How corporates use Semiotics to increase marketing ROI?

Jake Pearce c500club Marketing ROI Semiotics cultural futurism Vodafone Mercedes Procter&Gamble Unilever Kellogg's McDonalds collective unconscious semiotician how they work together to create meaning

How corporates use semiotics to increase marketing ROI?

What is semiotics, that’s the first question to deal with. Semiotics is technically the science of signs and how they work together to create meaning. In simple terms semiotics is the science that shows how culture works, where it is going and what the world will look like when we get there. Essentially it is cultural futurism.

In concrete terms semiotics is used for the following:

  • To future proof communication by understanding what ‘imagery is coming next’.
  • To find radical new brand communications by blending the best of the old and the new.
  • To show where culture is moving to identify category level innovation.

Lots of large companies use semiotics – Vodafone, Mercedes, Procter&Gamble, Unilever, Kellogg’s, McDonalds to name a few but it’s still very much a ‘minority sport’, why is that and what can semiotics tell you that other approaches can’t? How is it that using semiotics can increase communication ROI by between 10-100%?

Semiotics is still a minority sport for a lot of reasons, largely to do with, ironically, how semioticians are perceived vs its effectiveness. Semiotics is perceived as an intellectual, “non-businessie” type of activity and that can be a bit of a turn off in a business environment, which is a shame.

If you are ‘thinking like a semiotician’, you see culture as a form of code, an invisible code like in the Matrix. Here’s a very simple way of thinking like a semiotician, picture yourself going to a new country that’s different to your own, you ask yourself ‘why is stuff done like that here?’. Why do women in Spain wear more make up than women in the Northern hemisphere? Why is pink a girl’s colour when it used to be a boys colour? In a new country, you ‘see’ the culture more clearly in many respects than the locals because you don’t take it for granted.

If you ask locals for an answer, why do women in Spain wear more make up, you get this kind of answer- ‘that’s how we do things around here’, it just is. A semiotician gets underneath the surface of culture and sees things that you can’t see, in the same way a computer programmer will ‘read’ a piece of software differently to the user. A programmer can see how the software is likely to evolve because they see underneath the surface, they see ‘code’.

Culture is code, it has lots of conventions that we take for granted, for example people know the category a TV ad is for within 2 seconds on average because there are such strong conventions – lipstick ads look like lipstick ads, beer ads like beer ads and so on. Semiotics can ‘decode’ these conventions so you know how to be like a beer ad and not like a beer ad, in other words how to stand in and stand out of a category.

So semiotics is a way to understand the collective unconscious and there simply isn’t any other method to tackle that question.

References – semiotic video - case studies from semiotic alliance - case studies from sign salad

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Jake Pearce

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"Different to get better results". Jake is obsessed with marketing ROI. He helps companies amplify word of mouth to get business more easily. He uses Meanomathics to boost Comms cut through 10-30%. He uses co-creation to future proof innovation - he turned around a drinks category providing 15% growth using professional co-creation. And he helps top CEO and celebrities with their personal branding and brand purpose, which links back to Word of Mouth marketing. 

Worked with Vodafone,Kellogg'sMcDonalds,ANZ,McDonalds,Suntory,Danone,HSBC,Barclays,BAT,Meat Brands,Saatchi&Saatchi,Draft FCB,Fairbrother Industries, Les Mills, Holmes Place, Grey and a host of digital start-ups.

Jake Pearce is a specialist in brand planning, development & innovation. Jake is currently working on a Word of Mouth Marketing start-up, a personal branding start-up and new delivery systems for wellness products. - for brand development and innovation - for word of mouth marketing expertise


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