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Creative Semiotics is a boutique consultancy, which uses semiotics as a fuel for driving strategic direction and creative innovation.
“The results were really insightful, have provided us with a vital reference point and are foundational for our new marketing plans.”
How do you create a premium brand in the chocolate category in the UK? How do you launch a new global pharmaceutical brand for a new condition? What are the rules for packaging ads and packs?
Semiotics is particularly useful when launching a new brand or when undertaking a brand stretch. After all, if you don’t know the communication codes, then how can you break them? Often brands in a category (watch ads, perfume ads etc) look similar and totally lack distinctiveness. Applied semiotics reveals the patterns of communication (colours, symbols, typography, visual metaphors, sound design) that are key to unlocking meaning and value. It also shows how cultural change affects these codes. These are potentially precious and critical insights for any brand strategist.
A semiotic category analysis maps out the visual metaphors used to convey pain relief in pharmaceutical communication or might involve laying out a menu of different ways to convey authenticity in food packaging or intelligent technology. Semiotics equips us with a selection of useful communication codes.
Semiotics is a complicated sounding word that actually helps simplify by joining the dots in culture and mapping the codes to bring order to otherwise meaningless visual chaos.
“In a recent project, semiotics was the 'key' that unlocked the consumer insight around which our entire concept is now based.”
When you're starting from scratch you need to beware of assumptions. Semiotics is a critical and provocative perspective. Because semioticians are usually singular, counter-cultural animals, we can be counted on to think differently from the average brand consultant.
In a pack study for a Swiss chocolate brand wishing to develop new premium packaging in the UK, we revealed how their packaging connoted Victorian repression, a tonality that ran counter to emergent codes driven of passionate discovery in premium chocolate category.
Brand creation we helped inspire the design route for Wrigleys 5 Gum by juxtaposing gum category communications against teen culture in the US. This led to a darker, more mature tonality which led to the code breaking packaging of the ultra successful Wrigley’s 5 gum – which became a category leader.
For Radio Centre, Creative Semiotics developed a unique and bespoke 6 parameter framework for linking music and sound design to brand values that was brought to life in an interactive website. We left them with a logical framework for choosing music in brand communication.
On project after project, semiotics reframes the context for decision making upsets settled assumptions and opens up new avenues for thinking. It is for this reason that semiotic thinking is so useful to inject stunt thinking into pitches, in new product development processes and in ideation workshops.
“Chris' semiotic analysis of packaging codes was of the highest standard while being pragmatic and addressing the challenges and questions of the client.”
Businesses have crucial decisions to make about how to convey what they stand for.
Semiotics can look at any type of communication material from ads to packaging. Brand evaluation has been successfully applied to brand strategy, packaging development and brand logo development.
Whether assessing the merits of a new logo or elaborating a fresh corporate identity (perhaps as a result of a merger) there is a lot at stake. When these decisions carry significant consequences for competitive advantage or stakeholder engagement semiotics can help by bringing out the potential meanings and interpretations – ones that may not have occurred to the originators of the identity.
This semiotic intervention clarifies the way forward and companies can make decisions with more confidence and less risk. This tends to be less time consuming than other types of study because they usually do not entail gathering additional materials. They are a highly cost effective option and work well alongside discussion groups. Packaging studies are a particularly regular project as they tend to be low involvement for customers who may struggle to articulate what drives their preference. Creative Semiotics has worked closely with crowdsourcing agency entries to filter down the best entries.
Semiotics is essentially market intelligence in reducing risk. Semiotics predicts the likely interpretation of each option, laying out the pros and cons and the ramifications for the resulting brand identity.
“The learnings changed the way we thought about the topic, leading to tangible implementation of recommendations.”
We live in a globalized world, but while tastes are arguable becoming more homogenous, brands still need to take account of local differences. Communication codes differ significantly per market. Just look at a show reel of international beer communication to see evidence of this. Even regions with a common language and history such as North America and Britain show significant differences.
We showed a famous global US FMCG brand wanting to revamp its pack that when it comes to global packaging solutions, 'simple ain’t always easy'. The semiotic findings revealed that simple in Mexico is baroque maximalism, in Japan Zen it is recessive minimalism, in India it’s mother love and in North America it is professional streamlining. This helped to pattern their brand development of packaging.
Creative Semiotics works with a strong network of local partners to understand how meaning can be best inflected in each global market involved. We did this recently for the Brand Mexico conducted on behalf of the Mexican government and syndicate of companies where we examined cultural material related to Mexico within and across 10 markets. This fed into a new positioning platform around the letter X.
Creative Semiotics has a strong network of partners that draws on close relationships with the best semiotic analysts around the world as well as the Semiofest and Semiotic Thinking Group networks.