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From Code to super-signs: For a semiotics of brand equity
 

From Code to super-signs: For a semiotics of brand equity

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semiotics, brand equity, innovation

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  • Paraphrasing Saussure- a word can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another word.
  • Paraphrasing Saussure- a word can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another word.
  • Paraphrasing Saussure- a word can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another word.
  • Paraphrasing Saussure- a word can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another word.
  • Paraphrasing Saussure- a word can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another word.
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • KATZ AND FODOR TREEs
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • General commutation = Model Q – starting from any single sign one may draw contiguous relations with the entire encyclopedic universe (Eco)
  • What the above passage makes clear is that the product as brand, once dislocated from its strictly speaking functional usage and inserted in a general economy of signs, not only may take upon any sort of signifiers, but, as a sign it is exchangeable with other brands qua signs, for the same sort of signifiers. In this instance Baudrillard retains the fundamental elements of the Saussurean model of value, viz that signs are exchangeable for similar (other signs) and dissimilar (eg signifiers) things, but not only overturns the model in terms of the relative importance of signified versus signifier as constituents of the signifying relationship (cf footnote 4), but does away with the signified altogether, while allocating what would be exchangeable at the level of the signified to the combinatorial possibilities of the code. The exchanges that take place in such a political economy of brands or objects as symbolic materials that are exchanged for concepts or abstract signifiers (eg luxury, based on the above quoted example) are prescribed as possibilities through the code as horizon of signifying possibilities. Moreover, the above passage opens up another dimension of the political economy of brands. Insofar as there is no necessary relationship between sign and signifier, and given that signs may be exchanged for signifiers, brands may be exchanged for any signifiers or secondary brand associations. But also, different brands may be exchanged for the same signifier, which is why a political economy of brands does not amount only to a general economy of signs, but also a general economy of signifiers. The use of the term symbolic in this instance and by implication the statement that «symbolic discourse is an idiom» by Baudrillard seems to draw on symbol as a special case of sign, based on Saussure’s analysis. «One characteristic of the symbol is that it is never wholly arbitrary; It is not empty for there is the rudiment of a natural bond between the signifier and the signified» (1959:68). In the same fashion that brands constitute symbols, albeit without a natural bond between sign and signified , but as motivated and non-arbitrary signs whose signification consists in investing super-signs with signifiers through the process of intended positioning in a calculated relationship of strict codedness, they also constitute onomatopoeic formations (Saussure 1959;69). Again, whereas for Saussure onomatopoeic formations constitute marginal cases in a linguistic system, in a political economy of brands with its own langue, such instances constitute the norm (onomatopoeia not only constitutes an indispensable function of an advertising agency, but there are agencies specializing in coining brand-names). Each brand is a symbol and by virtue of its self-referential strict codedness it is idiomatic. By extension, the more a brand tends to institute itself as a code, the more its idiomatic langue attains to colonize a natural language. A political economic system in which all exchanges would be branded would amount to the substitution of a «natural language» with aspects of idioms.
  • Low/High equity potential in terms of the potential of a brand’s instituting itself as code ; a restrictive approach to equity in line with Baudrillard’s definition of apotheosis of brands

From Code to super-signs: For a semiotics of brand equityFrom Code to super-signs: For a semiotics of brand equity Presentation Transcript

  • From Code to super-signs: For a semiotics of brand equity George Rossolatos (University of Kassel, PhD Researcher) May 26th 2012
  • Consumer-based brand equity from a marketingtheory point of view• Consumer-based brand equity occurs when the consumer has a high level of awareness and familiarity with the brand and holds some strong, favorable and unique brand associations in memory (K.L.Keller)• Brand equity = Differentially valuable brand meaning
  • Brands as super-signs • Signs = Cultural units that combine two functives • the level of expression • level of content (Eco) • Hjelmslevian model that replaces the Saussurean signifier with the plane of expression and the signified with the plane of content • each plane further split into form and substance • Super-signs = Strictly coded expression-units that may be further combined in order to produce more complex texts (Eco)
  • Brand signs and brand value: 3+1 prototypicalframes • Utilitarian = functional value • Sociocultural = cultural value Psychological • Commercial = commercial value value (actual price) Noth
  • How does semiotic value emerge? • Value is created in acts of semiotic exchange • A multimodal sign can be exchanged for something dissimilar, an idea; besides, it can be compared with something of the same nature, another sign (paraphrasing Saussure) • Semiotic exchanges are multi-directional (horizontal and vertical) • Signifier for signifier • Signified for signified • Signifier for signified
  • How does semiotic value emerge?• Value emerges through the combination of signs• Laces make sense once tied up with shoes and shoes make sense once tied up with the cultural practice of walking or running• It is the combinatorial rationale of the code of walking that unites laces with shoes and confers meaning, not the signified of laces and shoes, taken separately• They have a separate meaning (in terms of the lexicon), but not a semiotic value, which is conferred by being embedded in an encyclopedic universe that combines them through inferential walks• The code of walking as strictly coded inferential walk ties up laces to shoes• Brands’ combinatorial rationale is a peculiar form of «social logic» (Baudrillard) or «poetic logic» (Danesi)
  • The signified as the effect of combinations ofsignifiers • The signified is an effect of signifiers relating to other signifiers according to a combinatorial rationale • Code of furniture • is formed both by the oppositions of functionally identical pieces (two types of wardrobe, two types of bed, etc.) • by the rules of association of the different units at the level of a room (‘code of furnishing’) Barthes
  • Is the signified necessary as a correlate of thesign?• Signs signify only by being embedded in a system of differences and oppositions (Saussure) • Signs are relational entities • The mode of relatedness is embedded in codes and not individual sign functions • There is no standalone meaning for a sign
  • The loss of the signified in a political economy ofbrands• The signified and the referent are abolished to the sole profit of the play of signifiers• The signifier becomes its own referent and the use value of the sign disappears to the profit only of its commutation and exchange value.• The sign approaches in its truth its structural limit which is to refer back only to other signs.• All reality then becomes the place of a semiological manipulation, of a structural simulation.• The code becomes the instance of absolute referenceBaudrillard, Mirror of Production
  • What is a Code?• A code is the set or system of rules and correspondences, which link signs to meaning (Cobley)• A code is a set of signs ruled by internal combinatory laws or a syntactic system, a set of notions, a semantic system, a set of possible behavioral responses (Eco)• Signs assume meaning not because of a relationship between signifier and signified, but due to the combinatorial possibilities embedded in codes
  • 3 types of Codes• Ur-Code= A systemic ars combinatoria• Code= Combinatorial rationale (syntax) and elements (signs)• Sub-code= More concrete and regulated form of code • Srict rules regulating the placement of plate/fork/knife on the dinner table • Dinner as code is all-encompassing with regard to type of meal, number of guests, with family or friends etc. • A sub-code is part of a cultural ritual
  • Ur-Code = Systemic Ars Combinatoria = Sublimation of prima materia• Ur-Code= A systemic ars combinatoria • Code as absolute reference = principle of general commutation (everything may be combined with everything- «Things go better with Coke»- oblique reference to Das Denken or Ca) • In a state of pure becoming or primary flow of matter or energy, everything becomes everything else (Anaximander’s eteroiosis) Nebula of • A metaphorical inscription of prima materia as Hjelmslev’s content substance of the plane of content (amorphous mass or primary flow of matter/energy)
  • Leibniz’s De Arte Combinatoria• All concepts are nothing but combinations of a relatively small number of simple concepts, just as words are combinations of letters.• All truths may be expressed as appropriate combinations of concepts, which can in turn be decomposed into simple ideas, rendering the analysis much easier.• This alphabet would provide a logic of invention, opposed to that of demonstration which was known so far.• Since then combinatorics has become an entrenched discipline in mathematics
  • Limit pictorial metaphors of the structural limitsof the Ur-Code’s combinatorial possibilities THE THING (CA/ID/DAS DENKEN) THROUGH THE PICTORIAL METAPHOR OF THE EVIL CLOWN; THE UNCONSCIOUS KNOWS OF NO STRICT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SIGNIFIER / SIGNIFIED THE THING OUTSIDE OF LANGUAGE IS NOT ITSELF THINKABLE (Thibauld, Re-reading THE THING (CA/ID/DAS DENKEN) Saussure) THROUGH THE PICTORIAL METAPHOR OF …. «THE THING» ; PRIMA MATERIA (EARTH) PERSONIFIED- SOLID AND IMPENETRABLE
  • The unknowability of the Code The case for Ratio Obliqua • It is the cunning of the code to veil itself and to produce itself in the obviousness of value. It simultaneously produces the content and the consciousness to receive it (Baudrillard) • The Code cannot be known, but it • «fascinates» (Baudrillard, For a critique of the political economy of the sign) + • «enchants» (Baudrillard, Symbolic exchange and death)
  • Codes vs sub-codes (s-codes) • An s-code is a system of elements, such as syntactic, semantic and behavioral ; a code is a rule coupling the items of one s-code with items of another (Eco) • Codes provide the conditions for a complex interplay of sign functions (Eco)
  • The limits of codes are marked by culturalprohibitions as non-recognizable value • Heavy prohibition system = strict codedness between the sign function and its functives • Red traffic light = Stop • Prohibition of non exchanging the red light for stop • Responses as social logic are inscribed and evoked automatically in a subject’s comportment towards the signs, they are part of «common-sense». • Mild prohibition system • Open to various combinatorial possibilities between signs and codes • Prohibition resting with various levels of codedness • Dependent on interpretive communities
  • Status candy: Pars pro toto or Code as anchor ina sea of general commutation • An effectively positioned candy across the marketing mix may become part of a code of social status • Equity for a niche brand emerges as • (i) isotopic in a cultural narrative to added value as the excess of the code instituted in an act of a semiotic exchange • (ii) isotopic in a cultural narrative to surplus of meaning as overcoded semiotic act (that is as an act that synecdochically points to the limit of a code).
  • A refrigerator is not a refrigerator… … It’s allover the placeIf a refrigerator is taken as an element ofcomfort or of luxury, then in principle anyother such element can be substituted for it.There is only a systematic relationobligated to all other signs. And in thiscombinatory abstraction lie the elementsof a code.Baudrillard
  • The 3 basic premises of a semiotic account ofbrand equity • Surplus of meaning is reflected in surplus financial value (difference between book and market value) in the concept of brand equity • The concepts of brand equity and the code are interdependent • The higher the equity the more open a brand is to infinite semiosis as combinatorial possibilities among codes and by implication as s-code combinatorial possibilities
  • 3 levels of codedness • Dominant, emergent and residual • An alternative point of view (Eco) • Overcodedness • Overcodedness is a necessary condition for he interpretive stability of sign-constellations and it operates as a stabilizing social force or a dominant social logic • Undercodedness • provisionally pertinent units of a code in formation • Extracodedness • in between over and undercodedness , including the uncoded determinants of an interpretation.
  • The generative matrix of brand equity potential Level of novelty of sign-function Discontinuously Extension of Established new existing signLevel of codedness function Undercodedness Extracodedness Overcodedness
  • The generative matrix of brand equity potential• Allows a semiotician to make projections about • the strength, favorability, uniqueness of a brand proposition by addressing • a brand’s plane of content and expression alongside • the relative novelty of the sign function and the three levels of codedness
  • The generative matrix of brand equity potential • Its potential to leverage a code, a subcode, or institute a new one, in terms of • a cultural practice (occasion, need) up to • transforming itself into a code, capable of stretching into adjacent and non directly adjacent territories based on • a malleable combinatorial rationale
  • The generative matrix of brand equity potential• Not an alternative to NPD marketing mix modelling / simulation and quantitative volumetrics projections • quant stops in allocating weighting factors to variables such as (i) no and type of communication vehicles used (ii) level of novelty (iii) spending and projected SOV (etc)• It is complementary to quant, not a substitute• It addresses aspects of a brand’s cultural and directly/indirectly competitive environment that are not quantifiable • Particularly useful for cases of disruptive and discontinuous innovation• A quant test is strictly confined to the potential of sourcing incremental business within the confines of a given product category• The generative matrix of equity potential addresses the potential of brand equity alongside different kinds of value and different axes of codedness
  • 1. Discontinuously new sign function at the levelof undercodedness • No familiarity with the brand-name and its expression plane • Regarding the content plane, no familiarity with its function as a utilitarian sign, and limited familiarity with its function as a sociocultural sign, hence great uncertainty regarding its function as a commercial sign and at first sight of limited equity potential, as hurdles must be overcome on all code-related fronts, viz as syntax, as notions, as potential behavioral responses. • Point of entry: Leverage sociocultural aspects of dissimilar brands by drawing on latent analogies and semantic contiguities that may be discerned by combining subcodes through the operation of the Ur-code
  • 1. Discontinuously new sign function at the levelof undercodedness Example• Consumer forums are particularly relevant in this typology.• By virtue of a virally circulating message at break-neck speed, a forum with inexistent awareness may rise to a mainstream medium.• An example is the www.plentyoffish.com dating site, which offers a scalable program, starting with free subscription and culminating in upgraded premium services.
  • 2. Extension of existing sign function at the level of undercodedness • Not leading brand in terms of familiarity, but not wholly new either or an extension of a leading or a non-leading brand in its category • Limited potential as a commercial sign and need for leveraging different combinatorial possibilities as a utilitarian and sociocultural sign. • Medium equity potential.
  • 2. Extension of existing sign function at the level of undercodednessq Example: Danone’s Essensis skincareq Yoghurtq Launched in 2007 and positioned as a premium-priced skin nourishing yoghurt.q A promising launch that was coupled with high trial levels was succeeded by plummeting sales due to low repurchase rates.q The brand failed to uphold its price premium in the light of insufficient positive associations about the combined need-states of skin nourishment and flavored yoghurt.q Even though these need states are overcoded separately, the undercoded combinatorial rationale behind their merging in a new brand proposition did not pay off.
  • 3. Established sign function at the level ofundercodedness• This configuration may be portrayed as a case of diversification, that is extension of a well familiar brand in a given category in another category where either no combinatorial rule exists in terms of an inter-category fit or where substitutability of signifiers in a paradigmatic fashion is initially of limited potential.• In this case it is very important to capitalize on potential similarities in terms of surface structure similarities at the syntagmatic level either by addressing structural components of brands as utilitarian or sociocultural signs or both.
  • 3. Established sign function at the level of undercodednessExample:Tuborg’s customization routeGiving consumers the opportunity tocustomize bottle labels. The service"Your Tuborg" (only available inDenmark), invited consumers tocustomize the beer label when orderinga minimum of 30 bottles of Tuborg,which were delivered directly to thecustomer within four weeks of placing an order. By leveraging surface structure similarities with establishedsociocultural signs, such as greeting cards, the brandattained to capitalize on an existing cultural code, which, yet,was undercoded in the territory of beer brand offerings.
  • 4. Discontinuously new sign function at thelevel of extracodedness• No familiarity with the brand-name and its expression plane; regarding the content plane, no familiarity with its function as a utilitarian sign, and no familiarity with its function as a sociocultural sign.• This constitutes a limit case of configurative possibilities, an ex nihilo creatio, which lies beyond the limits of semiotics.• As Eco stresses, there is no ex nihilo or ex novo creation.
  • 4. Discontinuously new sign function at the level of extracodednessExample: Thirsty Dogs! and Thirsty Cats! brands, crispy-beef and tangy-fish flavored water products for dogsand cats respectively.Combining utter lack of brand awarenesswith an inexistent need is highly unlikelyto generate a nexus of differential brandassociations.Since the Thirsty Dogs/Cats debacle more relevant propositions havebeen developed, in an undercoded vein, yet relevant in terms of pets’well-being, such as Century Foods’ Hero fortified water for dogs,including variants with distinctive health benefits, such as for healthyhips and joints, for aging dogs, and one that replenishes electrolytesafter exercise.
  • 5. Extension of existing sign function at thelevel of extracodedness• Neither leading brand in terms of familiarity, nor wholly new , or an extension of a leading or a non-leading brand in its category• Limited potential as a commercial sign and need for leveraging different combinatorial possibilities as a utilitarian or sociocultural sign.• Medium equity potential.
  • 5. Extension of existing sign function at the level of extracodednessq Example: A classic example of creating a code in terms of new consumption occasions is Sony’s walkman. Sony’s ability to combine existing know-how with a latent consumer need, viz. listening to music anywhere, anytime, resulted in an established brand’s carving a wholly new territory in the mode of consumption of music.
  • 6. Established sign function at the level ofextracodedness• This may be a case of either brand extension or diversification, but the combinatorial logic driving them must be wholly new, hence augmented effort for justification of the brand proposition.
  • 6. Established sign function at the level ofextracodednessExample: Apple’s iPad? Certainly there might have been alatent need for full-laptop functionality anywhere, anytime, butno technological advance prior to iPad gave expression as acommercial sign to this extra-coded need. Coupled with thestrong cultural saliency of the existing sign-function of Apple,iPad constitutes a striking case of an established sign-functionat the level of extracodedness.
  • 7. Discontinuously new sign function at thelevel of overcodedness• No familiarity with the sign-function, but high equity potential due to the strictly closed meaning of the code in which it aspires to be embedded.• The decision lies more with the selection of brand elements as semes at the content level and their credible, unique, appealing transformation into the level of expression.
  • 7. Discontinuously new sign function at the level of overcodednessq Example: This territory is particularly appealing in the incidence of brands’ internationalization in markets where there is an overcoded need for the product and where the semic structure of the product at the level of content is potentially suitable, but there are significant barriers at the level of expression. Ample evidence of such barriers is furnished by Western brands’ attempts to become instituted as commercial and cultural signs in the Chinese market. Due to the lack of familiarity with brand names, fake brands and copycats across a variety of categories in the food and drinks market may attain to establish their copycat brand names and packaging aesthetics before the «genuine» brands enter the market. Thus, copycats may attain to establish their semic structure and correlate it more favorably than the original brands, long before the latter actually enter the market. Examples of such brand names (with exactly the same aesthetics and functionality) are Ballstar (instead of Allstar), Pama (instead of Puma), Polystation (instead of Playstation), Nire (instead of Nike), Sonia (instead of Sony).
  • 7. Discontinuously new sign function at thelevel of overcodedness
  • 8. Extension of existing sign function at thelevel of overcodedness• Not leading brand in terms of familiarity, but not wholly new either or an extension of a leading or a non-leading brand in its category• Ample potential as a commercial sign and need for leveraging different combinatorial possibilities as a utilitarian and sociocultural sign.• High equity potential.
  • 8. Extension of existing sign function at the level of overcodednessq Example: This is a pretty standard case of a line-extension, such as Nespresso by Nescafe.
  • 9. Established sign function at the level ofovercodedness• A brand reaches its apotheosis when it manages to institute itself as a Code (paraphrasing Baudrillard)• These brands constitute usually not only established brand players, but with high equity. They stand synecdochically for codes and occasionally constitute codes themselves.
  • 9. Established sign function at the level of overcodednessq Example: This is the province of mega-brands and mega-brand positioning. For example, Coca-Cola, which stands at the pinnacle of Interbrand’s top 100 brands, not only is a brand as code par excellence, but its combinatorial possibilities, by virtue of its massive equity, are unlimited. In fact, if a commercial sign ever managed to constitute not only a Code, but an Ur-Code, then this would be very close to Coca-Cola’s all-encompassing positioning. From a semiotic point of view, this commercial sign is characterized by «general commutation» insofar as any element of the plane of expression may be correlated with any element of the plane of content, by virtue of its far-reaching combinatorial power. The «liquid and linked» brand strategy approach announced in 2011 essentially positions the brand in a «supple space», that is geared towards accommodating emergent trends prior to morphing into striated patterns.
  • 9. Established sign function at the level ofovercodedness
  • Thank you