’s a branding achievement.