Enchantment: Using semiotics to understand the magic of branding

Nick Gadsby
Lawes Consulting


The words 'enchantment' and 'magic' are not the kinds of words we encounter often in marketing and branding so I will begin this paper by explaining why this subject matter needs to be elucidated and why semiotics is the method most appropriate to do this.

For the majority of us magic means one, or both, of two things – either it's something we associate with pre-modern belief systems that includes superstition, divine entities, spirits and so forth or it refers to the kind of illusions or sleight of hand trickery we have come to associate with 'magicians' such as Paul Daniels and David Blaine.

At first glance magic and brands appear to have little in common. Magic derives its power from the fact that it's inexplicable to the average person – how does the magician produce a white rabbit from an empty hat? – and we assume that there are few things that remain truly inexplicable to the modern contemporary consumer. They might not understand exactly how the magician does his trick but they know it is just a trick, that there was probably a hole under the table cloth or a secret compartment in the hat and that they are not awestruck by this particular display.