Some items – like the one pictured – can only be described as kitsch. Tell’s image has also frequently been used in advertisements, where he is often depicted with his crossbow and apple. In this photo gallery, Uli Windisch - author of the book “Tell in Everyday Life” – offers his perspective on the marketing tool that is William Tell.
Here we see how the Tell brand stands for both quality and durability, and the image also conveys the suggestion that the person who puts on these shoes is strong-willed and determined. The implication is that by wearing them you will take on some of the attributes associated with being a hero. At the time this was used, people treated William Tell with a patriotic and religious respect – and advertisers capitalised on the myth that surrounded him.
This cigarette advertisement doesn’t even show the image of William Tell himself. His crossbow is thought to be powerful enough as a symbol. There are various elements to the Tell myth which can be used separately because they are all clearly associated with him.
This advertisement could be seen during the economic crisis of the 1930s, when Swiss housewives formed an association and gave birth to the "Buy Swiss" slogan. It was during this time that the crossbow gradually became a symbol for Swiss quality. Today, you have to apply to the intellectual property office for the right to use it. According to one story, a German firm was refused permission to use the image of William Tell in a chocolate advertisement. To get around the law, it placed Tell’s son to the right of his father, rather than to the left.
On this Swiss Army Knife (which is not in fact used by the Swiss army) you can see how the crossbow has become part of the Swiss cross. Knives like this have achieved worldwide fame and the Swiss manufacturer, Victorinox, churns out 41,000 of them each day.
Anyone fancy a can of William Tell beer?
Many restaurants in Switzerland bear the name Tell and his image is frequently used for commercial purposes. A whole marketing industry has sprung up around him. Think, for example, of the huge number of souvenirs that tourists buy in the shops in and around Altdorf and elsewhere. The sign on this restaurant depicts the scene just before Tell shoots at the apple. The hero himself is recognisable only by the context, because this is a very dated image of him and is not as famous as those created by sculptor Richard Kissling or painter Ferdinand Hodler.
Here we see how one famous international company used the image of William Tell to adapt its product to the Swiss market.
This playful advertisement for apple juice goes to show that it’s possible to take a serious symbol and give it an ironic twist. And that’s achieved using all the usual elements of the Tell myth – the bow and arrow, the apple and the father and son. Here you see father and son with the Matterhorn in the background – all of which helps to convey the image of a natural and healthy product.
The image of William Tell is recognisable the world over and some manufacturers have not hesitated to plaster their products, in this case processed cheese, with his face in order to sell the Swiss reputation for quality. Tell is generally depicted as a flawless hero with no unpleasant characteristics.
William Tell as a sex symbol? On this advertisement for Levi’s jeans Tell is depicted as a man in every sense of the word. When the company launched this campaign, it used a different image of the masculine ideal in every country. It’s no accident that it chose William Tell for Switzerland.
The legendary Swiss hero William Tell appears on all sorts of products.
He can be seen on everything from coins to stamps, beer bottles and chocolates. (Pictures from the book "Tell in everyday life" by Ueli Windisch)
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