The American Journal of Semiotics


published on March 12, 2019

Mariane Cara

The Semiotic Layers of Instagram
Visual Tropes and Brand Meaning

In an era of mobility and ubiquity, Instagram is a relevant communicative landscape for brands and products, allowing for the creation of a specific mood for campaigns and ads in general, merging photos, videos, themes, captions, hashtags and stories with a multilayered web of meanings. This paper outlines how the visual syntax of Instagram and its meaning-making processes goes beyond uniformity by affording the possibility to invest in creative formats, while contemplating visual tropes such as metaforms, visual metonymies and ironic images coming from the participatory culture. It will also present an understanding of the democratic dimensions of amateur photography and a discussion of two academic concepts related to Instagram: Instagrammatics and Instagrammism. Being that applied semiotics involves the study and analysis of visual and verbal languages that express cultural contents, the aim of this essay is to contribute to the understanding of polysemic manifestations, associating its signifiers with the rhetorical and aesthetic potential of visual tropes, ultimately demonstrating overlapping codes that could be relevant for brand management.