The Challenge

Unilever R&D needed to select a product applicator to strengthen the Rexona brand. In early concept stage they needed to determine whether to pursue a serum contact applicator or a foam delivery contact applicator. They wanted to better understand the world of serums and the design ‘codes’ of both packaging and product formulation, in order to guide the design and development process.

Semiotic Role

The semiotics analysis involved sourcing serum samples from Latin America, North America, Europe and Japan. The core of the project was a semiotic analysis of pack codes and product formulation. A crucial insight was the compactness of the serum bottle as a cue for concentrated preciousness of product. We also helped the client to see how the implicit positioning of serum brands was divided into two cultural categories. Either serum brands cast themselves as elixirs promise immortality or as anti-serum vaccines that immunized users against the ravages of old age.


Unilever were very pleased with the work. The semiotics report and its findings helped the R&D team steer the positioning and characteristics of the product for the development of a Rexona product deploying the serum applicator.