Cultural Semiotics

Photo montage of car, Statue of Liberty and hands holding beer bottles

Cultural Semiotics

Meanings come encoded within our culture and all consumers, even though they don’t realise it, are semioticians in their everyday lives. They navigate a world of signs in all of their consumption activities. Often these cultural codes operate below the sub-conscious level – creating meanings which are implicit, but still critical, in their brand choices.

Understanding how cultural signs inform brand image, brand choice, and brand loyalty should be key inputs in any brand strategy. Brand meaning will always be determined by the way in which consumers read a brand’s signs and the semiotic mechanisms that they use to do this.

By understanding these coding mechanisms, brands are able to construct, and re-construct, their own meanings – creating new positionings and routes to market. Cultural codes form the foundation of marketing communication because they represent the potential semiotic resources of the brand. Understanding which codes are dominant, or emergent, in your sector is key to the effective brand communication.

Cultural Semiotics can be combined with qualitative research, or it can be used in a stand-alone role. It provides critical additional insight in brand audits, advertising or packaging design projects, and in NPD.

Chris Barnham has a PhD is semiotics from University College, London and uses semiotic analysis on a range of branding and communication projects.