Semiotics Applied to Marketing Communication
Ricardo Nogueira de Castro Monteiro (email@example.com)
Richard Tressider (R.Tresidder@shu.ac.uk)
Since the 1990s, Semiotics has increasingly been applied as a tool to analyze from commercial communication to market research and consumer culture in general. Differently from other branches of semiotics research, Semiotics Applied to Marketing Communication - more and more internationally referred to simply as "Applied Semiotics" - has made itself visible not by an expressive academic production of books and articles but rather by private presentations and reports confined to the limits of Business-to-Business (B2B) relations, due to the widespread practice in the corporate world of imposing confidentiality clauses. Nonetheless, Applied Semiotics has developed a considerable repertory of analytical and methodological tools with many important contributions, such as working simultaneously with concepts and methods developed by the different schools of semiotics (e.g.: French, American and Russian), developing strategies to analyze syncretic texts in supports that run from conventional to the so-called new media (internet, mobile phones and/or tablets), finding almost-pedagogical solutions to express complex semiotic concepts to a lay audience and, last but not least, producing a considerable amount of knowledge by direct request of society, thus establishing a very positive and healthy dialog between the academic, corporate and social world. The present round table intends to confer more visibility to Applied Semiotics research, exposing some of its analytical, methodological and conceptual contributions as much as reporting its commercial efficiency as a tool on Marketing research and the Consumer culture in general.
1) Goudarzi, Zeinab (firstname.lastname@example.org)
La présence du silence. Le silence comme objet de valeur dans les espaces de production, de consommation et de circulation
Dans la thématique générale du marketing sensoriel du point de vente, nous proposons une introduction sur la réalité de l'environnement sonore, plus particulièrement les différentes formes de lutte contre les nuisances et la valorisation d'ambiances silencieuses. Nous commençons par une réflexion sur le concept de « bruit » et les difficultés à le décrire. C’est un préalable nécessaire à la recherche de phénomènes d’ambiances sonores pouvant augmenter la qualité perçue d'un point de vente. Le projet invite à célébrer le pouvoir et les vertus du calme, le silence devenant en lui-même un décor de luxe pour les magasins haut gamme telles que les Galeries Lafayette, Le printemps, Le Bon Marché.
L'hypothèse est de permettre à la clientèle de faire une pause dans notre environnement de sollicitations publicitaires incessantes véhiculées sur tous les supports, y compris les technologies nomades, pour bénéficier d'une zone de quiétude dans un espace zen, qui devient une modalité de fun shopping. L'objectif est une augmentation des ventes.
Nous vivons dans un monde caractérisé par l'augmentation incessante du nombre et du volume des signaux sonores, qui finissent par être perçus comme autant de messages intrusifs. La recherche réactionnelle du silence chez une part notable des consommateurs doit être prise en compte. Si le silence est une valeur attestée dans une société du bruit, il se transforme en valeur commerciale, mais aussi morale, esthétique, écologique. En termes sémiotiques, il devient un objet de valeur : sa rareté lui assure le statut d' « objet » de luxe qui émerge de scénarisations et de mises en discours spécifiques.
La première partie de l’étude sera consacrée à l’examen des effets de l’atmosphère des grands magasins et à l’analyse de l’influence de l’espace du silence sur les acheteurs, tout en vérifiant des hypothèses non encore testées en France. Ensuite, nous examinerons toutes les recherches concernant l’étude des facteurs d’ambiance de l’espace du silence.
Les mots-clés : silence, bruit, marketing sensoriel du point de vente, marketing expérientiel, théâtralisation, zone de quiétude, Zen, haute-gammes, luxe, objet de valeur.
2) Thiago Ferreira, Master in Communication Sciences (Advertising and Public Relations), University of Minho (Portugal)
G0ys: the love between “brothers” in Luso-Brazilian homoerotic advertising?
Identity can be understood as the process of constructing meaning based on one or more inter-related cultural attributes, which take precedence over other sources of meaning (Castells, 1942). The raw material underlying identity constructions derives from history, biology, geography, productive and reproductive institutions, from collective memory and personal fantasies, from power apparatuses and religious revelations of character. All this is processed by the individuals, social groups and societies, as they (re)organise their meaning in accordance with the social trends and inveterate social projects in their social structure and their time-space view (ibid.).
Western gay culture has experienced deep changes in recent decades, allowing more freedom for gays to express their multiple identities. At the same time, this phenomenon allowed individuals to (re)organise the meanings that were inter-related with this culture, giving rise to the emergence of groups such as the g0ys. The “Heterogoy” website states that these groups are not part of the gay culture, and explains that a g0y “is a more liberal heterosexual, who does not have sex with men, but just plays naughtily with them, as long as these physical contacts do not involve penetration”, an act which is taken to be degrading by group members (Cohen, 2014).
According to Ferreira (2014), the male participants of the Portuguese and Brazilian homoerotic magazines ads are usually accompanied by women. Therefore, could this be taken to be the representation of these “more liberal heterosexuals” (g0ys)? What is the reason for the small number of ads portraying gay couples? And when this is the case, why is there little / no physical contact between them? In this setting, this work presents the results of an analysis of Portuguese and Brazilian homoerotic magazines ads, which is methodologically framed by the Theory of Image and Semiotics, guided by some parameters of the social semiotic grammar of Kress and van Leeuwen (1996). Preliminary results emerging from this analysis indicate a substantial effort to (re)construct masculine identities, although this process is still curtailed by fear and social oppression.
3) Lucia Trezova (PhDr.), Freelance Brand Consultant, Market and Culture Analyst
Applying semiotics in the brand identity research and brand management of Czech financial institutions
Semiotics, as brand management tool, is not currently used in the Czech Republic. The purpose of my presentation is to show how semiotics may be leveraged in brand identity research and to demonstrate its practical usage in brand management processes in an over-saturated market, such as the Czech banking market. The boom in the banking sector that took place 4-5 years ago in the Czech market brought about the establishment of many new banks (Zuno Bank, mBank, Air Bank, Fio Bank, Equa Bank) which tried to differentiate themselves from the „traditional“ banks by being positioned route of as the modern, small, technology-driven banks, stressing a new, friendly approach to consumers. They based their brand identity on two key insights: consumers‘ refusal of banking fees, which were considered as being too high and unfair, and resentment towards the traditional banks caused by banks’ authoritative and arrogant attitudes toward customers. Given that all new banks built their identities around the same assumptions, although correct ones, they did not succeed in creating significant differentiation.
Although this situation might seem favourable to traditional banks, they struggled with their identity even more. Key brand meanings should be embedded in all brand communications sent over to reinforce a consistent, unique brand image. The different messages communicated in different channels should provide a compact stream of information based on key brand meanings. Traditional banks did not succeed in the above. Their communication was fragmented and their brand identity diluted.
The focus of my study and research objective is to provide insights about both: identities of „traditional“ banks and the loss of their brand uniqueness caused by their inconsistent, fragmented communications and the identities of the „new“ banks and the loss of brand uniqueness caused by the same values on which they all build their brands. My research objective is also to explore social and cultural contexts, reflected in public discourses, from which banks draw their meanings and which they tried to utilize in their brand identity creation. To reach these goals I performed an analysis of 4 banks' brand communications (2 „traditional“ and 2 „new“ ones) concentrating on their visual communication styles along with the rhetoric by which they approached their customers. I juxtaposed "traditional" banks and the new "internet, modern" banks and explained the social, cultural and market reasons behind the adoption of specific communication styles using these four brands as prototypes. More specifically, I scrutinized several elements of brand signifiers, such as for example logos of the banks and the use of brand colors, brand names and taglines; TV ads, as the most influential channel of brand communication, were analyzed by investigating language figures, pictorial elements and the overall brand symbolism, including the key metaphors employed to represent the particular brand. I will highlight the most significant faults and argue that most of them might have been avoided if using a semiotic approach instead of the traditional market research techniques.
4) Jean Henaff
In the field of advertising, the analysis model often used is narrative semiotics referring to the concept of “junction”. First of all, in the real world, the goal of the manufacturer (advertising enunciator and sender) is to manipulate the consumer (receiver who becomes a subject) in order that he buys the product (in order that he is “conjoined” with the product). In an advertisement, the transposition of the above scheme in a fiction leads to presenting a consumer (receiver who becomes subject) who is "conjoined” with a product (a car, a shampoo, a lipstick ....), and to the “consumption values" (practical, ludic, utopian, critical values to use the terminology of JM Floch) that this product provides.
The observation of numerous advertisements in the field of beauty, however, shows a wide variety of types of narratives. Some TV commercials only show the product, and the receiver is not represented but suggested: the main narrative in this case is that of a product-subject that is "conjoined" with values (benefits) for a consumer-receiver. Others have the consumer-receiver as a major character, who becomes the subject of a transformation (embellishment), and the product itself is mentioned only as a helper. Still other advertisements give to the two types of narratives a very similar weight. In addition, according to the advertisements, we observe two types of senders: the brand that sets the valorized beauty benefits, or the consumer who sets herself the beauty goals to achieve. We will present different advertisements to illustrate these points. One of the broader issues is ultimately the representation of women in these advertisements: active subject of their embellishment (master of her beauty), or passive receiver of a type of beauty set by the brand and provided by the product (and to whom is imposed a type of beauty)
Then we would like to see if the “interactional model” and the concept of “union” (instead of the junction) of E Landowski could help to analyze in a more subtle way advertising communication issues in the field of beauty and open up new development opportunities. In this context, we plan to present a recent brand communication that offers "ideal beauty" (and not "perfect beauty") as a brand value. Ideal beauty is defined as "perfection for oneself" (each woman has her own ideal beauty): the purpose of the interaction between the brand and the consumer are not decided by the brand from the beginning but are defined in the course of the evolving relationship between the brand and each consumer. This would involve an “adjustment system” that would allow a true fulfillment of both partners, and thus also of the consumer
INTERACTIONS ET PUBLICITE BEAUTE
Dans le domaine de la communication publicitaire, le modèle d’analyse souvent utilisé est celui de la sémiotique narrative faisant appel à la jonction. Dans le monde réel, tout d’abord, l’objectif du fabricant (énonciateur publicitaire et destinateur) est de manipuler le consommateur (destinataire qui se constitue en sujet) pour qu’il achète le produit (se conjoigne au produit). Dans un film publicitaire, la transposition fictionnelle du schéma ci-dessus conduit à représenter un consommateur (destinataire qui devient sujet) qui se « conjoint » à un produit (une voiture, un shampooing, un rouge à lèvre….), et à l’ensemble de « valeurs de consommations » (pratiques, ludiques, utopiques, critiques, pour reprendre la terminologie de JM Floch) que concentre ce produit.
L’observation de nombreuses publicités dans le domaine de la beauté montre cependant une grande variété de types de récits. Certains films ne présentent que le produit, le destinataire n’étant que suggéré : le récit principal est dans ce cas celui d’un produit-sujet qui se « conjoint » à des valeurs (bénéfices) destinées à une consommatrice-destinataire. D’autres présentent la consommatrice-destinataire comme un personnage majeur, qui se constitue en sujet d’une transformation (un embellissement), et le produit est lui-même évoqué seulement comme un adjuvant. D’autres enfin donnent aux deux types de récits une importance assez similaire. De plus, on observe suivant les publicités deux types de destinateurs : la marque qui fixe les bénéfices beauté valorisés, ou la consommatrice qui fixe elle-même les objectifs beauté à atteindre. Nous présenterons différentes publicités pour illustrer ces points. Un des enjeux plus généraux est finalement la représentation de la femme dans ces publicités : sujet actif de leur embellissement (maître de sa beauté), ou destinataire passif d’une forme de beauté fixée par la marque et apportée par le produit (et à qui on impose une forme de beauté)
Ensuite nous aimerions voir si le modèle interactionnel et le concept d’union (au lieu de la jonction) de E Landowski pourrait permettre de rendre compte d’une manière plus subtile des enjeux de communication publicitaire dans le domaine de la beauté et d’ouvrir des possibilités d’évolution de cette communication. A ce propos, nous présenterons une récente communication de marque qui a pris le parti de proposer la « beauté idéale » (et non la « beauté parfaite ») comme valeur de marque. La beauté idéale se définit en effet comme ce qui est « la perfection pour soi-même » (à chacune sa beauté idéale): les finalités de l’interaction entre la marque et la consommatrice ne sont pas décidées par la marque a priori mais se définissent dans l’évolution des rapports entre la marque et chaque consommatrice. Il s’agirait ici d’un régime d’ajustement qui permettrait un véritable accomplissement des deux partenaires, et donc également de la consommatrice
FLOCH, Jean-Marie (1990), « Sémiotique, marketing et communication », PUF, Paris
FLOCH, Jean-Marie (1995), « Identités visuelles », PUF, Paris
LANDOWSKI, Eric (2003), « Passions sans nom », PUF, Paris
LANDOWSKI, Eric (2006), « Les interactions risquées », Pulim, Université de Limoges
5) Prof. Dr. Ricardo Nogueira de Castro Monteiro, Universidade Anhembi Morumbi (email@example.com)
Semiotics applied to the analysis of political campaigns: the usage and impact of rhetoric strategies in Brazilian presidential elections
The last decades have witnessed the growing role of marketing professionals in the design of political campaigns as a whole, comprehending not only the candidates speech, but also their appearance, behaviour, gestures, the selective visibility and/or invisibility of their private life, the media where they will or will rather not be intentionally exposed. The orchestration of that complex score is naturally an operation that demands a large group of collaborators of the most varied areas, from political scientists to anthropologists, from film directors to fashion designers, from musicians and actors to haircut and make-up advisors. The study of such an interesting communication phenomenon as a whole, the genres it assembles and the rhetoric strategies it uses is so fascinating that Denis Bertrand, in his already classic study Parler pour gagner (Bertrand, Dézé & Missika, 2007) even proposes the creation of a brand new branch of studies: the political semiotics. The present research will study a corpus of videos related to Brazilian presidential elections from the 1992 to the 2014 campaign, analysing the following processes: 1) the construction of identity simulacra; 2) the instauration of the candidate’s values and their conversion to figures and themes; 3) the application of rhetoric strategies of argumentation and persuasion. In the first item, besides the process of construction in itself – which can be easily generalised to other contexts –, the consistence of the symbolic apparatus in the Brazilian semiosphere – a far more specific issue – will also be discussed, taking as a conceptual reference not only the related bibliography in the semiotic field, but also capital works such as Lévi-Strauss famous tenth chapter to his Structural anthropology, “The Effectiveness of Symbols” (Lévi-Strauss, 1963). Thus, the role of dichotomies such as authority x resistance/rebellion, elitist x popular representations and modernity x tradition and the weight of each category will be discussed not only conceptually, but also in the light of the results of former elections. If the second topic will follow more strictly the Greimasian methodology, the analysis of the third one will include some elements of film theory in the perspective proposed by screenwriting specialists such as Christopher Vogler (Vogler, 2007) and Syd Field (Field, 1982), attentive not only to the narrative structure but also to the timing of each section – serving thus as a tool to evaluate, among other things, also the density of information in the syncretic discourse and its consequences in terms of its intelligibility. The final conclusions intend to indicate the most successful rhetoric strategies used during the last decades, pointing its invariants and some of its variances in that period and finally relating the semiotic aspects to the social and political context of its usage.
Prof. Dr. Ricardo Nogueira de Castro Monteiro serves as professor at Universidade Anhembi Morumbi in São Paulo, Brazil. His wide range of professional activities include his academic career, various works as a composer, playwright and music director for theater productions, besides a consulting portfolio on applied semiotics including major brands such as Johnson&Johnson, ABN-Amro, Citibank, GE, Credicard, Banco Itaú and Nokia. Recent international publications include: "Nier le miroir", in the book Les Âges de la Vie (2008), by Jacques Fontanille and Ivan Darrault-Harris; “A syncretic approach to the analysis of international songs”, in Before and After Music (2010), by Lina Navickaite-Martinelli and “Chopin's Ballade in G minor Op.23 in the Ballet Kameliendame, by John Neumeier: Intertextual and Intersemiotic Relations and their Role in the Process of the Generation of Meaning”, in the book Music: Function and Value, Teresa Malecka & Malgorzata Pawlowska (2013). His artistic activities have recently attracted the interest of international newspapers such as The Daily Mail, and his name and photo were already quoted in newspapers covering more than 30 countries throughout the 5 continents.
6) Paulo Barroso (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Semiocracy and secularization: the power of advertising signs and images in the public space
Advertising signs and images are everywhere. In the contemporary public space, these signs and images give rise to a specific visual rhetoric, following mass-communication strategies to change public space and influence people’s lifestyles. These signs and images contribute to a mass-society, dominated by an iconolatry and hegemony of meanings in an emerging global world. This communicative social practice shows negatively the role of mass-communication processes in social change, which is an emergent social problem, because it represents a transformation of the social life into a society of the spectacle (where there is always a spectacle of something producing simulacra) dominated by information and signs (the “sign-form”), according to Jean Baudrillard. Developing the idea of semiocracy, I intend to argue advertising signs and images as a new source of power, i.e. the power to produce simulacra and mask reality; the power to produce a social imaginary. I plan to underline the role of advertising as a mass-discourse produced by a specific (post-)modern rhetorical strategy. I follow the advertising semiotics, with a practical application to read and understand the social values of a given time and space. The methodology is based on a theoretical research, which starts with a conceptualization of advertising semiotics as a building structure of the visual in the public space. I will also follow an empirical analysis, in order to demonstrate the semiocracy or, according to Roland Barthes’ terminology, a pan-semiotization of the world. Therefore, the contribution of my paper is to diagnose the damage caused by this social communication practice on iconolatrous modern societies, analyzing critically this issue. The advertising semiotics is characterized by binding consumerist messages and dominant values in urban public space. Advertising signs and images are, sometimes, visual pollution, because the plethora of such mass-communication strategies saturates and indiscipline the aesthetic view over the public space. According to Gilles Deleuze, the name of “civilization of image” is, mainly, a particular connotation to “civilization of the cliché”, which explanation may be related to the iconic inflation that relies on redundancy and, on the other hand, in the concealing, distortion or manipulation of certain images, so that these images conceals the reality, rather than become a medium to uncover it. Thus, there would be, according to Deleuze, a general interest to “hide something with the image”, i.e. it’s own persuasive natural character. I argue, therefore, that all visual/iconic advertising discourses in urban space are the result of persuasive and significant strategy. The excessive flow of images affects human social behavior. So, we need to talk about the “ecology of the image”, i.e. the care about the visual pressure we are daily submitted faced a barthesian pan-semiotization of the world.
Keywords: advertising; mass-communication; public space; semiocracy; social change.
7) Carl W. Jones, RYERSON UNIVERSITY (Carlwj1@mac.com)
Advertising tools and techniques appropriated to construct the global brand Mr. Clean.
In order for a brand to be marketed, a symbol or trademark is created to represent the uniqueness of the commodity product to the consumer, so that it is differentiated from other similar products. Once a brand has a self identity expressed through its packaging, tools and techniques from the advertising industry are applied. The brand meaning is expressed through contemporary messaging, that is broadcast through mass media to reach a specific target market. So that every time the targeted consumer comes in contact with the brand through any media or environment, the personality of the brand will be experienced. I am examining how and why brand meaning is constructed and shared through the appropriation of advertising tools & techniques in contemporary messaging as applied to household cleaning brand named Mr Clean. This branded commodity is available for purchase in various cultures, and has one brand meaning expressed through different linguistic and visual signs. The advertising tools are; brand name, brand character, typography, logo, and textuality, and the techniques are; Illustration, mnuemonic devices, narratives, and the hero. The authors and concepts of semiotic theory i will apply to advertising tools are: Marcel Danesi and his semiotic interpretation of brands for brand name, brand character, logo and textuality. Carl Dair’s typographic theory of The Seven Contrast will be applied to typography and logo along with Barthes theory of ‘signifier + signified = sign’ from his book Mythologies. To evoke the qualities and methods of meaning making in the advertising techniques of illustration, mnuemonic devices and narrative I will apply Danesi’s semiotic observations from his books Brands, and Understanding Media Semiotics. Algiradas Greimas contributed greatly to the study of semiotics by creating the actantial model and writing about narrative. Finally Nicholas Mirzoeff wrote in his article “On Visuality” that hero theory as written by Thomas Carlyle appropriated the concept of Visuality to create and justify the hero. Carlyle’s concept of creating a ‘hero’ has been a technique used by advertisers for many years.
This analysis raises questions regarding advertising messaging, should a white male be considered a hero by coming to the housewife’s rescue? If Mr. Clean was a person of African descent, what signs would be appropraited to create their story, and would they be connotatively interpreted as a hero? Is it correct for corporations to use Hero Theory to promote commodity products, that give corporations power through money, or should the hero only be kept for goverenment/political use?
Through Marketing Semiotics I will examine why Mr Clean’s brand meaning was constructed, and how the appropriation of advertising tools & techniques are expressed through contemporary messaging to create a global brand character.
Keywords: Brand. Branding. Advertising. Advertising theory. Hero.
Carl W. Jones: Jones’ present goal is to bring his extensive advertising knowledge to academia, and promote the study of ’advertising theory’.
For over 20 years Jones worked in the global advertising industry and became the most awarded art director in Mexico from 1995-2010, by procuring over 500 awards and recognitions. In Toronto, Jones was selected as "one of the Top 20 Creative Directors 2012" by Canadian business magazine Strategy.
He is recognized globally as an authority on Advertising, invited to speak in 9 countries on 3 continents, and has been requested to judge all major award shows, including; Clios, LIAA, New York festivals, Circulo Creativo, EFFIES and Cannes. (email@example.com)
8) Giacomo Festi
Semiotics and qualitative research: the case of food trends
Being in the position of both teaching Semiotics and doing research inside the academic domain and working as a consultant for an agency of communication (see Festi 2012), I would like to show how the internal development of the semiotic discipline, in term of methodology and concepts, could enhance the contribution of semiotics in the qualitative marketing research. As a case of study I will present the frame of a huge research about food trends, aimed at constituting a big platform, mapping the transformations in the food domain that could be used with different brands as a ground of reflection for marketing strategic planning.
Instead of being the first to detect new possible trends inside the social life, the semiotician could help, on the contrary, to better interpret the different dimensions involved inside an already recognized trend, in order to display the potentiality of the trend itself. A food trend, actually, can be referred to single figures (in the hjelmslevian meaning) like colors (in 2009, the purple foods were trendy...), to ingredients (for instance the trend of aloe), to specific dishes, to technologies of preparation of food (accessible sous-vide machines), to strategies of consumption or even to national cuisines (just to quote some of the most common topics in food trends). The different "aboutness" of the trend call for more interpretation about not only the values involved, but mainly the forms of connections among the different levels of organization of meaning (following the Fontanille model, 2008).
Presenting this general frame for the trend analysis, I will also question the dynamic of transformation of some trend, like the food trucks in US or the sharing of food photos at the place of consumption.
This contribution aims finally to show how to pass from a trend, as reconfigured in a semiotic modeling, to a brand strategy, in term of managing of identity dynamics.
Fontanille, J., Pratiche semiotiche, Pisa, ETS, 2008.
Festi, G., "La copertina corta del consulente, tra committenti e committments disciplinari. L’esperienza 'rivista'", in D. Mangano, A. Mattozzi, La ricerca semiotica, Roma, Aracne, 2012, pp. 41-68.
Giacomo Festi (1974), after a PhD in Semiotics at the University of Bologna, is teacher of Semiotics and Communication Methodology and Techniques at NABA (MI) and cooperates with the chair of Semiotics at Iulm (MI), where he is doing semiotic research about new media. He is cofounder of the research group called Semioticaviva in Milan, where he actually lives. Alongside his several publications in semiotic related topics, he published about gastronomy: "Zoom, click, gnam. A focus on food photography", in Brucculeri M.C., Mangano D., Ventura I., eds., La fotografia. Oggetto teorico e pratica sociale, Roma, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2011, and "The appetite comes showing. Forms of spectacularization of food in contemporary media", in Migliore T., ed., Retorica del visibile. Strategie dell'immagine tra significazione e comunicazione. 2. Comunicazioni, Roma, Aracne, 2011.