In the age of consumer-led brands, are semiotic codes and cues still relevant?
By Rosie Brodhurst-Hooper, Associate Director, Dragon Rouge London
We work with many brands, across many categories. And no one day goes by without the other ’S’ word being mentioned.
Whether we’re looking to disrupt a brand by leveraging emergent or even creating new semiotic codes, or exploring a semiotic cultural territory to help us reposition a brand into a new space, the method of semiotic analysis helps us along the way.
With experience spanning across all of the usual suspect consumer good categories, we’re always in the business of due diligence in investigating the semiotic landscape of the space we’re playing within.
And whether that’s dairy, water, wholesomeness, no-added-sugar, expressiveness, natural or emerging consumer codes like Gen-Z or Millennial parents, we’ve noticed a common theme.
All codes point to one place: the brand. Brands are emboldened to do things their way, rather than follow suit.
Where in the past there have been executional tips and tricks to pick up, brands are all heading in one direction – all messages are delivered in a totally brand-relevant way. This means that flashes, banners and tried and trusted icons and colours now feel incongruous within consumer-centric brands.
In an age where the consumer is as much a part of your brand as your marketing team, your key communications and messages need to be delivered in more of a considered, engaging and relevant way.
Semiotic led codes & cues vs. brand-led
(Photo credit – Creative Commons)
When you have a strong, consumer-centric brand positioning that’s extremely single-minded and well-honed you’re free to speak in your own language, with your style.
Messaging ‘hiding in plain sight’
If you really know who you are, then you’ll very much be aware on your key messages to communicate. Meaning you can incorporate your key claims and RTBs into your story-telling, supporting who you are – but not shouting or leading your proposition.
However, semiotics still has a role to play in brand design. Giving guidance, helping to inform and provide guard rails in execution.
Here are a couple of ways of looking at the argument:
Argument for semiotics
Analysis helps to lay the foundation of the project – semiotics should help, not hinder. So it’s always good practice to look into the world you’re stepping into, and decide as a brand, what feels right for you and your objectives. This might be to close the door on that world completely, and invent a new way.
Argument against semiotics
A valuable tool in our armoury, we always believe in insightful and bold brand design – where being informed may be a little boring, but it grounds executional decisions in a strong rationale.
An often controversial and sometimes misunderstood topic, the way we think about semiotics is changing, and it’s our role as brand owners and creators to always evolve and adapt the way we approach and think about the tools we can use to create brands with true momentum and impact.