Volume 34, Issue 3/4, 2018
Applied Brand Semiotics
Legendary Brands and Economic Value
A Semiotic Approach
In this paper I compare and synthesize three separate discourses on marketing communication and propose a model for symbolic added value, a quality that characterizes the most memorable brands. Kevin Lane Keller (Strategic Brand Management, 2013) exhaustively outlines the pragmatic steps for building, managing and measuring strong brands, but his approach overlooks the basic distinction between ordinary product brands and Legendary Brands. Laurence Vincent’s book (Legendary Brands, 2002) is dedicated to precisely this distinction, and the author takes an interdisciplinary (but mainly anthropological) approach to proposing a model for a “brand mythology system”. Although the model can be used for pragmatic purposes, its main power is to explain the success of existing Legendary Brands. But while Vincent’s model treats many topics of semiotic interest, semiotic theory and methodology are presented only in a distorted fashion. Therefore, I propose that Jean-Marie Floch’s (Semiotics, Marketing and Communication, 2001) research on the types of valorization advertising confers upon brands can be used to fill critical gaps in the other two approaches and complete my own theory. By analyzing case studies of several successful Bulgarian brands in an autoethnographic mode, I will demonstrate that strategic brand management can be enriched through reference to semiotic and anthropologic models, provided they are translated into its vocabulary and discourse and that the resulting practical guidance can be applied to mid-sized, small, and very small companies, and not just to giant companies on the scale of Apple and Harley Davidson.