Alcohol brands were among the first to catch on to the benefits of semiotics, they were early adopters of a new research method. Over the years we’ve supplied a lot of insight and strategic advice to beer and spirits brands in the UK and worldwide. The types of problems we solve in the alcohol category include ‘how to achieve better differentiation’ – beer and spirits categories can be quite over-determined, leading to brands appearing to all say the same thing – ‘how to cue provenance’ – because it is usually a selling point for alcohol brands – and ‘how to stay relevant and future-facing’. How do you tell a story about an Italian beer or a 19th century Scotch whisky that is authentic and yet new and different? Semiotics, sometimes blended with ethnography, finds the answers by setting out the culturally-available semiotic signs and stories that consumers use to shape their own identities and to interpret the world around them.

Did you know?

  • Consumers around the world have impressions of other countries that are composed of semiotic signs. These signs are derived from messages that consumers have previously been exposed to. As they live their lives, they build up an impression of what sort of place Italy is, or what sort of place Scotland is, and this is often a mix of visual signs and symbols (Roman architecture, football, mist, castles) and imaginary stories about the sorts of things that go on there (people ride around on Vespas or put on a kilt to go fishing).
  • Stories and semiotic signs associated with various countries can change over time, particularly when an influential celebrity, artist or other public figure emerges. This also affects the way that people understand their own culture. A young consumer may experience national pride when a local hero draws international attention and they may take pride in their own awareness of generation-specific international issues – this is one reason why campaigns like metoo are important.
  • You can use semiotics to decode occasions of consumption. We’ve explained to clients why personal beer fridges are almost holy objects to some British men, how to make beer function more like wine and how to make Scotch more relevant to parties.

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