Signs & Meaning Semiotics is the study of the meaning of signs and symbols. It began with linguistics – the meaning of language It became an important part of psychology and anthropology – the meaning of culture It was picked up by sociology, philosophy, cultural studies and critical theory – the meaning of ‘meaning’ Most recently theorised and applied to marketing and branding – bringing together all above social science disciplines – the management of meaning
Brands are inseparable from the culture that surrounds them.JOHN GRANT - BRAND INNOVATION MANIFESTO “A brand is a cluster of strategic cultural ideas”
Branding & CultureBrands and culture are inseparable. We can’t think about a brand without understandingthe culture that surrounds it, and the cultural capital that the brand possesses. CULTURE BRAND
Branding & CultureA brand is affected by culture at different levels, from obvious category competitors toother products or mindsets that we might not immediately connect with the brand. CULTURE CATEGORY KEY COMPETITORS BRAND
Signs & Meaning Most recently theorised and applied to marketing and branding – bringing together all above social science disciplines – the management of meaning
Branding & Culture Semiotics investigates the relationship between branding and culture through the medium of signs B C R U A L N T U SIGNS D I R N E G Through examining signs and what they mean and signal to consumers, semiotics reveals often overlooked meanings and can create disruption, attention & differentiation
Semiotics & Qualitative ResearchWhile qualitative research asks consumers what their opinions are, semiotic analysisinvestigates where those opinions came from. Qual Research Semiotics • Psychology • Culture & communications • Talking to consumers • Analysing ads, packs, NPD etc. • Consumer instinct & ‘feelings’ • Consumer as cultural decoder Conscious consumer Unconscious consumer perspectives insight
25Signs & Cultural ChangeSemiotics tracks the way culture changes and identifies symbols signalling that change RESIDUAL DOMINANT EMERGENT• weakening & • ubiquitous codes • signposts of the future outdated- signs of of present day • strong brands often the past create new myths which contradict current category / cultural perceptions PAST/ PRESENT/ FUTURE/ RESIDUAL DOMINANT EMERGENT
Reading the SignsWe investigate the relationship between a brand and a culture by analysing the signs,codes and narratives that brands and cultures use to talk about themselves. BRANDS signs, codes, narratives CULTURE
Case Study: TV LicensingWe applied semiotics and discourse analysis to a fundamental revision of TV Licensingdirect mail. FROM AUTHORITARIAN THREAT Boxes & linear layout, blue & black colours, parental tone of voice & male personality signify threatening official discourse
Case Study: TV Licensing TO ENABLING PERSONALITY Use of white space, lime green colour, dynamic icons, and friendly peer to peer tone of voice signify positive coding as renewal of TV access & enjoyment
Sign Salad Semiotics Our approach enables you to see the brand in broad cultural context as well as focused category dynamics... …and hence to build meaningful, culturally relevant brand and communication strategies.
Objectives Semiotic Methodology• This semiotic analysis is intended to provide unrefined but inspirational insight into the brands of SPANA and key competitor The Brooke, as well as into the broader category context of other animal welfare charities.
Semiotics of SPANA – Logo, Strapline & Font Semiotic Methodology There are several problems with the logo and strapline as they currentlystand, factors that confuse or weaken the message they carry. • “working” is a positive concept • SPANA donkey is not represented positively • The strapline offers “care” for such animals, yet we are given no indication of this care in action • Donor and the charity are absent in the logo
Semiotics of SPANA – Logo, Strapline & Font Semiotic Methodology Progress in the West is to the right – but SPANA donkey faces backwards intothe past, defeated not progressing positively into the future • Culture represents progress, as facing the right, and often upwards • This orientation is inspirational and aspirational. • Facing/moving leftwards and downwards means looking back to the past, • SPANA donkey fails to inspire: it represents negative emotion, a past orientation, inaction
Semiotics of SPANA – Brand Name Semiotic MethodologyThe actual brand name is ambiguous and unclear and createsmisunderstanding about its meaning and identity – is it global or is it UK? • it is not obvious whether to pronounce the brand name to rhyme with “spanner” or “llama”. BUT acronyms are category codes • Using the term “abroad” suggests the charity itself is firmly located in the UK: • SPANA potentially sounds Spanish (like “España”)
Semiotics of SPANA – Donkey Dominance Semiotic Methodology Despite the claim of its strapline to help all working animals, it is almostexclusively donkeys which are represented in SPANA’s communications: itslogo, newsletters, website. • Focus of donkey in logo signifies a disconnect between helping all working animals and helping primarily donkeys • Donkeys are more often than not creatures of fun and ridicule.
Semiotics of SPANA – Livery Semiotic MethodologyVery few major organisations use orange as their main colour, due to a deepcultural bias towards some colours – orange is not culturally linked to care • Beyond brightness or fun, orange has no such immediate meaning - it comes from other brands • White, green and red are commonly used to code care, but orange is not. • Unhelpful connotations when orange is combined with SPANA - Spanish oranges.
Semiotics of SPANA – Solution in Comms Semiotic Methodology Where other animal charities signal solution, SPANA only codes the problem– the suffering of animals - SPANA has a problem in finding a way to show amore positive “after” image to motivate donors• International Animal Rescue uses • SPANA’s magazine includes a report image of a “dancing bear” juxtaposed where no such dramatic transformation with the wonderful “after” shot, where is in evidence. the bear has a friend, is facing the camera, is playing
Semiotics of SPANA – Conclusions & Recommendations Semiotic Methodology • SPANA animal logo should (a) have a face and (b) face towards our right and upwards. This will code a more positive, progressive and dynamic set of values. • The logo image should not focus on suffering and isolation but healing and care. • One differentiating way of doing this would be to include a human element in the logo, a person or perhaps just a pair of hands. This would code a role for the charity – or the animal’s owner – in the logo. • The term “abroad” should be minimised in favour of “worldwide” or “international”. “Abroad” suggests a UK-centric outlook and an organisation with limited actual international reach. • In order to make SPANA a more modern and relevant organisation, it should use modernity in either its font (by removing serifs and not using an old fashioned calligraphic style) or by using a modern style of image.
Semiotics of SPANA – Conclusions & Recommendations Semiotic Methodology • SPANA could switch from using orange to using red or green in its logo. • This would differentiate it from the large number of animal charities that use orange, and also makes sense to code care more strongly. Red and green are used to powerful effect by The Red Cross/Crescent, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, Greenpeace and Save the Children to communicate care and humaneness – relevant values for SPANA. • In comms, more attention should be drawn to work with animals other than donkeys in order to make good its promise to help “working animals”. • Imagery of horses, cattle working in fields or camels carrying tourists may be slightly tokenistic but would carry the powerful message that SPANA does not “discriminate” against certain types of working animal. • A more powerful contrast needs to be drawn between the “before” and “after” (or problem versus solution) states. • For example, a thriving, colourful and vibrant community can be shown in the solution state – another, subtler, kind of “beauty” and “comfort”, in fact.
Semiotics of SPANA – Conclusions & Recommendations Semiotic Methodology • In general, SPANA may follow the lead of major charities and show a higher proportion of positive images. The goal of happy, healthy, cared for creatures rather than that of suffering, diseased, abandoned ones is what really drives donors to contribute. • Finally, one key area where SPANA’s charitable work is different from other animal charities is in the close connection between the animal and its owner. Their fates are tied together, and the welfare of each contributes to the welfare of the other. SPANA could take the step of altering the traditional role of the ‘abuser’ in animal welfare comms, transforming it into the role of the human partner of the animal.
Qualitative research built on semioticinsight….. Supporters: not distinctive, rather dull and out-dated • Well recognised and indicated working donkeys/horses via heavy load and forlorn stance • Generated sympathy but rather dull and out-dated, lacking in dynamism Prospects: ambivalent but don’t warm to it • On practical level it didn’t mean anything • On emotional level it wasn’t attractive • Lacked sense of purpose and nobody knew how to pronounce it • Conveyed a beaten donkey rather than sense of progress
….and helped us learn how to talkabout SPANA’s work Animals the obvious hook • Their suffering needs to be presented in suitably emotional/heart rendering way with clear reference to state and number of animals suffering Important to explain why they suffer • Not in a way that blames the owners but rather in a way that explains why they cannot help it Any work beyond veterinary care must have its roots in animals – in their medium to long-term welfare • If it benefits the community too that’s a bonus.
SPANA’s name created a dilemma• Evoked strong opinions within SPANA• Unique and inferred heritage and credibility• Abbreviations consistent with the sector
Striving for a bold new look• Convey a strong and confident brand that is positive, passionate and caring about the work it does• Provide an immediate recognition that ‘working animals’ are the focus of our attention
People connected with the new logo 38% 41% 44% Animal general 35-64 year welfare public olds supportersSource: Online survey 1400 respondents representative general public
It helped people understand SPANA’s work and conveyed positive impressions 34% understand 59% think this 29% positive about this organisation organisation works this organisation works in poor with all types of countries working animals 26% felt this was 47% found logo 23% would trust modern and distinctive and this organisation forward thinking inspiring organisation 48% understand what this organisation stands forSource: Online survey 1400 respondents representative general public