Sustainability: Semiotics & EmotioneeringMalcolm Evans - Founder, Space DoctorsThe Marketing Society’s Green Think Tank:Making Sustainability Sexy15 May, 2012 DRA FT
From Pollution to Sustainability • Historical path from 1960s pesticide concerns to 2012 sustainability • An Inconvenient Truth (2006) a watershed in terms of changing agendas for marketing & consumer insight • Clients turning to semiotics – new challenges, what consumers can’t tell you • Impact of global financial & economic crisis – ecological agendas sidelined or another major game-changer for companies & brands?
Decoding a Category or Discourse• Semiotics analyses brand communications in competitive and cultural context• Understanding codes or discourse around a particular category, benefit or theme• How brands use or break the codes• Stretches into difficult areas that challenge traditional marketing discourses
Understanding Sustainability – Why Semiotics? • Decoding and tracking changing cultural codes & meanings • Individual markets and cross-cultural analysis • Patterns of meaning and behavior that consumers can’t yet articulate • A predictive dimension - plotting trajectories of change into the future
Residual, Dominant & Emergent CodesSEMIOTICS MAPS COMMUNICATIONPATTERNS AND TRAJECTORIES TOUNDERSTAND HOW CULTURES ARECHANGING & INDIVIDUAL BRANDSARE COMMUNICATING — Around for some time, — Heavily played codes — New thinking & executional dated — The norms & mood of today styles — What consumers tend to — The past in the present — First pieces of a jigsaw play back in research. puzzle — May be revitalized (e.g. retro, nostalgia, — Tomorrow’s dominant codes reinvention) — Not just spotting trends, but engineering new meanings In time new ideas & forms (EMERGENT) become mainstream (DOMINANT) then dated (RESIDUAL)
One Trajectory- Sustainability in Developed Markets RESIDUAL DOMINANT EMERGENT Actions Speak Greenwash Transparency Louder Throughout the first half of A number of major disasters About doing rather than the 00’s larger corporations including the BP oil spill and just saying. Companies of have followed the lead of the 2008 market collapse- all sizes beginning cut back more innovative eco-friendly have tested the integrity of on resource waste for both companies by advertising big businesses and environmental & financial ‘Green’ products and institutions. Companies reasons. Eco-friendly action initiatives even when they promising transparency and rather than advertising weren’t particularly eco- environmental sensitivity creates publicity. Colour friendly. are under intense scrutiny green not as prevalent or and eco-friendly messaging used in as clichéd a way. is not so easily believed.
Semiotics in Emerging Markets• Emerging Markets have become a focus of interest for semiotic & cultural analysis in the last decade• Grasping the big picture – internal diversity and speed of change• From emerging market entry for international brands - through communicating local emerging brands internationally - to innovation led by emerging rather than developed markets• Importance of sustainability in emerging market context• Space Doctors emerging market sustainability database ongoing – plus client projects on emotional coding of sustainability in specific categories in developed marketsShivakumar & Evans, “Insight, Cultural Diversity &Revolutionary Change: Joined-Up Semiotic Thinkingfor Developing Markets”, ESOMAR Congress paper,Athens 2010
Semiotics & SustainabilitySemiotic & cultural analysis has helped clients in commercialorganisations, NGOs and governments understand howcommunication and behaviour around ecological awareness &sustainability have been evolving in individual countries and globally.This topic, previously a focus of interest in specific pioneering markets(e.g. Germany in the 1990s), first became a mainstream concern indeveloped markets around 2006, particularly in response to the film of AlGore’s An Inconvenient Truth, subsequently in emerging markets as well.In June 2011) UK specialist semiotics agency Space Doctors carried out astudy of how sustainability-related culture and communication are evolving inthe major BRIC markets – with Brazil & China taking a lead role, each inits own distinctive way, while Russia and India develop moreincrementally, reflecting local historical constraints & opportunities.This is a cut-down version that analysis, emphasisingthe unique role semiotics plays in helping bring words &action closer together in the world of sustainability –and leverage the critical emotional codes incommunication that help bring about significantbehaviour change.
THEME 1!COLLABORATIVEACTION!Theme"Brazil is leading this paradigm shift, withcollaborative cross pollenation of ideasand cultures being a deeply entrenchedvalue in Brazilian culture. In IndiaSustainability is largely led bycommunities and NGO’s. In Russia andChina, where consumer capitalism andindividualism is relatively recentdevelopment, collaboration is moreemergent, at times opening the door toconfrontation with governments overquality of life and environmental issues.ConnectionsBeyond notions of the Collective, whereaccountability has the tendency to fadeout- A notion of active hands-on problemsolving. Getting things done together.Stimulus ExamplesSantander Spot, 2010 advert: “Let´s dothis together?” Marina Silva, Natura Ekos,Project Hope China, ✔
THEME 2!PRESERVINGINNOCENCE!Theme"Emergent markets are exhibiting a nostalgia forpre-Industrial times in varied forms. In Chinaand to lesser extent in India, this is expressedas a movement to preserve traditions,endangered species and natural environmentscentral to national identity. Brazilʼs relationshipwith the Amazon is the most pragmatic, with aview to progress that is about preservingindigenous biodiversity."Connections"Romanticised nature as a precious source oftradition and national identity. essential cultural/historical assets under threat of extinction withthe advent of Global industrialization.""Stimulus Examples"Application of world cultural heritage sites:Yellow Mountain, the Great Wall "Ganges and Narmada Rivers. Save the Tiger"" ✔
THEME 5!CREATIVEEXPERIMENTATION!Theme"Collaboration between urban planners,architects, fashion designers. Aestheticpleasure beneﬁtting from social andenvironmental problem solving. In India, a moreprevalent form of this is the connection betweenArtisanship and Social work. The recent ʻGreenBreakthroughʼ in Brazil is quickly establishing itas a leader in creative solutions across allcategories including art and design, energyefﬁciency and ecological packaging. ""ConnectionsA mix of Art & Science. Re-purposing,Reuse. Transform. Sustainability as aninventive or creative attitude toward lifeStimulus Examplesartist Vik Muniz, Mario Queiroz designercreating dresses out of PET plasticsAuroville Sustainable city, India ✔
THEME 6!ECO-Value!Theme"A convenient link between someenvironmentally sustainable products is theircost effectiveness. In some of the BRICscountries, recycling and re-use carry residualnegative connotations with rurality and poverty.But increasingly, pragmatic Eco-Value brandsare percieved positively. ""Connections!Environmentally sound and economically savvybrands. Back to basics, living smart, Productsenabling people to make the most of what theyhave. Cheap is positive.""Stimulus Examples!IKEA (Russia) is changing negativeassociations with sustainability there. TataSwach water puriﬁers for rural areas" ! ✔
Patterns across the BRICsBRAZIL- Leader in Creativity & Collaboration" "Innovation, Deeper engagement with Sustainability." "Government + Corporations + Individuals working together""CHINA- Top Down relationship to Sustainability." "Leader in Government funded investments in Sustainbility. " "Competitive investments. More surface engagement in creativity and individualism- less NGOʼs or presence of individual business leaders in sustainability.""RUSSIA- Concerns for Immediate solutions/ gratiﬁcation." "Financial concerns overpower Sustainability concerns. " "Conspicuous consumption is still going strong" "Resource preservation, recycling, and re-use associations with Soviet era poverty are fading but still present.""INDIA- Most robust Community and NGO activity but least organised from the top-down perspective. Pockets of activity but no overall master plan (cf. China). A robust heritage of spiritual practices which emphasise empathy with nature."
Signs of the Times• Companies have the resources to invest in new technologies that governments & other organisations may not have.• Post-greenwash culture: doing not talking, independent performance evaluation• Sustainability becoming a much bigger concept than is covered by ‘green’ alone – company cultures & ethics, fairness, greater social & economic equality• An all-pervasive weasel word legitimising austerity in UK (NB major differences in mood, language, media & cultural buoyancy between Europe/US and emerging markets)• The importance of emotional coding, credible personal & local/community semiotics, some openness to interpretation & co-created meaning (versus rational didactic monologue)