Anthropological Analysis:Turning Symbols and Sign into Revenue
The world is shrinking.
The world is shrinking.But that doesn’t mean you can escapethe cultural norms around the world…we haven’t changed that much.
What do we mean when we talk about culture?
Culture = Context
Every decision is made within a cultural context.Geographic     Indian, French, Silicon ValleyIndustry       engineers, nu...
Culture is a series of signs.Semiotics is the study of signs.A sign is something that stands forsomething other than itself.
Tree
What about some random scratches?Is that a sign?
Signs do not represent reality, they construct it.
Are signs universal?Will it work in London?In India?In Argentina?In Mississippi?
There are three types of signs:Index               Icon          Symbol
IndexThe signifier is not arbitrary but isconnected to the signified in some wayeither physically or casually.
Barn = Animals
Barn = Backwards
IconThe signifier is not totally arbitrarybut resembles the signified in some way.
?
SymbolThe signifier is totally arbitraryand lacks meaning outside a cultural context.
SymbolWhy does the symbol “2” represent what itdoes?Why does the word “tree”?
Global ContextWe don’t sell benefits, features and functions,we sell emotions and meaning.We sell symbols.
Flavor = Explosion
Sport = War
It’s not as simple as defining a symbol.It has to work within a given culture.
PayoffsIf you get the symbol right,you increase awareness, retention,and revenue.
If you get the symbol wrong…
What does   mean?        SPORT
What does     mean?            PROS
What does   mean?       HYDRATION
What does   mean?        SPORTS       NUTRITIAN?
How do we make           stand for:              ENERGY               FUEL           PERFORMANCE         SPORTS NUTRITIONU...
But it’s not just enough to ask what  words or phrases they prefer…
Groupthink & Ritual
Groupthink & Ritual
PRE-GAMING
PRE-GAMERITUAL?
POST-GAMERITUAL?
INFLUENCERS
FUNCTIONAL   STRUCTURALProduct                  SocialBenefits                Benefits
Getting it right in a global context:Uncover the right metaphorsDefine the types of signs you needDefine the right signsTi...
Where to begin:Assess your needAssess your signsLearn what connectsDesign
Thank you.
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
Symbolism and sales
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Symbolism and sales

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  • We hear about how the internet, social media and globalization have shrunk our world and there is indeed a great of truth to this. Increasingly, social nodes and the people we interact with, along with the brands and stores we adopt, are defined in a context devoid national boundaries.
  • Whether you’re in Brazil, China, Russia or New Jersey, you understand Nike at a glance. There is a shared understanding of what Nike means that transcends nationality. It relies on universal symbols to sport, athleticism and the relationship between athlete/team and competitors. The symbols are tied to universal archetypes but have their own Nike flavor.
  • All well and good, but you still can’t escape the fact that we are grounded in the contexts from which we emerge. In other words, while communication is faster and theoretically broader than it ever has been before, we’re still products of where we’re from. No one is an island. When it comes to marketing and business development, this is doubly so.
  • Iconography specific to Brazil (note the statue of Jesus as a symbol of Rio, not just religion). The colors are typical of the region, but wouldn’t fly in Sweden. The use of specific Carnival-related images. The point is that the ad is derived from deep cultural symbol structures that reflect nationality, status as an emerging power, etc.
  • Another example from India that goes beyond the artwork. It blends elements of traditional art, notions of beauty and femininity, color and modernity into a symbol structure that blends new and old, universal and national.
  • The ad works in London and Chicago, but not in the Middle East or in NY. Why? Because it’s a play on a symbolic system that is interpreted in different places, in different ways. In London, it is a symbol of migration. In Chicago it is rebellion against conservatism in the Midwest. But in NY it is a reminded of 9/11. In the Middle East it cheapens a religious idea or it represents parochialism.
  • All of this is tied to who we are as cultural beings. Culture defines our worldview and how we interpret messages from every facet.
  • An open sign hanging in the window of a business. It is sometimes literally a sign in a window.
  • The smell of smoke to mean fire. The smoke is not in fact a fire, but is representational of something else.
  • The sound of the word “tree” is arbitrary, but we know what it means. Social convention.
  • This isn’t a tree, it’s a photograph. We have a cultural understanding to agree on what it means. But in a place that’s never seen a photograph, this is not a tree.
  • Take that abstraction to the extreme.
  • Hugs and kisses
  • A few subtle changes and it means something else – strategy, childhood play, etc.
  • It is the interplay between the sign and the interpretation that we negotiate meaning. That means it isn’t just us feeding people information, it is a dialog of sorts.
  • We see beer.
  • Flip it and we something very different.
  • The question is, what do we see beyond the obvious? This ad went over well enough in Europe, but it failed elsewhere. Being clever in Europe added millions in sales, but it also cost them millions in other parts of the world.
  • A sign is understood as a discrete unit of meaning. It is what we mentioned before , a representation of something else. And there are three fundamental types.
  • This is the smoke as fire idea
  • In the US it means animals. It also reflects on nostalgia and an ideal view of our collective past. It is purity writ large.
  • In China it has a different meaning. It is backwards, provincial, small. It is anything but ideal.
  • This is the most primitive and the simplest.
  • We get it the instant we see it and it is the fundamental driving force behind things like good UI design.
  • But it can sometimes fail. In Indonesia clothing did not match correct gender in this context.
  • The most complex and most fluid. It is potentially the most dangerous, but it is also the thing to produce the greatest reward.
  • This means nothing in and of itself, but you can put it up anywhere in the world and it is recognized. That’s power. And that’s money.
  • Change an element and you change the entire symbolic meaning.
  • Looks like explosive detonator – tying heat and spice to destructive force, masculinity and danger
  • Tying the red of the national symbol to blood and warfare. This worked very well in England, but the rest of the UK was less than pleased.
  • Take Apple’s stock price and the fact that they are the status brand.
  • Coke’s major failure. It’s just not cool to tie national symbols like Mao to your product. For those who venerate him, it’s an insult. For those who denigrate him, it’s a reminder of a bloody, repressive period in Chinese history. Either way, it is a symbolic blunder.
  • This is just wrong on SO many levels.
  • Gatorade had become a symbol that was so entrenched, developing new products was difficult. It meant three basic things.
  • But it wasn’t equated with sports nutrition. As much as they talked about physical benefits, they couldn’t break through the game time associations. Until they started looking at other symbolic activity.
  • What athletes said in interviews wasn’t enough.
  • Because athleticism is symbolic for more than performance on the field. It is associated with personal strength, fellowship, social bonds, sex.
  • Social bonds have associations with things other than sports and ritual behavior is found in parallel activities. If you want to understand pre-gaming, look at what athletes do in bars.
  • Pre-gaming and the symbolism of building peer-group affiliation became central to releasing new products. Same-gender bonding, ritual activity and shared understanding of the activity meant moving from individualism to group performance.
  • Similarly, ritual behavior carried over into how the product was positioned as a post-game drink with it’s own practices.
  • The symbols moved from sports as physical prowess on the field, to the indirect symbols of power, sex and group affiliation.
  • So what did it do for Gatorade? Changing the symbol system moved the needle and they saw what had been a flat product line increase in sales over 12% in the first year. By using symbols related to team affiliation, ritual and sex, they changed the entire conversation.
  • Understanding the sign scape means understanding how to increase revenue. Asses your need: What are the CULTURAL contexts you need to consider to uncover how to connect with customers?Assess your signs: Do they connect, do they increase or decrease risk and do they make sense in a cultural system?Which elements of your marketing strategy are indexes, icons or symbolsWhat emotions/meaning do you INTEND each to convey?   What do they ACTUALLY convey (trigger reflection, assessment, research)?How much is about functional product benefits vs. social benefits?
  • Understanding the sign scape means understanding how to increase revenue. Asses your need: What are the CULTURAL contexts you need to consider to uncover how to connect with customers?Assess your signs: Do they connect, do they increase or decrease risk and do they make sense in a cultural system?Which elements of your marketing strategy are indexes, icons or symbolsWhat emotions/meaning do you INTEND each to convey?   What do they ACTUALLY convey (trigger reflection, assessment, research)?How much is about functional product benefits vs. social benefits?
  • Symbolism and sales

    1. 1. Anthropological Analysis:Turning Symbols and Sign into Revenue
    2. 2. The world is shrinking.
    3. 3. The world is shrinking.But that doesn’t mean you can escapethe cultural norms around the world…we haven’t changed that much.
    4. 4. What do we mean when we talk about culture?
    5. 5. Culture = Context
    6. 6. Every decision is made within a cultural context.Geographic Indian, French, Silicon ValleyIndustry engineers, nurses, taxi driversLifestyle biker, soccer mom, techieReligious Buddhist, Lutheran, AtheistCulture is liable to change.
    7. 7. Culture is a series of signs.Semiotics is the study of signs.A sign is something that stands forsomething other than itself.
    8. 8. Tree
    9. 9. What about some random scratches?Is that a sign?
    10. 10. Signs do not represent reality, they construct it.
    11. 11. Are signs universal?Will it work in London?In India?In Argentina?In Mississippi?
    12. 12. There are three types of signs:Index Icon Symbol
    13. 13. IndexThe signifier is not arbitrary but isconnected to the signified in some wayeither physically or casually.
    14. 14. Barn = Animals
    15. 15. Barn = Backwards
    16. 16. IconThe signifier is not totally arbitrarybut resembles the signified in some way.
    17. 17. ?
    18. 18. SymbolThe signifier is totally arbitraryand lacks meaning outside a cultural context.
    19. 19. SymbolWhy does the symbol “2” represent what itdoes?Why does the word “tree”?
    20. 20. Global ContextWe don’t sell benefits, features and functions,we sell emotions and meaning.We sell symbols.
    21. 21. Flavor = Explosion
    22. 22. Sport = War
    23. 23. It’s not as simple as defining a symbol.It has to work within a given culture.
    24. 24. PayoffsIf you get the symbol right,you increase awareness, retention,and revenue.
    25. 25. If you get the symbol wrong…
    26. 26. What does mean? SPORT
    27. 27. What does mean? PROS
    28. 28. What does mean? HYDRATION
    29. 29. What does mean? SPORTS NUTRITIAN?
    30. 30. How do we make stand for: ENERGY FUEL PERFORMANCE SPORTS NUTRITIONUnderstand the systems of meaning for our target audiences.
    31. 31. But it’s not just enough to ask what words or phrases they prefer…
    32. 32. Groupthink & Ritual
    33. 33. Groupthink & Ritual
    34. 34. PRE-GAMING
    35. 35. PRE-GAMERITUAL?
    36. 36. POST-GAMERITUAL?
    37. 37. INFLUENCERS
    38. 38. FUNCTIONAL STRUCTURALProduct SocialBenefits Benefits
    39. 39. Getting it right in a global context:Uncover the right metaphorsDefine the types of signs you needDefine the right signsTie the indexes, icons and symbolsto a strategic plan
    40. 40. Where to begin:Assess your needAssess your signsLearn what connectsDesign
    41. 41. Thank you.

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