Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 19, 2015

The structural semiotics paradigm for marketing research: Theory, methodology, and case analysis

Laura R. Oswald
From the journal Semiotica

Abstract

Brands are semiotic systems that create value in the marketplace by differentiating competitors in a category, forming emotional connections with consumers, and aligning the company’s symbolic equities with contemporary cultural trends. The author aims to expand the current state of semiotics for marketing beyond advertising research to the whole gamut of media and consumer touch points in contemporary marketing, from strategic communication to retail design and consumer behavior. The importance of this paper is not limited to marketing, but raises important issues about connections heretofore ignored between semiotics, business, and the production of value in the marketplace.

References

Aaker, David.1991. Managing brand equity. New York: Free Press.Search in Google Scholar

Aaker, David.1996. Building strong brands. New York: Free Press.Search in Google Scholar

Aaker, David & Kevin LaneKeller. 1990. Consumer evaluations of brand extensions. Journal of Marketing54(1). 2441.10.1177/002224299005400102Search in Google Scholar

Aaker, Jennifer L.1997. Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of MarketingResearch34(3). 347356.10.1177/002224379703400304Search in Google Scholar

Arnould, Eric & MelanieWallendorf.1994. Market-oriented ethnography: Interpretation building and marketing strategy formulation. Journal of Marketing Research31(4). 484504.10.1177/002224379403100404Search in Google Scholar

Arnold, Stephen & EileenFischer.1994. Hermeneutics and consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research21(2). 5570.10.1086/209382Search in Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland.1972 [1957]. Mythologies, Annette Lavers (trans.). New York: Hill & Wang.Search in Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland.1973 [1964]. Elements of semiology, Annette Lavers & Colin Smith (trans.). New York: Hill & Wang.Search in Google Scholar

Beasley, Ron & MarcelDanesi.2002. Persuasive signs. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110888003Search in Google Scholar

Belk, Russell W.1988. Possessions and the extended self. Journal of Consumer Research15(2). 139168.10.1086/209154Search in Google Scholar

Belk, Russell W., MelanieWallendorf & John F.Sherry Jr.1989. The sacred and the profane in consumer behavior: Theodicy on the odyssey. Journal of Consumer Research16(1). 138.10.1086/209191Search in Google Scholar

Benveniste, Emile.1971 [1966]. Man and language. In Mary Elizabeth Meek (trans.), Problems in general linguistics, 195248. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press.Search in Google Scholar

Blackett, T.2003. What is a brand? In R.Clifton & J.Simmons (eds.), Brands and branding. London: Profile.Search in Google Scholar

Bourdieu, Pierre de. 1984 [1979]. Distinctions: A social critique of the judgment of taste, Richard Nice (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Danesi, Marcel.2007. The quest for meaning: A guide to semiotic theory and practice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Search in Google Scholar

Danesi, Marcel & PaulPerron.1999. Analyzing cultures: An introduction and handbook. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Douglas, Mary & BaronIsherwood.2002 [1979]. The world of goods: Toward an anthropology of consumption. New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Eco, Umberto.1979. A theory of semiotics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Floch, Jean-Marie. 2001 [1990]. Semiotics, marketing, and communication: Beneath the signs, the strategies. New York: Palgrave.Search in Google Scholar

Fournier, Susan.1998. Consumers and their brands: Developing relationship theory in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research24(4). 343373.10.1086/209515Search in Google Scholar

Geertz, Clifford.1973. Thick description: Toward and interpretive theory of culture. In The interpretation of culture, 330. New York: Basic.Search in Google Scholar

Goldman, Robert & StephenPapson.1996. Sign wars: The cluttered landscape of advertising. New York: Guildford Press.Search in Google Scholar

Grayson, Kent & DavidShulman.2000. Indexicality and the verification function of irreplaceable possessions: A semiotic analysis. Journal of Consumer Research27(1). 1730.10.1086/314306Search in Google Scholar

Greimas, Algirdas. 1984 [1966]. Structural semantics: An attempt at a method, D. McDowell (trans.). Omaha: University of Nebraska Press.Search in Google Scholar

Heilbrunn, Benoît. 1997. Representation and legitimacy: A semiotic approach to the logo. In WinifredNöth (ed.), Semiotics and the media, 175190. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110803617-013Search in Google Scholar

Heilbrunn, Benoît. 2006. Le logo [The logo]. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.10.3917/puf.heilb.2006.01Search in Google Scholar

Hirschman, Elizabeth C. & Morris B.Holbrook. 1992. Postmodern consumer research: The study of consumption as text. Newbury Park: Sage.10.4135/9781483325941Search in Google Scholar

Holbrook, Morris B. & Elizabeth C.Hirschman. 1993. The semiotics of consumption: Interpreting symbolic consumer behavior in popular culture and works of art. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110854732Search in Google Scholar

Holt, Douglas B.2004. How brands become icons: The principles of cultural branding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jakobson, Roman.1990 [1956]. Two aspects of language, two types of aphasic disturbance. In Linda R.Waugh & MoniqueMonville-Burston (eds.), On language, 115133. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Johar, Gita Venkataramini, Morris B.Holbrook & Barbara B.Stern. 2001. The role of myth in creative advertising design: Theory, process, and outcome. Journal of Advertising30. 126.10.1080/00913367.2001.10673634Search in Google Scholar

Kapferer, Jean-Noel. 1994. Strategic brand management. New York: Free Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kehret-Ward, Trudy. 1987. How syntax of product use affects marketing decisions. In JeanUmiker-Sebeok (ed.), Marketing and semiotics: New directions in the study of signs for sale, 219238. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Keller, Kevin Lane. 1993. Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing57(1). 85103.Search in Google Scholar

Kozinets, Robert V., John F. Sherry, Jr. Diana Storm, Adam Duhachek, Krittinee Nuttavuthisit & Benét DeBerry-Spence. 2004. Ludic agency and retail spectacle. Journal of Consumer Research31. 658672.10.1086/425101Search in Google Scholar

Hoshino, Katsumi.1987. Semiotic marketing and product conceptualization. In JeanUmiker-Sebeok (ed.), Marketing and semiotics: New directions in the study of signs for sale, 4157. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110853254.41Search in Google Scholar

Humphreys, Ashlee.2010. Semiotic structure and the legitimation of consumption practices: The case of casino gambling. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(3). 490510.Search in Google Scholar

Interbrand Group. 2014. Best global brands of 2014. http://bestglobalbrands.com/2014/ranking/ (accessed 22, March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques.1981 [1953]. The language of the self: The function of language in psychoanalysis, Anthony Wilden (trans.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1967 [1958]. Structural anthropology, Claire Jacobson & Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (trans.). New York: Anchor.Search in Google Scholar

Levy, Sidney J.1959. Symbols for sale. Harvard Business Review37 (July–August). 117124.Search in Google Scholar

McCracken, Grant. 1986. Culture and consumption: A theoretical account of the structure and movement of the cultural meaning of consumer goods. Journal of Consumer Research13. 7184.10.1086/209048Search in Google Scholar

McLuhan, Marshall. 1994 [1951]. Understanding media: The extensions of man. Cambridge: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

McQuarrie, Edward F. & David GlenMick. 1992. On resonance: A critical pluralistic inquiry into advertising rhetoric. Journal of Consumer Research19(2). 180197.10.1086/209295Search in Google Scholar

McQuarrie, Edward F. & David GlenMick. 1996. Figures of rhetoric in advertising language. Journal of Consumer Research22(4). 424438.10.1086/209459Search in Google Scholar

Metz, Christian. 1981 [1977]. The imaginary signifier. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Metz, Christian. 1991 [1971]. Film language, M. Taylor (trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mick, David Glen. 1986. Consumer research and semiotics: Exploring the morphology of signs, symbols, and significance. Journal of Consumer Research13(2). 196213.10.1086/209060Search in Google Scholar

Mick, David Glen. 1988. Schema theoretics and semiotics: Toward more holistic, programmatic research on marketing communication. Semiotica70(1/2). 196213.Search in Google Scholar

Mick, David G. & ClausBuhl. 1992. A meaning-based model of advertising experiences. Journal of Consumer Research19(3). 317338.10.1086/209305Search in Google Scholar

Mick, David Glen. JamesE. Burroughs, PatrickHetzel & MaryYoko Brannen. 2004. Pursuing the meaning of meaning in the commercial world: An international review of marketing and consumer research founded on semiotics. Semiotica152(1/4). 174.10.1515/semi.2004.2004.152-1-4.1Search in Google Scholar

Mick, David Glen & LauraR. Oswald. 2007. The semiotic paradigm in consumer research. In RussellBelk (ed.), Handbook of qualitative research methods in marketing. London: Edward Elgar.Search in Google Scholar

Nöth, Winifred. 1997. Semiotics of the media. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110803617Search in Google Scholar

Ogilvy, David. 1963. Confessions of an advertising man. New York: Atheneum.Search in Google Scholar

Oswald, Laura Ruth. 1984. The subject in question: New directions in semiotics and cinema. Semiotica48(3/4). 293317.Search in Google Scholar

Oswald, Laura Ruth. 1989. Jean Genet and the semiotics of performance. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Oswald, Laura Ruth. 2010. Marketing hedonics: Toward a psychoanalysis of advertising response. Journal of Marketing Communications16(3). 107131.10.1080/13527260802503638Search in Google Scholar

Oswald, Laura Ruth. 2012. Brand discourse. In Marketing semiotics: Signs, strategies, and brand value, 98124. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199566495.003.0005Search in Google Scholar

Packard, Vance.1984 [1956]. The hidden persuaders. New York: Pocket.Search in Google Scholar

Pan, Yigang & BerndSchmitt.1996. Language and brand attitudes: The impact of script and sound matching in Chinese and English. Journal of Consumer Psychology5. 263277.10.1207/s15327663jcp0503_03Search in Google Scholar

Park, C. Whan, Bernard J.Jaworski & Deborah J.Maclnnis. 1986. Strategic brand concept-image management. Journal of Marketing50(4). 135145.10.1177/002224298605000401Search in Google Scholar

Peirce, Charles Sanders.1988 [1955]. Logic as semiotic. In JustusBuchler (ed.), Philosophical writings of Charles Sanders Peirce, 98119. New York: Dover.Search in Google Scholar

Pinson, Christian.1998. Marketing semiotics. In Jacob L.Mey (ed.), Concise encyclopedia of pragmatics, 538544. London: Pergamon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ries, Al & JackTrout.2000 [1981]. Positioning: The battle for your mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.Search in Google Scholar

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1916. Course in general linguistics, Roy Harris (trans.). Peru, IL: Open Court.Search in Google Scholar

Schmitt, Bernd H., YigangPan & Nadar T.Tavassoli.1994. Language and consumer memory: The impact of linguistic differences between Chinese and English. Journal of Consumer Research21(3). 419431.10.1086/209408Search in Google Scholar

Schmitt, Bernd & ShiZhang.1998. Language structure and categorization: A study of classifiers in consumer cognition, judgement and choice. Journal of Consumer Research25(2). 108122.Search in Google Scholar

Scott, Linda M.1994a. Images in advertising: The need for a theory of visual rhetoric. Journal of Consumer Research21(2). 252273.10.1086/209396Search in Google Scholar

Scott, Linda M.1994b. The bridge from text to mind: Adapting reader-response theory to consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research21(3). 461480.10.1086/209411Search in Google Scholar

Sebeok, Thomas A. (ed.). 1966. Style in language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sherry, John F., Jr. (ed.). 1998. Servicescapes: The concept of place in contemporary markets. Chicago: NTC.Search in Google Scholar

Sherry, John F., Jr. & E. G.Camargo.1987. “May your life be marvelous”: English language labeling and the semiotics of Japanese promotion. Journal of Consumer Research14(2). 174188.10.1086/209104Search in Google Scholar

Stern, Barbara B.1989. Literary criticism and consumer research: Overview and illustrative analysis. Journal of Consumer Research16(3). 322334.10.1086/209218Search in Google Scholar

Stern, Barbara B.1991. Who talks advertising? Literary theory and narrative “point of view.Journal of Advertising20(3). 922.10.1080/00913367.1991.10673344Search in Google Scholar

Stern, Barbara B.1995. Consumer myths: Frye’s taxonomy and the structural analysis of consumption text. Journal of Consumer Research22(2). 165185.10.1086/209443Search in Google Scholar

Thompson, Craig J.1997. Interpreting consumers: A hermeneutical framework for deriving marketing insights from the texts of consumers’ consumption stories. Journal of Consumer Research34(4). 438455.10.1177/002224379703400403Search in Google Scholar

Umiker-Sebeok, Jean (ed.). 1987. Marketing and semiotics: New directions in the study of signs for sale. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110853254Search in Google Scholar

Williamson, Judith.1994. Decoding advertising: Ideology and meaning in advertising. New York: Marion Boyars.Search in Google Scholar

Zhao, Xin & Russell W. Belk.2008. Politicizing consumer culture: Advertising’s appropriation of political ideology in China’s social transition. Journal of Consumer Research. 35(2). 231245.10.1086/588747Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-5-19
Published in Print: 2015-6-1

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton

Scroll Up Arrow