Orbiting the Black Hole of Category Code Convergence
ROB SWAN & MICHAEL COLTON - BRANDSQUARE 2.7.13
CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE 1839 – 1914 Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ....Certainly the greatest American thinker ever. Bertrand Russell The father of Semiotics in America. Despite being American as well, we haveadopted his methods as they are remarkably well suited for developing meaningfully differentiated brand personality and expression. Here’s how....
“Everything is a Sign” Charles Sanders PeircePeirce said that all inputthat comes into themind and goes out is asign. Everything wecome into contact withhas an impact on ourbehavior and deﬁneswho we are.
“Everything is a Sign” Charles Sanders PeirceSemiotics utilizescultural deductive logicto identify the meaningof these signs and howthey evoke (or attemptto evoke) universallyunderstood visceral(emotional) humanreactions.
Not DESIGN semiotics... IT’S PEIRCIAN Semiotics• Decoding “design” is the equivalent of decoding the artifacts of the future to understand culture and humanity.• Analyzing letterforms is simply a very granular, specialized forms of cultural semiotic decoding• There are no distinctions to be made between design and culture codes• Designers, movie producers, brand strategists are the crystalizers of meaning...• Yet...ultimately, not giving credit to the designer/artist/ﬁlmmaker for the inﬂuence they have. They are human conduits for meaning. Meaning passes through them and manifested in a multi-sensory way.
C.S. PEIRCE WOULD AGREE...PEIRCE BELIEVED THAT TRUTH IS CARVED INSTONE ... THAT TRUTH IS BOTH INDEPENDENTFROM OPINION AND CAN BE DISCOVERED ANDMADE APPARENT.WE BELIEVE THAT MODERN RETAILPROPOSITIONS BRINGS TO MIND THE FAMILIARPHRASE...”IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE!”
LIKE THE JUNGLE, THE MODERN SHOPPING ENVIRONMENT IS A CLOSED ECOSYSTEM...
WHILE PRODUCTS ON THE SHELF DEPLOY SIGNIFIERS, LIKE ANIMALS IN NATURE,IN AN EFFORT TO SURVIVE AND “REPRODUCE”.PARENT INVESTMENT TOXICITY MIMICRY TERRITORIALITY QUALITY
THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IS SIMILAR...IN A WAY, SOMEWHAT ANIMALISTIC AND PRIMITIVE —CEREBRALLY REDUCED, MAKING SPLIT SECOND APPRAISALS,NAVIGATING CATEGORIES HABITUALLY AND PERCEPTUALLYHANDICAPPED BY AN OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF INFORMATION. "In the marketplace, unconscious processes enable us to make purchase decisions more efficiently a effectively than we could if we had to consciously process every relevant factor." Prof. Gerald Zaltman Emeritus Professor, Harvard Business School How Customers Think (2003).
“COOPETITION” OCCURS WHEN ORGANISMS OCCUPY CLOSEDTERRITORIAL NICHES, PURSUE COMMON RESOURCES OR FACESIMILAR CHALLENGES TO SUCCESS OR SURVIVAL.
CODE CONVERGENCE WITHIN CATEGORIES IS THE RESULT OF THE SAME TYPEOF BEHAVIOURAL EVOLUTION – BRANDS BECOME BIG....AND NEW ENTRANTSRIDE ON THEIR TAIL IN ORDER TO GET A SHARE OF THEIR SUCCESS.
THE CONVERGENCE OF SEMIOTIC CODES WITHIN CATEGORIES IN TODAY’S FMCGMARKETPLACE EFFECTIVELY CREATE A “BLACK HOLE” OF MEANING... AS A RESULT,SHOPPERS COULD RESPOND WITH CONFUSION...OR WORSE, INDIFFERENCE...HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? HOW CAN WE AVOID IT?
A CATEGORY IS BORN... EMERGENT BRAND EQUITY CODES + + MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION (SIGNIFIED)SHARE OF CATEGORY AS WELL AS TIME ELAPSED Coding is Liberated As category grows and shoppers become acquainted with the brand offering, the breadth of comprehendible codes expands. Brand Inception -New Category Category codes created to emphasize/educate about brand meaning and product benefits
A CATEGORY DEVELOPS... DOMINANT CATEGORY CODES + + MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION ( SIGNIFIED)SHARE OF CATEGORY AS WELL AS TIME ELAPSED Category Captain’s Dilemma Size of business increases. Foundational brand codes become New Entrants/Fast Followers intrinsic as equity but also Others latch on to signifier become synonymous with the system/codes established up by category. category pioneer(s) in order to convey perception of relevance and credibility.
A CATEGORY MATURES... DOMINANT CATEGORY CODES RESIDUAL EQUITY CODES + + MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION ( SIGNIFIED)SHARE OF CATEGORY AS WELL AS TIME ELAPSED Coding is Co-opted New entrants leech equities and begin to eat away at share and drag the category captain down.
WHAT CAUSES THE GRAVITATIONAL PULL?Some factors that contribute to convergence of codes...Mimicry — New entrant using category conventional signifiers/codes to communicate perception of quality and relevance.Posturing — Leveraging commonly used signifiers in anprogressively insistent attempt to out-do competitors.Risk Aversion — Brand owners avoid potential risk to sales volume.The qualitative voice of the consumer limits permission for changeas codes become acculturated. Brand and category evolution slowsto a crawl.Shopper Dynamics — Cross category market structure makes codeevolution and innovation more disruptive and therefore potentiallymore damaging to shoppability, stoppability and findability.
A CATEGORY BEGINS TO COLLAPSE... DOMINANT CATEGORY CODES RESIDUAL EQUITY CODES + + MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION ( SIGNIFIED)SHARE OF CATEGORY AS WELL AS TIME ELAPSED Code Homogeneity Harder for new to market takes hold and market share players to enter because moves toward equilibrium dominant code use has become saturated and share of market is harder to obtain
A TRANSFORMATIONAL BRAND “ORBITS”. UNIQUE EXPRESSION OF BRAND MEANING EVERGREEN BRAND EQUITY CODES DOMINANT CATEGORY CODES RESIDUAL BRAND EQUITY CODES + + MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION ( SIGNIFIED)SHARE OF CATEGORY AS WELL AS TIME ELAPSED DEFYING CATEGORY CODE “GRAVITY” AND REMAINING IN “ORBIT” CHANGING THE GAME BY EXPANDING PERCEPTION OF WHAT BRAND (AND CATEGORY) CAN OFFER
IN 1990’S. COKE MOVED TOWARD SIGNIFYING ASPIRATIONS ABOUTAMPLIFYING TANGIBLE BENEFITS OF PRODUCT...WHICH CANNOT BE OWNED.TANGIBLE REFRESHMENT BLACK HOLE FORMING...
COKE TODAY. RECOVERED FOOTHOLD BY CODING UNIQUE MEANING Open Happiness ORBITING... UNIQUE BRAND MEANINGThe core meaning ofthe brand is rooted in An Invitation To Open ELEVATED EXPERIENCE ANDthe idea that itstands for idealized Satisfaction In A Bottle EMOTIONAL PROMISEopportunity andoptimism — the endemotional benefit ofthe rationalrefreshing nature ofthe product. Refreshment AMPLIFYING PERCEPTION OF BENEFITS OF PRODUCT QUALITIES (CAN’T BE OWNED)
BRAND OWNED SIGNS (NOT OWNED ANYWHERE ELSE IN CULTUREOR ANYWHERE ELSE IN CATEGORY) ARE ITS CORE ASSETS FOR THEEXPRESSION OF MEANING... “SPENCERIAN SCRIPT” “ICONIC BOTTLE” “WAVE” & “COKE RED”
ONCE UNIQUELY OWNED CORE SIGNIFIERS ARE ESTABLISHED,THEN YOU OWN THE SIGNIFIED OR WHAT ELSE YOU ATTACH TO IT. STILL LEVERAGING DOMINANT CATEGORY REFRESHMENT INDEXES - CONDENSATION & ICE CONVERSATION POINT OF CONTACT PARTNERSHIP & AFFILIATION
SUMMARY:- Continued brand growth and development can be limited and even stunted or sent into decline through category code convergence.- If brands own their signifiers (in both the category and culture), then they own whatever else they attach to it, and therefore that which is signified.- Uniquely brand-owned signifiers and codes allow for the creation of a systemic approach to sustaining unique brand meaning while constantly delivering semiotic innovation...so that the brand can remain in “orbit”.
THANKS...STAY IN ORBIT!ROB SWAN & MICHAEL COLTON - BRANDSQUARE 2.7.13