Article Date: 08/09/2017
Siobhán Collins – Insight and Brand Specialist, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
This week Lidl came in for criticism for removing a cross at the top of a church out of an image it uses on the packaging for its own-brand range of Greek-style food. The supermarket’s Eridanous range features a picture of the well known Anastasis Church on the island of Santorini. A small white cross can usually be seen on top of the church’s blue dome. But it has been deliberately removed from images on the packaging. The airbrushing of an iconic image of Christianity by Lidl was widely criticized on social media.
What this story demonstrates is that symbols have deep meaning for humans.
Another example is that the laughing emoji was chosen by the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary as the “word” of the year in 2015, partly chosen because it is the world’s most widely used emoji. Images are how we create meaning and make sense of world as seen from the earliest time in cave paintings and hieroglyphs. From neuropsychology we know that 95% of information processing happens at the subconscious / emotional level of our brains. The emotional aspect of consumer decisions is drive by non verbal cues. Most of consumer decision-making process when it comes to brand choice is not rational – rather it operates at the subconscious emotional level.
In marketing brands, Semiotic Analysis is a useful qualitative research approach, rooted in anthropology, which focuses on the non verbal elements of communication, usually those elements of influence we are less conscious of. Semiotics looks deeply at the signs related to a brand or category and their related meanings. It looks at all the aspects of communication that conveys meaning such as imagery, sound, texture etc. Semiotics helps you gain insights into the relationship consumers have to brands through the prism of their culture.
Some ways semiotic analysis might help you in your branding:
- Understand the visual symbols around your category
- Using insights from semiotics to support your brand messages e.g. Axe shower gel pack mimics the shape of the grip of a gun to suggest masculinity
- How could images, fonts etc on your packaging convey relevant meanings to your consumer about your brand?
- Does a particular colour or symbol have a significant meaning in the markets you sell into? For example the colour red can mean different things in different cultures – in India red signifies beauty, in Russia communism and in South Africa mourning. Green has become synonymous with Ireland as well as symbols like the harp and shamrock – are there specific visual shorthands to communicate your brand’s provenance?
- Are you culturally aware of symbols that may cause offence e.g. cross in Muslim cultures?
- Cultural codes can evolve. For example the beauty category 30 years ago was about glamour and make up, now it’s about natural beauty and beauty from within. This evolution is reflected in Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” which encouraged consumers to think beyond the narrow definition of beauty.
If you are interested in exploring how semiotic analysis might help you gain insights into your category or brand contact the Insights team at firstname.lastname@example.org