Semiotics: Recognise the signs

Tim Stock and Marie Lena Tupot

Using semiotics can help in anticipating new concepts ahead of time, enabling a brand to track the meaning and where it's heading.

Semiotics, simply put, is the study of signs. Simple enough. Signs are collected and examined every day to help us gain a better understanding of meaning. In advertising, as we know it, those signs are leveraged and used by brands to better and more succinctly convey their intent. That's nothing new. Used in this manner, semiotics has been thriving quietly as an academic add-on to bring dimension to other more popular forms of research, such as ethnographies and focus groups.

In actuality, semiotics is better poised to be at the centre of how economies of meaning are being shaped. It is a visionary methodology that allows us to gauge context and look forward, without losing sight of past provenance; something very different from the ask-and-tell equation that's become customary. If we're honest with ourselves, we can accept that it's a rare person who can express what they want and need. It's pretty typical to express only what is currently available in one's cultural vocabulary. The burden is ours to innovate and think ahead of the culture curve.