Cultural Analysis & Semiotics

Taking the cultural Zeitgeist pulse of consumers and their broader society, Semiotics lets our clients get ahead of the game today to be first to capitalize on what’s emerging tomorrow.

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What are semiotics in market research?

Semiotics are part of the qualitative consultancy side of market research and is the study of cultural codes – whether they are visual, written, sound, imagery or metaphor. It explores how these codes are being expressed in a given category (e.g. anti-aging skincare, fast food and quick service restaurants, casinos and gaming) – running from the more residual codes (those already exploited and even redundant) to the more emergent. This allows you to understand where the category has been, where it is now, and what emergent codes are leading to the future.

Semiotic codes are often the drivers and cues that you know intuitively, but don’t immediately process or identify as such:

Residual Codes – The previously dominant, but now fading, conventions representing a category
Dominant Codes –  The key markers of the category today
Emergent Codes – The new trends that are starting to converge into themes of tomorrow

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Semiotics symbols
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Examples of Semiotics application

Semiotics are an extremely powerful tool in market research because they reveal the ways in which signs and symbols communicate ideas, attitudes and beliefs to us, both in spoken and unspoken ways. It’s also extremely effective for seeing beyond the status quo of brands and communication today, but to the potent opportunities of tomorrow.

Common examples of semiotics in everyday life include traffic signs used in communication, emojis and emoticons used in digital communication, and even the design features of logos and brands. Within the context of television, film, newspapers and other forms of media, semiotics helps to explain the ways in which images are used to communicate with various audiences- what you understand intuitively without the need for overt explanation.

Our work in semiotics has led to those “ah ha” opportunities being identified by clients- whether it be on understanding their own brand in the context of the category, white space opportunities for communication or uncovering potent strategies for the consumers of tomorrow. Semiotics often supplements Market Overview reports and Qualitative Research as a way of understanding market communications dynamics at an even deeper level.

Read our semiotics case studies here

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