Of course one needn’t be too explicit with signs… (source of image)
What is the relationship between signs and marketing communications? Why do certain symbols and icons work more effectively in reaching consumers than others?
A brand of cultural anthropology which looks at the use of signs and symbols as a means of communicating and conveying meaning, semiotics is a vital discipline in the science of marketing communications, advertising and branding.
According to Dictionary.com, there are two inter-related definitions of what semiotics mean, namely:
To understand what pragmatics, semantics and syntactics mean, let us dive deeper into Wikipedia, namely:
In marketing and branding, semiotics play a key role in determining the success or failure of any endeavour.
Through the effective deployment of verbal, visual and performative (ie actions by the consumer) elements, companies can strengthen their reach to their customers.
These symbolic elements include logos, rituals, cultural symbols, colours, iconic individuals, text, advertisements, websites, physical environments, hospitality and service, tag lines and other “touch points”.
Wait a minute. Isn’t branding all about influencing these elements anyway? What’s the difference then?
In this well-written article by Laura Oswald of Marketing Semiotics Inc, she explains the following:
“Semiotic theories and methods can be used to identify trends in popular culture, understand how consumer attitudes and behavior are formed in relation to popular culture, including brands, and how marketing and advertising programmes can best meet the needs of consumers by improving communication with the end user.”
The article goes on to explain that semiotics involves the “collection and analysis of data drawn from communication of all kinds – artistic or everyday, in all kinds of media including verbal, visual, and olfactory” and is useful for “clarifying brand equities in the brand audit, then tracking the implementation of these equities across all elements of the marketing mix.”
Semiotics involves studying cultural trends, language, non-verbal cues, behavioural norms, social etiquette, and rituals. It also includes understanding how the various sensory and emotional stimuli of a brand interact with each other or influences its targeted recipient.
What this tells us is that implementing a consistent brand communications programme alone isn’t enough. Rather, one should adopt a more holistic approach which involves studying the unique context of where the communications takes place.
By doing so, we can better predict and control how consumers would respond to a brand given their current socio-cultural contexts.
The next time you consider rolling out a fancy brand name, logo, renovated shop front or new product feature, think about what your total package of signs and symbols mean to your consumers before doing so.
Ask yourself the following questions:
By embracing the tenets of semiotic analysis, our chances of making a real impact on our consumer’s lives – and our bottomlines – may improve significantly. Doing so also helps us to avoid the unfortunate gaffes which may sometimes arise from a poor understanding of how consumers perceive and react to different stimuli.
Sign up to receive monthly updates