My Korean friend gifted me an instant beauty mask with the Monkey face on the packaging cover. I was a bit offended and taken aback. In the Indian culture, monkey is symbolic of masculine strength and a jester. When I looked into the symbolism of Monkey in Korean culture, the gift made perfect sense - it represents feminine codes of motherhood and success.
Welcome to Semiotics, a science of meaning-making. Semiotics is a cutting-edge discipline, decoding how meaning is created in culture and society.Today’s challenge for global brands is to create meaning, relevance and differentiation, through the medium of signs. Through examining signs and what they mean, semiotics reveal often overlooked meanings and create attention and differentiation.
Nike shoes displayed in form of a flower in Shanghai made no sense to me.But it was perfectly aligned to the Chinese culture. Rose is their traditional icon.
Context is the message. Unlike primary research, semiotics is an outside-In approach, where communication and context, is the object of the study. People can only articulate the conscious reality. The point of departure for semiotics is Culture. The world in which we live is taken-for-granted.
We do not talk to people. Semiotics intervention analyses all texts – any kind of message, in any medium, that impact the collective unconscious within the cultural context. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything conveys a message. Semiotics makes subconscious messaging CONSCIOUS.
Semiotic decodes the cultural foundational framework of the category,within the local context. The cultural blueprint maps the unwritten codes of behavior and norms that define and influence the culture.There can be no meaning in a culture without Binary Opposition. Semiotics decodes the key opposition in the cultural context impacting the category. It's in this tension, conflict and resolution, new insights and ideas are born. The Semiotic Map decodes the codes (the unwritten rules), how they are expressed and their trajectory across time. This framework taps into emergent codes and how to play with the dominant and residual codes.
In China, the dominant code has been one child per family, enforced by the govt. I captured the emergent code in the big banner hanging in the superstore of a happy family with two kids. The sign tells the future aspiration of the Chinese youth.
The edge for brand development and innovation. The cultural foundational framework anchors brand in the context of market, culture and society. It clarifies and resolves cultural complexities and identify the no-go areas. It opens doors to new market, and cross cultural harmonisation. It redefines the sign space of your brand. Cultural awareness allows you to tailor your brand messages in different markets. It empowers the brand creatively to stand-out, yet stand-in within the local context. Semiotic cultural framework objectively empowers brand management, in a rapidly changing environment.
You step into Shanghai airport and you are welcomed by HSBC advertisement. It clearly symbolises the Chinese business culture- open to all business, all sizes, all nations, with the promise of making them big. One simple ad told me the dominant code of China business
Future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious. Semiotics empowers brands distil an effective,culturally-alignedBrand Identity and expressions, thereby elevating them into Cultural Icons.
(Aiyana Gunjan is an independent semiotician specialising in brand and cultural intelligence work)