The meaning of colour, and how to receive love by showing love. Semiotics tips of the day.

by Jan 18, 2024News

The meaning of #colour, and how to receive love by showing love. #Semiotics tips of the day.

This is a composite photo, a combination of two snaps which I took in Birmingham. I was doing a semiotic field trip there. Remind me to tell you another time why #fieldwork is so valuable in semiotics, just as much as in #ethnography.

The large, floor-to-ceiling display that I photographed extends over several walls in Birmingham’s iconic Bull Ring shopping mall. The original concept and artwork is by Stacey Barnfield, an artist and ex newspaper man who loves his city. You can view and buy his art here:

Two or three things I want to say about this display in the Bull Ring, which are important for #brands, #marketing and semiotics.

(1) The meaning of colour is LOCAL and SPECIFIC. Yes, we all know that black signifies darkness, night and various meanings which are capable of being perceived around the world. But meanings which are available to everyone are special to no-one. Barnfield’s genius is in recognising what an entire palette of colours means to people in the Birmingham Metropolitan area. Want to make 4.3m people feel seen, loved and special? That’s how you do it. I interrupted the woman on the right to ask her a couple of questions. She had her partner and suitcases with her, they had come to Birmingham for a weekend in the city. They stopped to photograph this display because they love heavy metal and were attracted by the interpretation of black as “Black Sabbath”.

(2) In-jokes and puzzles are a way to make local people feel included. How much of a ‘true’ Brummie are you? Take this simple test to find out. I’m from Birmingham originally so I understood most of these, although I’ve never eaten at the Mr Egg restaurant. Saucy Brown (HP sauce, a condiment), Colmore Stone, Pigeon Park Grass, Chocolate Brown (Cadbury’s) and Red Red Wine (UB40) all made sense. Can you see how different this is from the tourist merch that’s sold in so many shops around London? Nobody who lives in or near London is going to buy a t-shirt saying “London” or a key ring with a red bus. The merchandise of major cities usually ignores its residents. But here’s Stacey Barnfield encouraging 4.3m people’s local pride. Making them feel noticed and important. Here’s something for you.

(3) Brands are all desperate to be loved but how often do they show love? Show people some love! Give first, then receive. Show people that you’ve noticed they exist, you know who they are.

Find lots more semiotics tips and advice for brands in my books “Using Semiotics in Marketing” (now in a 2nd edition), & “Using Semiotics in Retail” (WINNER, best book on Sales & Marketing, Business Book Awards, 2023). Available worldwide: Amazon, publisher Kogan Page & all good bookstores.


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