I could start this blog about semiotics by telling you that it’s about meaning and how this is interpreted through signs and symbols. But you can read that elsewhere, and it’s a bit dull, often cloaked in dry academic language and impenetrable terminology that may switch you off.
No, I wanted to frame semiotics in the world of brand, communication and cultural insight.
Still with me? Good! Let’s carry on.
Consumer research can tell you how consumers think and feel, what they do and what triggers this, whereas semiotics shines a light on what evolves their thinking. These two are hugely complimentary and combine to support better decision-making.
I tend to describe semiotics as an investigative form of cultural insight and a great method for unwrapping the world in which people (or consumers) exist and how this world informs their behaviour. It’s perhaps best employed as a research method to shape and focus insights and draw out the signifiers as a smorgasbord of communicative ideas that will connect with the target audience.
We use semiotics to help our clients develop brands, products and services that are culturally relevant, and then help them retain this relevance in a fast-changing, multicultural world.
Key to all this, is the fact that semiotics looks at the broader consumer landscape to understand how their worlds will evolve. It’s a method whereby consumers aren’t asked questions or interrogated directly. Consumers tell you how they feel in the moment, and are notoriously poor witnesses of their own behaviour. What’s more, we humans can’t predict how our perceptions and behaviours will change over time, and how they will be influenced by things beyond their horizon.
Semiotics and cultural insight require a deep forage through relevant (and sometimes irrelevant) cultural landscapes and references to understand and interpret the world that shapes our perceptions. It reveals deep contextual understanding, a shared sensory language, and it identifies the direction of travel of future change.
Semiotics has a problem...but we're dealing with it
Semiotics can be slow to perform, expensive to procure, is seen as being complex, subjective and thus inconsistent and it is viewed by some as impenetrable. None of these lend it well to the agile research manifesto. However, changes are afoot. Here at Further, we are pioneering the use of a new form of semiotics, known as quantitative semiotics.
Is all about decoding culture, but on a large scale, and at speed. It's about extracting 'signal' from noise. It works at speed to analyse large volumes of implicit, unstructured text or imagery, to help brands read between the lines and make smarter, faster decisions.
Quantitative semiotics uses neural networks, AI, advanced analytics and proprietary semiotic frameworks to decode culture in this entirely new way. It helps brands and organisations:
• Quickly understand the codes of a category
• Identify and leverage the most compelling conversations
• Improve both messaging and experience
• Develop a better understanding of the benefits in context
• Evaluate campaigns and touchpoints
• Build more effective creative/media strategies
• Enhance customer targeting
• Improve tone of voice and visual language
Quantitative semiotics is BIG. Having seen the results that it has produced so far, it’s a valuable part of the research toolbox. You can watch a video presentation on Quantitative Semiotics here. Alternatively...