Improve brand messaging, communicate desired meanings, and influence consumers’ subconscious decision-making.
Use the Semiotic branding triangle to define your brand and its interpretations.
There are three aspects to defining your brand using the semiotic triangle:
- Brand identity: Your mission, values, brand story, employees, and product/service itself.
- Brand communication: Your logo, slogans, and content.
- Brand ethos: Your reputation and the way consumers perceive your brand.
Adopt your audience’s cues into your brand architecture.
Listen to what consumers and other stakeholders are saying about your brand and integrate it into your brand’s symbolic elements such as your logo, brand colors, text content, advertisements, cultural symbols, website, and your brand’s physical environment.
Consider the psychological and emotional associations of colors when choosing a palette to communicate corresponding meanings to the audience.
This formula by Matt Ellis can help:
For example, Coors wants to appeal to mature, blue-collar customers, and so the brand chooses dark blue and an earthy golden shade to help the target audience identify with beer.
Then there is McDonald’s or just about any fast food outlet. Almost all of them use red, the most appetizing and hunger-inspiring color.
Choose the shape of your logo based on the message you intend to communicate to your audience.
- Circles, for example, communicate friendship, unity, and warmth. It’s exactly what Pepsi’s logo suggests to consumers: engaging, dynamic, and alive. It smiles at people with the curved white stripe through the circle.
- Squares are for power and professionalism.
- Lines offer strength as well as tranquillity. The Mitsubishi Motors logo is a perfect demonstration of semiotics’ power, symbolizing strength, professionalism, and quality.
Consider the psychology of fonts and choose logo fonts and slogan fonts that match your brand’s verbal identity.
The slogan and language you use to communicate a message in taglines, ads, brand voice, and tone.
For example, Android’s slogan, “be together. not the same.”, decodes the power of community. It echoes the brand’s mission of being universally accessible and an uniter of diverse people. It also highlights Android phones’ unique designs and features and subtly challenges Apple’s dominance of the smartphone market.
Hence the fonts.
Carry out font research to find out what font will match your brand’s verbal identity. So, for example, a serif typeface might help you portray a traditional or respectable brand identity and a san serif a stable or modern identity.
Consider your brand’s behavioral identity and how it interacts with consumers and creates experiences around their needs and desires.
Adidas’ behavioral identity in this ad is positioning itself as the protector of the athlete and keeping you safe from counterfeiters who don’t deliver quality or care about your well-being. If Adidas cares about your safety, don’t you owe it to them not to buy fake products?
Communicate meanings via signs, codes, myths, and archetypes.
For example, the use of apples as a core sign. In some cultures, it’s interpreted as the symbol of temptation and sin. Often in advertising, apples are used to connect with the cultural reference to Adam and Eve’s archetypal story. Use the Residual, Dominant, Emergent (RDE) framework charts to see how codes change over time and use the right codes at the right time to communicate to your audience.
Consider a 2011 ad from Dior. It taps into a classic luxury code with heavy baroque architecture, lots of gold, and massive chandeliers.
The protagonist doesn’t look at us; she hides under glasses. Other characters in the video are similarly detached, aloof.
We hear heels knocking and see camera flashes. The public sits in chairs, waiting for the show. The promise of the ad is that the product gives you access to a much-desired, exclusive club.
The codes are different in the Dior ad of 2017. They’re about freedom. Clothes are more primitive, suggesting a deeper connection with nature. Charlize Theron is no longer a distant diva. She wants to feel and run. She invites us into her world.
Gold still appears throughout but via the natural world with sun, water, and desert. Theron’s skin is golden in the light. This is not a promise of stuffy, exclusive luxury but a release from that world. These two ads demonstrate the evolution and flexibility of codes.
For myth and archetypes, a good example is Old Spice, who for decades, played directly into the masculine archetype of the 1950s and 60s.
Create a positive ethos for your brand by stating what you stand for and how you support what you stand for.
To build a positive ethos, no matter what it is, the belief system must connect with the core values of your brand, resonate with your target audience, be supported by operational changes to achieve stated goals, and be authentic. For example, your company is green, not merely “greenwashed”.
For example, Death Wish Coffee. They tout sustainability, get involved in volunteer events, and encourage social responsibility.
Once you’ve committed to a particular ethos, be consistent. Tell the same story and communicate the same meanings through all channels.