The Swiss Alps at their Best

Written by Yara Emmenegger & Hannah Tscharland, students of the University of Zurich

In the picturesque world of Swiss advertising, mountains are unrivaled as powerful symbols of grandeur, serenity and adventure. The majestic mountains and lush green valleys of the Swiss Alps are not just geographical features, but also protagonists in a captivating story told in advertising and social media. How does this strategic mise-en-scène of the Swiss Alps shape our collective imagination of mountains?

Figure 1: The Iseltwald pier, made famous by the Netflix series “Crash Landing on You” (https://dulac-iseltwald.ch/crash-landing-on-you-steg-in-iseltwald/, accessed 19th November 2023).

Social media posts of "instagrammable" spots (Helmi, 2020) in Switzerland often lead to an influx of visitors (Siegel et al., 2023, p. 1), who aim to display themselves in front of an incredible view for their followers. This leads to a cycle of promoting the same places, often with filters applied to them. Spots like the Wildkirchli restaurant or Iseltwald pier are represented often online due to their popularity, either due to their uniqueness or significance for a TV show. Visitors will connect positive emotions to those places, which they have seen on various posts on their social platforms and have come to reach. Even though crowds and queues might break the expected fairytale picture, arriving at the exact spot in order to take the same picture they have seen online is an achievement. When sharing their post it will reinforce the existing idea of that place, as any information that could disrupt the established expectations is omitted.  

Figure 2: The Gasthaus Aescher – Wildkirchli, a popular tourist attraction in the Appenzeller mountains (https://www.travelita.ch/appenzellerland-fuer-einsteiger-berggasthaus-aescher/, accessed 19th November 2023).

Not only does social media influence our imagination of mountains, but in Swiss tourism campaigns, on websites and in advertisements, mountains are omnipresent (MySwitzerland, n.d.). Marketing teams entice with carefully selected images of sunset-kissed mountain peaks, promising adventure, relaxation, clean air, and natural beauty. This imagery is leveraged for many products from Switzerland: items like mountain cheese, herbal tea, cosmetics, and handicrafts produced in mountain regions incorporate mountain images as key marketing elements (Soglio, n.d.). Interestingly, even brands with no inherent connection to mountains, such as watches, banks or chocolate, capitalize on the positive associations with mountains and their connection to Switzerland to promote their products.

As we have seen, mountains are used as a captivating element in advertising and on social media. It is thus understandable that people who think of Switzerland automatically think of mountains. Mountains - often portrayed in the best light - are more than mere geographical landmarks. They may become metaphors for wonder and adventures and for values such as resilience, precision and purity. The portrayal of the Swiss Alps in advertising and social media also has an impact on society's perception of mountains. The depiction of mountains as symbols of overcoming challenges and reaching new heights seeps into our cultural consciousness, shaping the collective imagination of how we perceive the Swiss Alps and the very concept of mountains.

What we find particularly fascinating is that our imagination of mountains tends to revolve around a limited number of selected locations that take center stage  - our imagination is molded by a handful of showcase sites and does not encompass the entire spectrum of mountainous regions. Additionally, online representations are primarily shaped by the perspectives of visitors or outsiders rather than the local population.


Literature:

Helmi, J. (2020, 12. February). Diese 13 Insta Accounts setzen die Schweiz perfekt in Szene. Watson. Available at: https://www.watson.ch/schweiz/instagram/508804574-diese-13-insta-accounts-setzen-die-schweiz-perfekt-in-szene (accessed 19th November 2023).

Siegel, L. A., Tussyadiah, I. and Scarles, C. (2023). Exploring behaviors of social media-induced tourists and the use of behavioral interventions as salient destination response strategy. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 27, pp. 1-11. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdmm.2023.100765.

MySwitzerland. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.myswitzerland.com/de-ch/ (accessed 16th November 2023).

Soglio. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.soglio-produkte.com/de/?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiA0syqBhBxEiwAeNx9NxkACQvYkWbyfdzOW2jSHdL8d4XdEfPSCjZ1ccIHZRiboJdIRjp0LhoCiP4QAvD_BwE (accessed 16th November 2023).

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