Semiotics: A sign of the times

Kishore Budha
University of Leeds

Semiotics, the science of signs and symbols, can aid innovation in brands and their marketing, with a tangible ROI for its application, particularly in brand building in emerging markets.

It is received wisdom in the business world that consumer research - in terms of understanding their needs and wants - is adequate for brand innovation. While the importance of good consumer research should be one of the pillars of good marketing and branding, one cannot help but ask why, despite the practice of consumer-facing insight (which is accessible to almost every marketer), most brands struggle with innovation.

How do we explain this? It is time to add an approach to the innovation process, one that is nuanced and deals with the fundamentals that shape consumer understanding. This approach is provided by semiotics (or the science of signs and symbols), which allows us to tap into the culture that shapes the consumers, rather than sticking the metaphorical microphone in front of the latter.