They want to ditch a traditional work many view as far too solemn.
The contest, organised by the Swiss Society for Public Good, aims to replace The Swiss Psalm composed by Alberich Zwyssig, a Swiss monk, in 1841, which critics say is too hymn-like and at odds with modern-day Switzerland.
Some point to the anthem’s recent outing at the World Cup in Brazil, where Switzerland’s multi-ethnic team mumbled their way through the words ahead of a clash against France, whose players belted out La Marseillaise with confidence.
“The lyrics are very difficult and many can’t identify with the text since it was originally a church song,” said Lukas Niederberger, director of the 200-year-old society, a respected independent body.
The anthem has been mocked as a “Swiss weather report” because of its mentions of the Alps, morning skies and misty valleys. Only a small percentage of the population is said to be able to sing more than one verse by heart.
Potential new anthems can be written in any of Switzerland’s four national languages.
Of the 208 proposals submitted, 129 are in German, 60 in French, seven in Italian and ten in Romansch, a minority language spoken in south-east Switzerland.
Mr Niederberger said the society was looking for an anthem suited to national events that could be sung by laymen.
“Some of the entries are ceremonial while some are more modern,” he added.
A 30-strong jury including a slam poet, yodelling experts, musicians and members of sporting associations has until autumn to whittle down the submissions to a shortlist of ten, which will be posted online next year so the public can pick the top three.
Spectators and television audiences will have the chance to vote for their favourite when the finalists are performed at a national music festival next year.
The winning entry will be submitted as a suggestion to the government, which could consult Switzerland’s cantons about the new anthem or put it to a national referendum.
According to the rules of the competition, the new lyrics must reflect the values laid out in the preface of the Swiss constitution, which include democracy, acceptance of diversity, freedom, peace and solidarity.