Semiotics: Decoded

Our recent Rise event in London was dedicated to demystifying semiotics and cracking its many commercial applications. Read on for the full decode...

Crowd DNA resident semioticians Roberta Graham and Laura Boerboom took us on a journey through semiotics at our latest Rise breakfast. While it can sometimes be an intimidating methodology to embrace – especially when considering how it applies to real business challenges – the focus of this session was on demystifying semiotics and explaining how we use it to fuel culturally-charged commercial advantage for our clients.

To kick things off, Roberta and Laura discussed how every detail communicates; whether it’s linguistic or visual, audible or tactile. Semiotics is the process of unpacking this meaning found within brand comms, media, art, community activity and, well, every area of culture. It’s about understanding the specific socio-cultural context and zooming in on the words, gestures, colours, shapes and textures that are present too.

To demonstrate this, Gucci’s SS18 campaign was used to show how quickly different meanings are created and commercialised – here, Gucci places their high fashion, tailored aesthetic against a backdrop of quintessentially British signifiers of working class culture, such as the Fish & Chip shop and terraced houses. Tapping into the trend of high/low cultural contrast, Gucci re-enforces its ability to elevate and stand apart, while maintaining a grounding within nuanced heritage. They’re choice of Harry Styles is also particularly relevant as a symbol of this trajectory from ‘ordinary’ to ‘icon’.

After more decoding examples and frameworks, the morning then moved onto how we use semiotics to join the dots between culture and commercial objectives. In other words: the real-world application of semiotics. Roberta and Laura talked through how we use the methodology to help brands in two distinct, but interlinked ways: exploration and execution.

The first route – exploration – allows us delve into the cultural fabric surrounding a category, brand or product to help shape brand futures, identify white spaces, optimise innovation pipelines and future-proof cultural relevancy. The second – execution – is focused on using semiotics to draw meaning from culture’s codes in order to define strategy, shape new brand positions, comms, packaging, products and more besides.

The session concluded on those all-important, key takeouts for ‘How-To’ semiotics, which we’ve wrapped up into a digital guide for working with this exciting methodology – available to download here.

Thanks to all that attended and joined the conversation. Keep an eye out for more culturally-awakening breakfast events soon.