Advanced Semiotics. London.

June 26, 2013

London, 2013.

Figure 2. The MRS offices in clerkenwell & the regalia of the design show.


Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to spend some time at the Market Research Society head office in Clerkenwell, London. The postcode was abuzz with their design week and, of course, our conference! I was there to participate and further The Lab’s knowledge base of semiotics.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. The subject area is one shrouded in mystery, tightly linked to design development and crazy gurus. But walking away, I felt we had clearly grasped the key concepts of the commercial application of semiotics really well and could see its application being much broader than first thought.

The course explored numerous areas of semiotics. It encompassed some theory, how it’s applied, when it should be applied, and most interestingly, it explored some tools to help map out markets and categories.

It was an intimate setting, which was brilliant from my perspective. Twelve participants - mostly Brits (they did have hometown advantage), but they were complemented by me, the French, an Italian, a Russian, Americans, a Kiwi and an Indian.

Led by Malcolm Evans, we explored how semiotics helps map the meaning of categories and can help brands create differentiation by looking at their markets differently.

Figure 2. Our attempt at creating a semiotic square based on how men have been used in fragrance communications.


Excitingly, we also explored how some of the tools of semiotics can be used to create cultural disruption by finding new spaces to contradict social norms. As well as how to use it for understanding and predicting where trends or categories may be evolving to.

We are now in the process of bedding some of these tools into our thinking and deciding how best we apply them.

The notion of having these new ways of structuring meaning is genuinely exciting for what it can add to the way we explore and breakdown challenges for our clients.

Paul