Semiotics can make brands magical

Nick Gadsby

Brand communication comprises signs that captivate audiences and make an ad memorable, such as the 'randomness' aspect of the Cadbury 'Gorilla' execution that connected with young people

Traditional research methods use an 'inside-out' approach to understanding consumers; they assume that opinions and perceptions are individual choices. Semiotics, on the other hand, uses an 'outside-in' approach – consumers' opinions and perceptions originate from culture. For example, it is no coincidence that consumers all agree that gold packaging implies a luxury product because the colour gold is a cultural sign for wealth, and consumers have been subconsciously trained to associate the two.

Gold is just one example of the many signs that consumers encounter on a daily basis. Every brand, product and piece of communication contains numerous signs, so it is imperative that the correct ones are used to have the right effect. If the packaging of a new premium product uses orange as well as gold, this will have a negative effect on consumers' take-out of 'luxury' because they associate orange with down-to-earth, everyday brands such as Easyjet and Homebase.