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When marketing common sense has reached its limits, call a Semiotician! | The Identity Debate

So, what are we all about?  Health or Taste?  Fuel efficiency or Riding pleasure?  Machismo or Smartness?  Men’s product, women’s product or unisex?

One of the many things that are debated fiercely in the corridors and conference rooms of a large corporate marketing team are questions of identity and representation, viz what your product or brand stands for. And all such debates progress with an eye on the brand’s single-minded proposition (SMP).

The agency pitches in with its view, the qualitative researcher gives his interpretation of what consumers’ think, and the marketer weighs in based on data regarding what sells. But in the end, it often remains an unresolved debate.

This is usually because marketing agenda favours rapidly working towards results, rather than letting plans stagnate in the conference room. And the working life of a brand or marketing manager already consists of juggling a ton of activities without having to deliberate upon whether the next step is really the right one. Even if enough time is found for such deliberation, ideas seem to move in similar directions as before.

With these factors combined, you don’t always get desired results; there are several instances where identity confusion results in loss of sales and poor business results. For instance, choosing the wrong label or descriptor can make consumers reject the product or service/brand.

Take Tata Global Beverages’ recently launched product ‘Fruski’.

The hybrid drink attempts to put together two conflicting elements: green tea, which is aimed at a mature and informed audience, and fruit flavours, that tend to target more youthful consumers. Additionally, the pack, while claiming the goodness of green tea doesn’t appear natural with a brightly coloured plastic exterior.

This case shows how identity choices can easily go wrong despite consumer testing.

Semiotics, being a discipline devoted entirely to obtaining a deeper understanding of signs, symbols, representation, meaning and culture, can provide a much deeper and wider insight into questions of identity.

Semioticians use various analytic tools to take apart meanings for their logical and cultural underpinnings. For instance, what does health, as a concept, represent in the category of foods and snack foods? Or what does protection mean to brands within the automotive industry?

However, Semioticians don’t look to debates or consumer feedback for answers. They study all aspects that surround the idea or object in concern. Because they believe that everything communicates, and therefore, everything holds meaning. Every object serves as an artefact or symbol of culture.

Using these analytical approaches, Semioticians place identities into the bigger picture that they are a part of, and provide actionable insights for communicating with consumers.

Does that sound better thought out and more holistic than the regular methods? That’s because it is. So, the next time debates on identity grow heated and the answers seem elusive, just call a Semiotician to shed light on the issue!