Creative Semiotics
Creative semiotics was started in 2010 by semiotician Chris Arning. To date we have worked on projects with brands as diverse as VW, Sainsbury's, Boots and the BBC.
Chris Arning specialises in semiotics and cultural insight, with over 15 years of international experience as a planner, qualitative researcher and semiotician. He has lived in Madrid, Toronto and Tokyo and speaks both Spanish and Japanese.

As Head of Semiotics at Flamingo Research he designed and led semiotics projects for companies as diverse as Unilever, Pepsico, Pernod Ricard, O2, Manchester City FC and the World Gold Council. Chris has also moderated groups across four continents.

Chris set up Creative Semiotics Ltd, a boutique semiotics consultancy in 2010. He has since worked for clients as diverse as SABMiller, Boots, Radio Centre and the BBC.

Chris is passionate about educating clients in the benefits of semiotics. He is the Founder of the Semiotic Thinking Group on Linked In which numbers almost 4000 members and is originator and Co-Founder of the Semiofest conference billed as ‘a Celebration of Semiotic Thinking’ which just celebrated its 5th year in Tallinn Estonia. He teaches a course module Brands and Meaning on the Global media and Communication Masters at University of Warwick. He tweets @semiotico on Twitter.

He has a BA in History from UCL, MA in International Relations, Diploma in Strategic Marketing from Chartered Institute of Marketing and studied semiotics in Toronto.
  • "MINI wanted to understand the role that its British origins could play in building a more meaningful narrative for the brand. Through a 3 region semiotics study Chris uncovered a key revelation: what makes Britain so creative, edgy and aspirational around the world are its inherent paradoxes (small yet influential, traditionalist yet subversive). This insight directly impacted a brand strategy for MINI to embrace its inherent "tensions". The strategy was launched at MINI’s annual global conference, while the study also helped us develop a more nuanced way to communicate Britishness around the world without the telephone boxes and Union Jacks. A revelatory experience for iris and the clients alike and a piece of work we’ve returned to time and again."

    — Ben Essen, Planning Director, Iris Worldwide

  • "We commissioned Creative Semiotics to look at the complex area of musical meaning. Chris and his team created a set of parameters which were used to deconstruct objectively the meaning of music for brands. These provided fascinating outputs around which we built a practical, interactive tool to help planners and brand managers explore the world of music for brands at a more strategic level. Chris was easy to work with and his semiotic analysis brought structure, rigour, and insight."

    — Mark Barber, Planning Director, Radio Centre

  • "Chris has provided valuable support to UK Trade and Investment - the UK governments international trade support organization - at several events for UK creative sector businesses. Chris provided smart insights into the values associated with 'Britishness' in global markets - and how UK brands can leverage them to gain commercial advantage in international markets. He's enthusiastic about inter-cultural communication and a great person to work with."

    — David Moody, International Trade Adviser, UK Trade & Investment

  • "We have involved Creative Semiotics closely in our innovation stream. He has done a great job in the insight derived through semiotics and in his work with designers and visualizers bringing to life new brand ideas. I would not hesitate to recommend him."

    — Bronwen Diemont, Marketing Capability, Brand Proposition SABMiller

  • "Semiotic research is a powerful tool that helps us to better understand and codify different aspects of the categories in which we compete. The fundamental elements that it reveals are immediately understandable and applicable to new concept development, packaging, and even product innovation. In a recent project, semiotics was the 'key' that unlocked the consumer insight around which our entire concept is now based."

    — Joe Gottschalk, Senior Director, Consumer and Market Insights, The Wrigley Company

  • "We briefed Chris to conduct a semiotics study across three regions, the output of which was to inform not just the fabric conditioners brands but the broader Unilever Global laundry category. Chris delivered a piece of work that exceeded our expectations, with an original and inventive approach to the brief. The learnings changed the way we thought about the topic, leading to tangible implementation of recommendations."

    — Maeve Bayles, Global Brand Manager, Unilever

  • "We briefed Chris to run a semiotics study on the UK chocolate market. The results were really insightful, have provided us with a vital reference point and are foundational for our new marketing plans. Chris's presentation was really impressive, and the project outcomes were accessible and actionable."

    — Laura Koenig, Consumer & Market Insight Market, Lindt & Sprungli

  • "I recently worked with Chris on a global spirits project looking at cognac packaging codes and was impressed by his engagement and dedication to the project. His semiotic analysis of packaging codes was of the highest standard while being pragmatic and addressing the challenges and questions of the client."

    — Antje Weissenborn, HTP Concept, Berlin

OUR process