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1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Jamin Pelkey, Michael Pereira Introduction: Applied Brand Semiotics
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thematic issue articles
2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Kristian Bankov Legendary Brands and Economic Value: A Semiotic Approach
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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.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Maciej Biedziński Possibilities of Materiality: Application of a Peircean Model of the Sign for Building New Brands
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In contemporary marketing practice, semiotics is often considered to be a useful set of tools employed only in certain moments of the brand-building process. One of the reasons for this is that models rooted in dyadic understanding of a sign serve to narrow the role of applied semioticians to that of the expert, supporting a linear transfer of meaning from culture to products and services. This article proposes a framework that regards a semiotician, rather, as a key figure—a figure that I refer to as “the brand facilitator”—in the process of creating a new brand. The approach I present is based on the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce and his idea of the sign as a cooperation between three subjects—the object, the representamen and the interpretant—with the object, namely the Dynamical Object, being the starting point for a non-linear, rhizomatic process of brand-becoming or the creation of a new brand. The article offers a detailed explanation of steps needed to complete each of the three main stages of the inquiry, including a material research phase, a cultural research phase and a phase of expressive anchoring. The theoretical framework is supported by a case study, thoroughly describing a process of creating a brand of vegetable pastes introduced in 2017 on the Polish market.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Steven Skaggs Visual Identity: Systems and Semiotics
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This essay seeks to sketch the fundamental interactive forces at play in a brand in the formation of an identity system that signifies a particular hosting entity. Two kinds of iconicity are at play in the initial informed exposure to a visual identity system: metaphorical iconicity employs an analogous symbol as substitute for the host’s identification, while systemic iconicity builds the habituated exposure of the elements of the identity system. This article focuses on the dynamics in play in building systemic iconicity. Systemic iconicity can be analyzed using system and set theory by considering the system as a fuzzy set in which each of the graphic elements (logo, typography and so on) are treated as members. I postulate nine interdependent interactions that occur in systemic iconicity and provide shorthand formulae for describing them. These nine postulates indicate that visual identity systems must continually negotiate two opposing forces: pressures that pull them to converge toward a single, simple, unchanging visual element; or pressures that push them to diverge toward multiple changing visual elements. The article concludes by raising three issues which have the potential to expand the development of a neo-Peircean semiotics.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Mariane Cara The Semiotic Layers of Instagram: Visual Tropes and Brand Meaning
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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.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Sónia Marques Life’s a Circus: A Case Study of the Branding of Camper Shoes
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Branding relies on coherence, which is in turn based on conceptual agreement. The various elements that make up a brand must work together, as must the brand respond satisfactorily to the expectations of its addressees. This article examines the case of Camper shoes, considering it a positive example of how a brand, when structured by metaphorical mappings within an adequate source domain, meets the expectations of its addressees and ensures the desired coherence in brand communication. Camper’s communication strategy is influenced by two conceptual metaphors—LIFE IS PLAY and THE WORLD IS A STAGE—mapped within one of the dominant metaphors in this market segment: CLOTHING IS SPORTS. Though many clothing brands are guided by the super-ordinate metaphor of sports, the sub-domains vary: tennis in the case of Lacoste, sailing for Gant, aerobics for Uniqlo, chess for G Star Raw and horse riding for Barbour. Camper is related to circus acrobats and performing clowns. Hence, the conceptual domain of CIRCUS is systematically mapped onto that of CAMPER, and the metaphorical entailment of the source domain CIRCUS constructs the target domain CAMPER. This study analyses the lexical, visual and spatial metaphorical entailments employed by Camper in order to demonstrate how these create a consistent chain that tightly binds its entire discourse and makes the brand discourse coherent.
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Mark Lemon Packing in Meaning: Applying Jakobson’s Model of Communication to Packaging Design
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From the level of the sign to culture, the practice of semiotic analysis concerns the construction and description of models. Within commercial semiotics, a few of these models (notably Greimas’s semiotic square and Raymond Williams’s concept of residual, dominant, and emergent), have proven particularly useful due to their ability to summarise cultural phenomena in a form readily digested and applied by marketing professionals to their brands. Packaging design is a frequent subject of commercial semiotic enquiry and draws on a wide array of semiotic phenomena ranging from visuals, to textures, and the lived experience of interacting with the package. How can we approach a comprehensive understanding of the potential of packaging design to communicate meaning? In what ways can we say that a package can ‘mean’, and how as semioticians can we help analyze and create novel packaging solutions that further brand meaning? Roman Jakobson’s general model of linguistic communication proposes a diverse array of cross cultural communicative functions for language, but is not currently a key model in the commercial semiotician’s toolkit. This paper proposes that this linguistic model has the potential to be translated into the multisensory realm of general semiotics and applied to packaging design. It will particularly consider how Jakobson’s six communicative functions (emotive, referential, poetic, conative, metalingual, and phatic) are relevant to the numerous non-linguistic sign systems (colour, texture, shape, typography, imagery, material etc.) employed in packaging. In so doing, this paper proposes a system for understanding the meaning potential of packaging design as not only an aesthetic vehicle but also a strategic tool for the cross-cultural development and communication of brand identity.
general research article
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Barry Stampfl Hypothetic Inference as “Peculiar Musical Emotion”: Interpreting Hüsker Dü
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An invitation to consider my own continuing engagement with alternative rock music has caused me to ponder the role of personal history in the development of individual musical preferences. I will rely on Peirce’s concept of hypothetic inference (aka abduction) as an optic for re-seeing some standard distinctions in the discussion of the aesthetic responses of musical listeners. A certain passage from Peirce that interrogates the nature of “peculiar musical emotion” makes it possible to question assumptions regarding the mechanisms that enable music to express and, especially, to arouse emotions in an essay by music theorists Jennefer Robinson and Robert S. Hatten. I will suggest that Robinson and Hatten’s description of episodic memory as a source of musical emotions that is not aesthetically warranted requires reconsideration. By adapting Norman N. Holland’s psychoanalytic analysis of individuals’ responses to literary texts to the aesthetic responses of musical listeners, we can see that between episodic memories and aesthetic responses there is an intervening term, “identity theme”, that cannot be disregarded. Holland’s approach discloses a seamless connection between episodic memories and certain kinds of emotional responses to music that Robinson and Hatten do consider to be aesthetically warranted, those that are comprehended under the persona theory of musical emotions. In the final section of my essay, I will focus on my own obsession with the alternative rock band Hüsker Dü in order to show the unavoidability of episodic memory for the understanding of music’s emotional impact.
book reviews
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Frank Nuessel The Greimas Centennial in Review
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10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 34 > Issue: 3/4
Gary Shank Visualizing Semiotics and Semioticizing Vision: The Role of Semiotic Theory in Graphic Design Theory
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