Semiotics and Brand Management

Semiotics and Brand Management - Semiotics and Strategic...

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Marketing Semiotics/Oswald/2007 ! Semiotics and Strategic Brand Management Laura R. Oswald Associate Professor, the University of Illinois [email protected] Director, Marketing Semiotics Inc. [email protected] Semiotics and Brand Equity Over the past ten years or so, brand strategy researchers have come to recognize the importance of brand communication in building and sustaining brand equity, the value attached to a brand name or logo that supercedes product attributes and differentiates brands in the competitive arena (See Sherry 1987, Umiker-Sebeok 1987, Aaker 1991, 1995; Schmidt 1995, ). The contribution of brand meanings and perceptions to profitability – the Coca Cola brand is valued at over $70 billion - testifies to the power of symbolic representation to capture the hearts and minds of consumers by means of visual, audio, and verbal signs. The semiotic dimension of brands is therefore instrumental for building awareness, positive associations, and long-term customer loyalty, and contributes to trademark ownership and operational advantages such as channel and media clout. Consequently, managing brand equity means managing brand semiotics. Thus rather than define brand semiotics as a supplement to the traditional marketing toolbox of product, price, promotion and placement, I propose that brand equity management is entirely semiotic, and that a brand can be defined as a system of signs and symbols that engages the consumer in an imaginary/symbolic process that contributes tangible value to a product offering. This process may include a vicarious experience, a relationship, or need fulfillment and may operate at the levels of product, price, promotion, or placement. Semiotics is thus a cornerstone of brand equity management, since symbolic communication ties consumption to the form of brand communication in advertising, packaging, and brand logo. The Complexity of Marketing Sign Systems As a sign system, brand communication is achieved through a complex matrix of signifying elements, including material, structural, conventional, contextual, and performative dimensions. Let me illustrate this reference to the logo for the McDonald’s (on the right). Material – a visual icon. Structural – golden arches, red background, brand name superimposed on the arches in white, squared font. The arches located to the left of the square so the logo moves off to the right, suggesting movement. Conventional or Codified – the golden arches, the color scheme, and the brand name consistently signify the company and brand offerings for the McDonald’s company. Anywhere in the world, in various languages, this logo tells the consumer that a burger and fries are not far away. (French McDonald’s, on the right)
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Semiotics and Brand Management - Semiotics and Strategic...

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