An Introduction to Marketing Semiotics


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This presentation is an introduction to Marketing Semiotics - a qualitative marketing research approach focused on the analysis of symbolic communication. Written by Jeff Hecker and Sarah Jane Johnson of Athena Brand Wisdom.

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An Introduction to Marketing Semiotics

  1. 1. The POWER of Semiotic Analysis
  2. 2. Times have changed in Market Research We now know that decision-making is 1 st EMOTIONAL 2 nd RATIONAL
  3. 3. in fact Times have changed in Market Research of information processing goes on at the subconscious (EMOTIONAL) level
  4. 4. Although there are many methodologies that describe the RATIONAL part of decision-making, getting the EMOTIONAL side has always been more challenging. Consumers can’t always access non-verbal processing, Times have so can’t report back on its impact. changed in Market Research
  5. 5. A number of methodologies are exploring ways to tap into the EMOTIONAL side of decisionmaking: { What we are now learning is that the best outcomes are often derived by using multiple methodologies to build a composite understanding. • Neuro-Marketing • Hypnosis • Ethnographic observation • Micro-expression analysis • Metaphor Elicitation
  6. 6. The EMOTIONAL aspect of consumer decision-making is driven by Semiotics: One More Way In. non-verbal “cues”: symbols such as images, tonality, color, music, and themes { all of which exist in a cultural context that is constantly evolving. Semiotic analysis, because it is focused on decoding these cues, helps predict the EMOTIONAL RESPONSES TO A PRODUCT A PRODUCT OR CATEGORY
  7. 7. { semiotics defined • The study of cultural symbolism: of how meaning is conveyed through all aspects of communication: words, images, sounds, scents, textures, behavior, etc. • A form of cultural analysis rooted in linguistics, anthropology and literary criticism (related to ethnography). • A formal process employing specific analytical tools.
  8. 8. marketing semiotics defined A qualitative marketing research approach focused on the analysis of symbolic communication. { Looks deeply at the signs related to a brand or category, and their meanings in a culture. Provides additional insight because it’s focused on those symbolic elements of communication that we are less conscious of. Is a great way to make sense of the relationship between consumers, brands, and the cultures they live in.
  9. 9. Marketing Semiotics Data Sources Semiotic Analysis uses all of culture as its database, because every aspect of a culture conveys messages and meaning. Depending on the project, sources of data can range from a magazine ad to a consumer’s home to a government website. Sources: Books Media (news & pop culture) Advertising Packaging Quant or qual research Websites Stores Street fashion Expert interviews Brand histories Museums
  10. 10. what can semiotics Tracking and analyzing social and marketing trends Understanding of culture in a new market Mapping brand positionings within a category Evaluating the communications effectiveness of advertising, packaging, websites, social media Evaluating the and Improving the at-shelf experience Optimizing brand communications across cultures Determining optimal cues for brands across all touch-points Identifying new positioning opportunities be used for? Semiotic Analysis can be used at any stage of the strategic development process, on its own or in conjunction with other methods. Articulating the cultural role of a product/brand
  11. 11. when semiotics really shines Semiotics is a great choice for categories where brand differences cannot be spelled out through language: • Pharmaceutical companies in heavily regulated markets (i.e. outside U.S.A). • Mature categories where products have very few functional differences. • Complex categories where product differences are difficult to convey concisely/in laymen’s terms (i.e. technology, financial services). Semiotics is also invaluable for ensuring optimal communication in different cultural contexts.
  12. 12. Benefits of Semiotic Analysis For Clients Fundamentally it’s about improving communications efficiency and efficacy. Manages risk By revealing all potential messages brand communication may be conveying (whether intended or not) Strengthens communication Can identify most resonant cues and most relevant brand positioning the more powerful and positive associations a brand has, the greater its brand involvement Improves ROI
  14. 14. Semiotic Analysis Example: competitive messaging Bare bones packaging conveys sense of basic product, unmediated by “marketing” and therefore cheaper. Consumers can expect a straightforward chip experience, without any bells and whistles. { Three Packages: Essentially the same product, but design cues convey dramatically different notions, thereby creating radically different product expectations. Rich use of imagery and colour suggests a significantly more engaging product experience that is worth paying for. Use of the colour red, images of flames and electric shock, “3rd Degree Burn” language, all work to convey intensity and excitement. Use of illustration and cursive font suggests a “handmade” product. Images of vegetable ingredients, verbal cues like “natural” and “sea salted” imply authenticity and health. Implication that this is almost home-made, not massmarketed.
  15. 15. Semiotic Analysis Example: pop culture analysis { Dominant Depiction of “Mom” is still rooted in the 1950s: Suburban, middle class, domestic, and at the service of her children. This depiction does not acknowledge the multiple approaches to modern motherhood. Depictions of “Motherhood” in Popular Culture
  16. 16. semiotic analysis example: brand mapping authority Control Reactive Conservatism Heritage Common Sense Eff iciency analytical intuitive Sensory Innovation Liberation Creativity Abstract Avant-- Garde rebel
  17. 17. Semiotic Analysis Example: Risk Management Australian Aboriginals: Land, earth Celtic: Death, afterlife China: Good luck, celebration, summoning Cherokees: Success, triumph R ED Hebrew: Sacrifice, sin India: Purity South Africa: Mourning Russia: Bolsheviks and Communism
  18. 18. Semiotic Analysis Example: RISK MANAGEMENT { This price-point was chosen because Steve Wozniak was a math geek and considered repeating numbers to be “cool”. But not everyone interpreted it that way.
  19. 19. Sarah Jane Johnson SARAH JOHNSON is a commercial semiotician who has conducted analyses ranging from Obesity in American Media and Popular Culture to a Historical Analysis of Ritz Cracker advertising. { about after 15 years in Advertising Account Planning in the U.K., U.S. and Canada, she founded a research and planning consultancy Sarah studied Anthropology, Philosophy and English at McGill University and English Literature at Cambridge.
  20. 20. { JEFF HECKER IS A MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS VETERAN WITH OVER 13 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE ON BOTH THE CLIENT AND AGENCY SIDES OF THE BUSINESS.. Jeff studied Semiotics at the University of Toronto, and is Co-Founder of He brings a deep understanding of how consumer insights need to be developed and packaged for successful deployment in organizations and campaigns. about Jeff Hecker
  21. 21. Athena Brand Wisdom 24 Grant Street Toronto, ON, Canada M4M 2H5 (647) 980-4275 @ @