Applying semiotic thinking to qualitative and marketing challenges can feel a bit like trying to apply Kant's Transcendental Idealism to doing the weekly shop. It has a reputation for being some mysterious and complex process that should only be attempted by those with a PhD to their names, and not us mere mortals from the world of market research.

I’ve long been a believer that this isn’t the case and have seen semiotics add great value to projects, from the most upstream ideation through to executional refinement of packaging or advertising. Finding the right language and framework to talk about this, however, can still feel a challenge when selling semiotics into clients.

Book that delivers

That’s why I really looked forward to listening to Dr Rachel Lawes’ introduction to her new book, Using Semiotics in Marketing: How to Achieve Consumer Insight for Brand Growth. And I’m pleased to say it really delivered in providing a good lay person’s definition of what semiotics is all about in the context of research.

I was particularly interested to hear Rachel’s views on the types of projects she sees semiotics adding most value and the wide range of ways it can be applied.

The comparison between early stage exploratory semiotics and an ethnographic deep dive into the cultural forces at play in a category isn’t something I’d thought of before, but certainly something I will consider going forwards.

The client side perspective of Matt Gladstone, strategy partner at Greys was interesting to hear, too. It’s reassuring to hear semiotic thinking has lived beyond the debrief for clients as varied as the United Nations and McVitie’s biscuits.

My appetite is now whetted for the book… where I hope to glean further practical and effective advice on utilising semiotics for our clients.