How to keep the spark alive

At our recent Brand Love Event, Greg Rowland, founder of The Semiotic Alliance kindly agreed to be our guest speaker and gave a memorable presentation, grounded in Semiotics, about how brands can keep the spark alive…

Semiotics explores the world in which brands sit. It is the study of the powerful meanings hidden away in cultural signs, symbols and stories.

With the aim of providing an overview and some inspiration here are three of the case studies shared by Greg on the evening

Pot Noodle – Embracing perceptions can open new opportunities

For Pot Noodle, they took a bold line, rather than attempting to change perceptions of the product, they pushed them to the extreme.  The starting point was that people think Pot Noodle is a bit cheap and nasty? They’re wrong: it’s even worse!

That was the thinking behind the advert – an unforgettable concept that turned Pot Noodle’s ‘negatives’ into its biggest strength.

The idea was reached by firstly identifying pot noodle values as being the opposite of a wholesome meal. If a wholesome meal stood for family values, i.e. love, honesty and trusting long term relationships, the snack was a shameful, dirty (but deeply enjoyable) one-night stand.

The repositioning has gone down in marketing history, becoming one of the most famous semiotic case studies ever recorded. In fact, it was voted the most loved and the most hated British ad of all time in a poll a few years ago and during the period of the ad’s airing sales spiked by over 40%.

Calvin Klein – A strong brand essence is the key to keeping the spark alive

In 2004 things looked bleak for the Calvin Klein fragrance house. The glory days of Obsession and Eternity were over and subsequent launches had fallen flat. The Semiotic Alliance were brought in to create a concept that could save the iconic brand.

Getting to the answer of ‘Euphoria’ – first involved a deep immersion in Calvin Klein’s historic equities. They identified strong links between the brand’s emotional ambiguities and by stepping into the modernist mood, they came up with the dark and double-edged concept of Euphoria, a walk on the wild side of feminine experience.

The fragrance went on to be a bestseller dramatically turning around the struggling brand.  Greg shared on the night his view that the key to success was refocusing on the needs of the brand and what Calvin Klein stands for and not the needs of the consumer, i.e.  In this instance, asking consumers to develop a new fragrance would not have been as effective.

The Institute of Physics – Beauty can be found in anything and everything

As well as working on consumer brands, semiotics can also be applied to social, educational and public-policy projects.

Greg highlighted a good example of this in a project delivered for the Institute of Physics. They wanted to address a tough problem; teenagers were failing to pick physics as a subject for advanced study. They saw it as boring and generally uncool and one of the more difficult subjects.

A traditional route would have been to suggest making the subject more ‘accessible’ via testimonials and friendly faces. But that would have been too obvious.

Instead they looked at the value of ‘difficulty’. They recommended showing physics as a mind-expanding journey into abstract thought.  Instead of promoting physics as a dry science the focus was demonstrating that physics had emotional depth in its creativity and curiosity and the very complexity that made it difficult was what made it appealing.

Students loved it. It showed people can be attracted to complexity, if the right emotional connections are made.

To find out more about how semiotics can add value to traditional research studies please contact Jo Smith or Jen Solomon – 0844 245 65 95