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Semiotics: How To Increase Meaningfulness, Effectiveness & Cultural Relevancy of Brand Comms in Local Markets?

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Brand communication suffers from over-saturation, fragmentation, inconsistency, or worse a sheer meaninglessness in the local markets worldwide. What's lacking is the cultural relevancy, which drives innate value of brands and triggers purchase behaviour. Globally unified and adapted brand contents often fail to resonate with the local specifics of people and culture. Semiotics can serve as a great instrument to increase cultural relevancy and stimulate brand growth from bottom up. In this presentation, you'll find the methodological approach to increasing brand's cultural relevancy and a couple of practical examples of optimising brand communication in the Czech Republic. The focus here is on redefining meaning in the beer and detergent categories, as well as the meaning trajectory of femininity in the Czech cultural context.

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Semiotics: How To Increase Meaningfulness, Effectiveness & Cultural Relevancy of Brand Comms in Local Markets?

  1. 1. How To Increase Meaningfulness, Effectiveness & Cultural Relevancy of Brand Comms in Local Markets? www.martinaolbertova.com @MartinaOlb Inspired by the presentation for POPAI DAY, November 2016 Prague, Czech Republic Keywords: Brand comms, Retail innovation, in-store, POP media, semiotics, meaning, sense, behaviour, human mind, mental networks, effectiveness, ROI increase, cultural relevancy, brand value, brand equity
  2. 2. OBVIOUSLY, WE KNOW WHO THIS IS. RIGHT? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  3. 3. Superman and Semioticians have one important thing in common. They both can see beyond what‘s visible to the naked eye. BUT DO YOU KNOW SUPERMAN IS ALSO KIND OF A SEMIOMAN? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  4. 4. SEMIOTICS IS A SUPERPOWER: WE CAN SEE AND READ THE INVISIBLE Both Superman and Semioticians share an X-ray vision. Through a conscious interaction with and reading of culture and social ideology that surround us, semioticians are able to view reality in a way that ‘mere mortals’ can usually only perceive on a subconscious level. This allows Semioticians to experience reality in all its plasticity and which makes them suited to inform brands on how to best deal with implications of cultural change and continuous shifts in the business world. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  5. 5. BEYOND WHAT MEETS THE EYE: NOT VISIBLE, DOES NOT MEAN NON-EXISTENT The same way that skeletons aren’t visible by a mere eye, but are positively there (otherwise our bodies wouldn’t hold us together), culture also isn’t visible, but its effects on us are present in all the things we do, believe, create and conform to. Culture is what constitutes our thinking and perception of the world, as well as forms our roles and identities in it. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  6. 6. People Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs Signs SEMIOTICS EXTRACTS MEANINGS FROM THE FOG OF CULTURE AROUND US Signs Martina Olbertova © 2017
  7. 7. Semiotics studies how meaning is created, shared and reproduced in culture and society. Marketing semiotics focuses on creation and redefinition of meaning in all brand communication and advertising. HOW WE DEFINE SEMIOTICS? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  8. 8. Semiotics is a science, which enables brands to strategically work with their inner meaning. Why is that? It’s because no brand is an island. No brand exists on its own in a vacuum, but rather in context of a culture that naturally surrounds it. When looking at brands from a semiotic angle, we inspect their expressions of communication (what‘s visible by a mere eye) to dissect meanings and codes about the cultural ramifications of brands in particular markets worldwide (what’s invisible to us). Thanks to understanding these cultural cues and drivers, we can then create new strategic positions for the brands that will increase brand’s relevance and resonance. HOW SEMIOTICS WORKS? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  9. 9. LOGIC AND CREATIVITY: SEMIOTICS CONNECTS LEFT & RIGHT BRAIN Thanks to interest in meaning and sense ‘behind’ communication and the logical principles that structure it, semiotics can help us intuitively connect analytical (left brain) and creative thinking (right brain). Martina Olbertova © 2017
  10. 10. SEMIOTICS HAS A DUAL ROLE IN MARKETING: FIRST WE HAVE THE ROLE OF DOCTORS. WE OBSERVE THE SYMPTOMS OF ILLNESSES AND THROUGH A CAREFUL INSPECTION OF MARKETING COMMUNICATION, WE DIAGNOSE THE PROBLEMS AND HEAL BRANDS FROM THE INSIDE OUT. SECONDLY WE ACT AS ARCHITECTS. WE REDEFINE MEANINGS IN COMMUNICATION AND CREATE A SUPERSTRUCTURE OF MEANING TO HELP BRANDS MANIFEST KEY MESSAGES IN A CONSISTENT AND BRAND-RELEVANT MANNER. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  11. 11. 3 MAIN PILLARS OF COMMUNICATION 1. Meaningfulness: limiting illogicality, randomness, meaning inconsistencies or plain derangement of sense 2. Relevancy: creating content that resonates with brand DNA and cultural specifics of local markets 3. Consistency: limiting fragmentation, creating a coherent communication line Martina Olbertova © 2017
  12. 12. THE CENTRAL PROBLEM OF IN-STORE COMMUNICATION TODAY: - MEANINGLESSNESS - Retail segment today faces an unprecedented level of fragmentation, oversaturation and communication inconsistency. This further leads to an increasing illogicality, homogenisation and meaninglessness. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  13. 13. How can we create sense in oversaturated market? KEY QUESTION: Oversaturation leads to a fragmentation of activities, chaos and noise. Surprisingly, we don’t lack information, data, communication, products, innovations… What we lack is a mechanism how to make sense of this world & effectively communicate. The one who creates and owns meaning & sense, creates and owns everything. Meaning and sense are the new leading currencies of any business, brand or organisation. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  14. 14. WHAT FACTORS AFFECT POP MEDIA? SOCIAL IDEOLOGY MARKET SPECIFICS ZNAČKA CULTURE & TRENDS PRODUCT CATEGORY COMMUNICATION CHANNELS POP BRAND VISIBLE INVISIBLE The invisible part affects meaning of what we can see = the physical world At all times, POP communication is being affected by a broad context of social ideology, culture & trends, market specifics, product category and the local marketing discourse. We can’t create POP media in a vacuum, but should look at it systematically in context of the local culture as well as market specifics. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  15. 15. Create meaning strategically and consistently across all channels, brands and markets... SOLUTION: Martina Olbertova © 2017
  16. 16. Where can we find the world of POP media? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  17. 17. marketing Hypothalamus = the centre of emotional response Martina Olbertova © 2017
  18. 18. marketing communication brand communication advertising and digital PR and promotion POP media... Martina Olbertova © 2017
  19. 19. POP media POP media only take up a mere fragment of human awareness when it comes to processing marketing messages. On the other hand, recent consumer survey clearly show that spontaneous decision-making at the point of sale dominate people’s purchase behaviour. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  20. 20. vs. 7 mild. CZK Annual spend on POP media in the Czech Republic amounts to an astonishing 7 mild. CZK (approx 222 mil. GBP). This either means we have a huge problem, or a huge opportunity. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  21. 21. “How can we increase ROI and effectivity of something that takes up such a small space in a human mind, and yet has such a huge impact on everyday reality of the marketplace and its further development?” THE 7 MILD. CZK QUESTION Martina Olbertova © 2017
  22. 22. “We can achieve this by connecting POP to something that naturally has a much higher relevance for people because it occupies their unconsciousness and structures impulses and perceptions, which we all view as normal…“ THE 7 MILD. CZK ANSWER Martina Olbertova © 2017
  23. 23. AND WHAT IS IT? CULTURE = bridging in between the conscious and unconscious parts of a human mind = our mutually shared collective unconsciousness, our mutual mental software By culture, we obviously don‘t mean going to the galleries, theatres, or the movies. Culture is our mutually shared collective unconsciousness, it‘s our shared mental software installed in our minds. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  24. 24. MEANING IS THE ALPHA & OMEGA OF SUCCESSFUL COMMUNICATION People don’t consume products, but meaning. Humans are basically walking talking meaning-making machines 24/7. Meaning is how we relate to the world, perceive and interpret our reality. Based on the meaning we ascribe to the world around us, we form our ideas, attitudes, values, behaviours, interpersonal relationships and our many social role and identities. The actual value that people consume in brands isn‘t the service or a product, but the meaning behind them. This meaning is precisely what enables us to identify with the brand and create a relationship with it based on our shared values, much like with a human being. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  25. 25. BRANDS CREATE NETWORKS OF MENTAL ASSOCIATIONS When we imagine 7UP for example, the real value and the richness of our experience with this brand is in the network of associations and the volume of meanings, which roll out in our minds when we think of the brand. This mental imprint creates brand‘s symbolic value. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  26. 26. Branding attempts to create a mental structure to clarify decision (Keller, et al.) ‘MEANINGS DRIVE OUR BEHAVIOUR’ Martina Olbertova © 2017
  27. 27. THE KEY TASK WHEN CREATING COMMUNICATION “Key task for clients is to get as near as possible to meanings that people themselves already perceive as natural…“ Martina Olbertova © 2017
  28. 28. CASE STUDIES: Martina Olbertova © 2017
  29. 29. EXAMPLES OF CZECH IN-STORE COMMS Martina Olbertova © 2017Imagery: Tesco Czech Republic
  30. 30. MAIN PROBLEM OF THE CZECH POP MEDIA INTENTION x EXECUTION Sometimes, there is a good idea, but a bad execution. Other times, the execution is good, but the lead creative idea doesn’t make sense culturally. My job as a semiotician is to find this sense and help managers embody it in communication. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  31. 31. REPRESENTATIONS IN POP: BEWARE, CZECH LANGUAGE ENTICES LITERALITY LITERAL (MEANING DENOTATION) ZERO INSPIRATION & ADDED VALUE FOR THE BRAND LATERAL (MEANING CONNOTATION & METAPHORS) INNOVATIVE THINKING, INSPIRATION, EXPERIENTIAL DIMENSION Martina Olbertova © 2017
  32. 32. DEGREES OF POP INNOVATION: TURNING UP THE VOLUME Use of feelings, emotions (ESP), contextual and meaning-driven communication Innovation as an embodiment of freshness, usefulness and educational aspect of customer experience, inspiration for home use Literality as an entry level position – won’t hurt, but won’t add any value either, hygienic level of communication, zero inspiration, use of clichés and residual codes Interactive communication, clear imprint of brand values and embodiment of brand essence Experiential interactive comms, complex experience that goes beyond the brand itself Brand message developed for POP media, clear call to action Brand message or brand claim (direct remediation of the brand campaign in 1:1) VOLUME Martina Olbertova © 2017
  33. 33. •  Creating alternative interactive worlds that people can touch & feel •  Using people‘s own imagination as a point of brand identification •  Rule of code substitution (we don‘t have to write it, if we can feel, sense & experience it) •  Building complex multi- dimensional and multi-sensory retail experiences LITERAL MESSAGE VS CREATING ALTERATIVE WORLDS Martina Olbertova © 2017Imagery: Tesco Czech Republic
  34. 34. MULTISENSORY RETAIL EXPERIENCE EXAMPLE Metro Cash & Carry in Germany pioneered the first in-store herb installation in Europe named INFARM. It’s a great example of a multisensory retail experience that is both educational, inspirational and stretches boundaries of traditional presentation. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  35. 35. THE SEMIOTIC PRINCIPLE: REDEFINING MEANING IN BRAND COMMUNICATION Current brand comms (Concrete comm, usually unsuitable in terms of cultural relevancy, image-driven, empty, fragmented or meaningless) PRESENT FUTURE Abstraction of meaning (What is the abstract concept behind current communication? What cultural concept can we identify?) Physical level Abstract level Redefinition of meaning New redefined meaning (New abstract concept enriched by cultural insight and relevancy within the framework of concrete local / regional market) New brand comms (Concrete communication, but more relevant, meaningful, richer and culturally synced with the specifics of local markets) Martina Olbertova © 2017
  36. 36. BEER Martina Olbertova © 2017
  37. 37. Current retail communication of beer: •  Literal description of beer as the ‘golden richness’ or a ‘golden treasure’ •  Clichéd representation of beer based on the dichotomy of its category: ‘Light, or dark? Always great’ •  Fails to elicit emotion or cultural meaning, doesn’t go beyond the product itself Moving forward: •  Ask culturally relevant questions such as: What do ‘richness’ and ‘heritage’ actually mean in the Czech Republic? •  How can we define and portray these? How can we create a complex experience based on the values that beer connotes culturally? BEER & BRAND COMMUNICATION Martina Olbertova © 2017Imagery: Tesco Czech Republic
  38. 38. BEER: NETWORK OF CZECH MENTAL ASSOCIATIONS our crown jewel, national treasure and heritage the most precious thing we have the best thing from our nature (freshness and authenticity) golden fluid (aesthetic quality of beer) liquid bread (feeling of satiability and fulfillment) legacy of our native land part of our national identity national pride part of our cultural DNA… OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE Martina Olbertova © 2017
  39. 39. CLEANING Martina Olbertova © 2017
  40. 40. CLEANING & BRAND COMMUNICATION Current retail communication of cleanliness: •  Literal description of functionality and product benefits (cleanliness, fresh breeze, 0% bacteria…) •  Rigid communication, which is minimally contextualized with people’s everyday life... Moving forward: •  Ask culturally relevant questions such as: What does ‘cleanliness’ actually mean to the Czechs? •  What lies behind the functional aspect? •  E.g. Fresh smell produces good feelings, increase in self-esteem and one’s integrity. Tidying up links to gaining mental space and a fresh perspective. •  What about the story behind the story? How can we tell the story of cleanliness and purity that will inspire people to become better versions of themselves? Martina Olbertova © 2017Imagery: Tesco Czech Republic
  41. 41. DETERGENTS: NETWORK ON CZECH MENTAL ASSOCIATIONS clean environment = having no worries, relaxed mind, being at peace escapism from daily stressors = pausing for a moment, taking a deep breath, calming down, having a rest cleaning up = clearing one’s mind, mental health exercise clean slate = tiding up leads to creating a new beginning emotional state = having a great mood, feeling good, being joyful, having better relationships personality aspects = increase in one’s self-esteem and self- confidence, being a role model for others, gaining social respect social role aspects = being a good parent, good friend, being accountable spiritual aspects = knowing what’s truly important, having more time to devote to things that truly matter, living an authentic life… CLEANLINESS & FRESHNESS Martina Olbertova © 2017
  42. 42. Martina Olbertova © 2017 Mental associations create a pool of meanings that brands can tap into while developing communication. These meanings are implicitly linked to the logic of the category so they will be natural for people to identify with. When using mental associations strategically to portray moments of consumption and experience, brands can increase both cultural relevancy and identification since these naturally constitute the cultural fabric of the category. Using relevant meanings that resonate with people in context of a culture will further help brands increase their symbolic value, brand valuation and boost brand equity.
  43. 43. GENDER Martina Olbertova © 2017
  44. 44. FEMININITY: STEREOTYPED PICTURE OF WOMEN IN CZECH RETAIL COSMETICS SEGMENT (CLEANLINESS SEEN AS INNOCENCE à OUTER EXPERIENCE OF FEMININITY FOR THE SOCIAL / MALE GAZE) TECHNOLOGY SEGMENT (RELAX AND ENTERTAINMENT à INNER SENSATION, EXPERIENCING ONE’S SELF IN A POSITIVE WAY) BUT WHY? Martina Olbertova © 2017
  45. 45. FEMININITY AND DIVERSITY: REDEFINING MEANING OF A CZECH WOMAN •  How else can a woman be portrayed in advertising and retail? •  What’s the contemporary Czech woman like? •  What does she look like? What’s her behaviour? •  What are her values? What does she like? What she cares for? •  Why are there such drastic differences in between femininity in cosmetics and femininity in the technology category? •  Why is the tech woman self-confident, relaxed, happy and authentic while the woman in cosmetics is self-aware unconfident and heavily stereotypical? (Expressing one’s self versus Being there just for the fetishizing gaze of others) •  Why is cleanliness stereotypically presented just as purity (feminine virginity)? Why can’t a woman be BOTH confident and clean? •  What depictions can we use to portray (Czech) women authentically across different market categories? FEMININITY Martina Olbertova © 2017
  46. 46. SEMIOTIC MANUAL Innovation tool for marketers, brand managers, creative agencies, production agencies, market researchers, shopper insight managers or CX and UX managers to plan, develop and create better, more effective and culturally accurate imagery and communication across channels. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  47. 47. SEMIOTIC MANUAL It‘s a unique project. First step in the right direction. (After many years of walking in circles.) It’s an opportunity to learn how create brand and retail communication that is culturally relevant. First edition will be piloted in the Czech Rep in 2016. It will be published in both Czech and English. Editions for other markets worldwide are also possible. Please, contact me to discuss details, if interested in mapping your own market and its cultural specifics. Martina Olbertova © 2017
  48. 48. SEMIOTIC MANUAL My goal is to provide answers to questions as: -  what codes to use in retail communication, -  which cultural concepts should be accentuated and how, -  how to frame communication visually in accurate ways, -  and how to create retail comms that maximise effectiveness and return on investment (via cultural resonance) 3 key parts: 1.  View of current retail brand comms in the Czech Republic 2.  Cultural concepts and their interpretation in Czech context 3.  Semiotic analysis of retail comm examples and practical recommendations for maximizing comms effectiveness Martina Olbertova © 2017
  49. 49. SEMIOTIC MANUAL 3 key benefits: 1.  Increasing meaningfulness via brand comm optimisation 2.  Increasing cultural relevancy and resonance with consumers 3.  Increasing brand consistency across different communication channels Learning how to strategically work with meaning and communication codes, learning why some concepts simply won’t make sense culturally (as an argument for global adaptations) Understanding of cultural connotations behind the most frequently used communication concepts such as cleanliness, femininity, humour, tradition and heritage, childhood etc. Ability to create a compact, coherent and compelling communication / creative idea inspired by the cultural values that won’t get fragmented anymore Martina Olbertova © 2017
  50. 50. THANK YOU! @MartinaOlbwww.martinaolbertova.com

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