Reading secret signals

Semiotics is part of everything that is around us, affecting consumers and the decisions they make both consciously and subconsciously. We all know the basic principles … whether we are aware of it or not.

Whilst some category cues and codes are ingrained as key indicators, others are continuously evolving and changing, spanning from lapsed to dominant and emerging codes, changing where to look for them and how to use them.

Food and drink is a fast evolving category where ingredient transparency, heritage and brand story are significantly important, however, alongside this: ‘less is more’ – so how do we combine the two?

Category codes and cues are a huge part of the answer, however, cultural and behavioural codes (such as shared cultural and social norms) play a major role in our day-to-day perceptions. What we experience shapes the way we think and the way that we process information. These then become our mental concepts – the meaning we take from what is around us.

These concepts are either:

  • subjective concepts – based on personal experiences: e.g. “milk is disgusting”, “I don’t like the colour green”;
  • cultural concepts – based on shared cultural beliefs, experienced socially: e.g. “milk is poured on cereal”, “green is associated with nature”.


Semiotics cannot be ignored and is becoming a major part of how we enhance the insights we give to our clients, through the applications of semiotics strategically in our analysis and recommendations.