Semiotics

We all see things differently. So how can we be sure that our advertising is saying the right things?

The same word, picture or gesture can mean very different things according to the background and culture of the person who sees it and the context in which they see it. Human beings create meaning from everything they see and Semiotics is about understanding the signs and symbols that create meaning. Take these glasses for instance:

In Britain most people would see a beer glass, a water tumbler, a wine glass, a champagne flute and a sherry goblet. In India most people might see the first glass being for Coke or lassi (a yoghurt drink) but might be baffled by some of the others.

What semiotics does is to look at problems from the ‘outside in’ and to try and draw conclusions about what most people believe images, sounds and words mean by looking at:

  • how things are perceived in the culture surrounding the brand (whether that be cleaning the house, weight management, alcoholic drinks, premium cars, images of female beauty)
  • the competitive arena
  • the brand

Semiotics is incredibly useful for understanding the conventions in a market and the risks and rewards of breaking them. The format combines initial desk research and a client workshop with all relevant stimuli. Consumers aren’t usually involved until ideas have been formulated. We have also developed our own ‘decoding’ method so that even those new to semiotics can quickly become involved in the analysis.

Semiotics can be used to look at advertising, pack design or just to elicit new trends. For example if you want to launch a new nappy cream where most of the packaging in the competitive market is blue and inoffensive, how can you stand out without going so ‘off-code’ that mothers will not even try you? The approach can also be useful for understanding what imagery communicates certain types of human need. The need for status does not always have to be communicated by men on a golf course or women in sharp suits and glossy offices. It could be communicated simply by positioning one person in relation to another or implying something unique about a setting or simply by using a ‘status’ colour.

If you feel that this sort of analysis might help your brand to connect more strongly with consumers, get in touch and we can give you more information and examples.

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