Coming from a sociology background I had already had some exposure to the world of semiotic analysis but wanted, if possible, to understand how to apply it to my day job as a market researcher. I hoped the session would reinforce the value of semiotics, stretch my thinking and give me practical tools to leverage in my work.

This Breakfast Bites, ran by Alfie Spencer, was thoughtfully delivered and engaging. Rather than feeling like a lecture, it felt more like a conversation, a chance to openly enquire and debate rather than being spoon-fed information. Always open to questions, however difficult, he was able to talk objectively about semiotics while still having a point of view on his particular style, helping us get a broader understanding of the different approaches to semiotics and their value.

I particularly enjoyed the last section, which was dedicated to applying our learnings to two pieces of advertising from competing music streaming brands. While not reflective of a true semiotic piece of work, it helped ground what we had discussed with something tangible and provided us with a springboard from which to think more deeply about approaching material semiotically.

Thinking about how I may use this knowledge practically is not necessarily straightforward: as market researchers we see the consumer voice as all powerful in our projects, so looking through a semiotic lens is a new challenge and skillset.

The session has stretched my way of thinking, prompting me to take a step back and focus on what are we actually looking at, whatever it might be: a product, billboard, advert or packaging. What has been involved in its development journey? What ideologies and perceptions are informing its existence? How is that communicated and understood by consumers? While I’m not entirely ready to become a fully-fledged semiotician, being able to think from a different perspective helps me get a fresh perspective on how to approach a project, help inform hypotheses and encourage new approaches to analysis, which as a market researcher can only be a good thing.