Webinar: Association for Qualitative Researchers

by Feb 18, 2020Semiotics

Ever wondered how ad agencies use semiotics?

Matt Gladstone Strategy Partner of GREY London and Dr Rachel Lawes, author of ‘Using Semiotics in Marketing’ interviewed by Louella Miles in an exclusive AQR webinar.

What can semiotics do?

What semiotics can do is going to change as you become more experienced with it. When you’re new to semiotics, what it’s going to do is tell you what brand communications mean. That’s the first thing it’s going to deliver. And that’s useful for you and it’s useful for your brand owning clients if you can tell them ‘if you do your ice cream in this packaging, it’s going to sell more’. A lot of people stop there.

If you pursue semiotics in a serious way, I mean like really reading about it and thinking about it and doing it on a day to day basis, not just when you’ve got some work on your desk, what semiotics will eventually do is enable you to answer some questions about not just what brand communications mean but what everything means. Everything. The human condition. Love. Why is there a global epidemic of anxiety? It can tell you something about politics and social change. And to a certain extent it gives you a vision of the future, and it just requires you to really engage with this challenging question at the heart of semiotics, which is this, if anybody wants to join in with me here, because that’s what I hope we’re all going to do, yeah?

Semiotics is not just a market research exercise. It comes out of philosophy and it poses this deeply challenging question which is this: What if everything that you currently think of as being reliable reality, everything, like the physical world, your body, your relationships with other people, laws of physics, everything you can think of that seems reliable and sure and certain. What if the whole shebang was made out of semiotic signs? What if every single last bit of it is socially constructed and it is made out of semiotic signs?

Now that is a very difficult and challenging question. It kind of hurts your brain sometimes when you think about it. But if you really pursue that question, there is no aspect of your life to which it will not apply. There is nothing you can encounter in your life that will not require a bit of work when you consider it from this semiotic point of view. It’s extremely challenging. But if you do it persistently over a number of years, you can eventually say more than just what ads and packs mean.

You can eventually say something about what it means to be alive now. You can eventually say something about the human condition, and that’s why I’m doing it. And I would like to think that some of the readers of this book will come on that journey with me.

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