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Using Semiotics in Marketing


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Table of Contents

    • Chapter - 00: Introduction to the new edition;
    • Chapter - 000: Introduction to the first edition;
    • Chapter - 01: Semiotics will change your career in marketing or market research;
    • Chapter - 02: An explosion of semiotics in business;
    • Chapter - 03: How to do research using semiotics – A blueprint for marketers;
    • Chapter - 04: Images, language and other semiotic signs;
    • Chapter - 05: Society, culture and other big influences on consumers;
    • Chapter - 06: Creativity and innovation – Semiotic tools for thinking;
    • Chapter - 07: How to do semiotic field trips;
    • Chapter - 08: Combining semiotics with ethnography and discourse analysis;
    • Chapter - 09: Data – insight – strategy;
    • Chapter - 10: Sharing the findings of semiotic research;
    • Chapter - 11: Industry debates and the future of semiotics;
    • Chapter - 12: Inspiration – How to continue teaching yourself to do semiotics;
    • Chapter - 13: Consumer needs in the 2020s;
    • Chapter - 14: Brands and businesses;
    • Chapter - 15: Marketing and communications;
    • Chapter - 16: Acknowledgements;
    • Chapter - 17: Glossary;
    • Chapter - 18: References;

About the Author

Dr Rachel Lawes is recognized as one of the original founders of British commercial semiotics. Based in London, UK, she has convened the Market Research Society Advanced Qualitative Methods Masterclass for 15 years. Academic posts include Principal Lecturer in Marketing at Regent's University London. She supplies brand strategy and consumer insight to brands and ad agencies globally. Clients include Unilever, P&G, Diageo and Grey London. Rachel is a Fellow of the Market Research Society in the UK. She is the author of Using Semiotics in Marketing and Using Semiotics in Retail, both published by Kogan Page.


"In an age where influencer marketing, personalization and building positive social impact are the new mantras of marketing, Lawes' book is a priceless guide for marketers to make sense of the world that their consumers live in. Brilliant, incisive and a comprehensive look at using the principles of semi­otics in marketing, this book is testimony to Lawes' mastery of the subject and her immense contribution to the world of semiotics."
*Shelley Sengupta, GM and Head of Insights, Pernod Ricard India*

"This book confirms why Lawes is one of the foremost industrial semioti­cians. It is a masterclass on the role of culture in consumer behaviour. If you are a researcher, this book is an essential part of your library. The second edition of Using Semiotics in Marketing adds three new chap­ters that link recent changes in the global socio-political context and the emergence of metamodernism. Lawes provides an insightful, actionable and entertaining comparison between generations with regards to how they process functional and emotional information, and translates this into how brands should think about designing product experiences and communica­tions to be authentic and sincere."
*Dr Nick Harrington, Senior Director, Procter & Gamble*

"Dr Lawes' book goes much further than academic or professional stand­ards. Her writing is emotional, touching, profound and delicate at the same time. And that reflects that semiotics is about culture before becoming a matter of marketing. Nevertheless, it is vital for consumer trends under­standing and brand planning. Using Semiotics in Marketing is full of meaning. It is brilliant and compelling, both professionally and personally."
*André D’Abreu Pazin, Director of Customer Intelligence, Research and Strategy, LATAM Airlines*

"Business leaders talk about using semiotics in research, but do they actually know what it means? In this book all is revealed, and in a simple, practical and applicable way to boot. Using Semiotics in Marketing ultimately proves that semiotics meets the stature of its buzzworthyness and that leaders can gain differentiated insights by leveraging it, top down, bottom up and layered with other methods that help us investigate deeper into consumers and cultures."
*Joanna Lepore, Global Foresight Director, McDonald’s*

"Rachel Lawes writes with insightful brevity, but what makes this book shine is the incredibly useful techniques she offers for 'culture first' thinking. The 'Tree' technique in Chapter 6 has particularly inspired me in how to guide strategists to structure upstream thinking rooted in truisms. A gem of a book to reignite your approach to creative development."
*Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead, ITV*

"This is a book that demands to be read (again and again), comfortably sat back with a note-taking device nearby, as we are invited to jot down our own reflections and ideas that will inevitably come. This second edition brings future applicability to all the learnings from the previous chapters, with a focus on key changes in consumer culture brought about by metamodernism. Rachel Lawes makes light work of explaining the values, needs and behaviour shifts that will define the future through the metamodernist lens. The insights are so compelling that you'd be forgiven for concluding that this shift is not just key for marketing into the future, but for adding value and meaning to all kinds of professional and personal relationships. If Rachel's book doesn't stir something inside you, you haven't read it right."
*Trish Rajo-Brea, Insights Professional and Capabilities Lead, Unilever*

"A fascinating and insightful read on an area of research which can often be underrepresented. Lawes makes a compelling case for the use of semiotics and the commercial impact it delivers. If you ever need to convince someone of the power of semiotics, make sure you give them a copy of this book. A must-read for marketers and insight professionals."
*Andrew Tenzer, Independent Insight and Brand Strategy Consultant, Reach plc*

"This highly awaited second edition of Using Semiotics in Marketing is writ­ten by a semiotics veteran. Dr Rachel Lawes knows the industry well! If you're a marketer, you need to read this book. If you're studying marketing, branding, retail UX and/or consumer behaviour, you need to read this book. With three new chapters on Generation Z, social change in the 'West' and the rise of emotions, the book is bang up to date. So, if you're in any way, shape, form or part of the 'digital ecosystem' (and I'd be surprised if you're not!) you must read this book. Like, now! What are you waiting for?"
*Professor (Dr) Zubin Sethna, Professor of Entrepreneurial Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Regent’s University London*

"The publication of this second edition has given me the perfect excuse to revisit this seminal text on best practice in semiotics - written by one of the discipline's best practitioners. This is a book that should sit within arm's reach of everyone working in marketing, research and communication; in fact, anyone who needs to understand how people tick as part of their job. Filled with practical advice and fascinating examples, it is that unusual breed of textbook that you will fly through. This new edition applies the lens of the seismic cultural shifts caused by the pandemic and maturing of Generation Z. It is now even more imperative that you absorb its wisdom and insight. Meanwhile, we all need to hold our breaths for what will be the inspira­tion for a third edition!"
*Fiona Keyte, Planning Partner, Grey London*

"Using Semiotics in Marketing is a must-read for anyone committed to putting people at the centre of marketing. Dr Lawes manages to make a complex and nuanced practice approachable, and does so in a way that illuminates, rather than dulls, the pixie dust of semiotics. This effortless balance of the practical and the magical solidified my belief that Dr Lawes is an underutilized resource in our industry."
*Kim Einan, Chief Strategy Officer, Starcom*

"How many times in our lives have we looked at objects or ideas or brands for what they are rather than what they signify? A coffee, for example, as a brewed beverage, evokes comfort, creativity and alertness; a sofa, as a furniture item, evokes symmetry, relaxation and family time. In this compelling book about images, icons, language, culture, people and meaning, the often-mystifying world of semiotics comes alive. Lawes, in her commercially relevant and practi­cal account, masterfully brings forth the future of researching customer engagement by describing how researchers, strategists and marketers can decode signs so they can see connections and meanings that others cannot. It beautifully and aptly explains the fascinating world of semiotics with clarity and accessible language for all, novices or experts. A must-read!"
*Dr Panagiotis Kokkalis, Chair of Business and Management and Associate Professor of Strategy, Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai*

"Seeing things other brands, marketers or even the person sitting next to you don't is vital to success. In Using Semiotics in Marketing Dr Lawes gives you the keys to unlock the unseen that's all around us. With sharper vision we become sharper marketers. Dr Lawes' book helps you keep your 'eyes on that very special prize'."
*George Tannenbaum, Founder, GeorgeCo, LLC, Adaged Blog*

"Are great semioticians born or created? Mindful, perhaps, of my own limita­tions in this field, I had always leaned toward the former, lamenting my lack of relevant genetic curlicues. The first edition of this book changed all of that, making the mysterious hinterland of semiotics accessible, sending up a flare to illuminate this terrain and roll back the shadows cast by past intel­lectuals - yes, I'm looking at you, Barthes. This new version, enriched with recent social history and dripping with new cultural codes, is clear, concise and comprehensible, touching the universal elements of the everyday while spotlighting the 'how to' of creative analysis - increasingly necessary to business innovation and delivering competitive advantage."
*Leslie X Hallam, Course Director, Psychology of Advertising MSc, University of Lancaster and Qualitative Consultant, Tangent Partnership*

"The field of semiotics is littered with books that are either unreadable, unusable or far too pleased with themselves. Lawes' is different. As well as being hugely practical and commercially relevant, this gem of a textbook is packed full of juicy cultural analysis. Lawes manages to make page-turners out of discussions on baked beans and toilet tissue. Her depiction of British tea-time rituals is up there with Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. It could only have been written by someone who cares as much about Instagram as she does about Ideograms. Essential reading."
*Dr Nick Coates, Global Creative Consulting Director, C Space*

"Do you wish you knew more about semiotics, how it is used in market research, and how it links to other techniques? Learn how ideas get into people's heads, the role of culture and the method of outside-in thinking. A must-read for any marketer or market researcher."
*Ray Poynter, Founder and Chair, NewMR and Member of ESOMAR Council*

"I like to think I know a bit about semiotics, but Lawes is the real deal, the Full Monty, the Queen of Codes. Her insightful work is an important rejoinder and reminder to all those in the brand and comms world of the need to focus on culture and meaning, linguistics and anthropology, icons and images - not just the reductionist world of messages, propositions and benefits."
*Anthony Tasgal, Strategist and Owner, POV Marketing and Research*

"A great read for anyone in the research game! Whether new to the field or long in the tooth, this is certainly a book to get stuck in to."
*Viv Farr, Managing Director, Narrative Health*

"From the moment I started reading about the culture of weddings, I was gripped. This was going to be a good read! But more than that, Using Semiotics in Marketing gives you the step-by-step, practical tools to learn and use the discipline yourself - written in a highly engaging manner. Lawes masterfully combines the practicality of a training manual with a 'can't put down' read. If you are intrigued by semiotics, if you wish you knew how to be a semiologist, Lawes gives you the tools to get stuck in. This second edition really opened my eyes to the importance of Generation Z and provides heaps of practical strategies for brands and marcoms as new gener­ations of consumers evolve."
*Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer, MESH Experience*

"I have concluded that all Quant researchers become Qual converts in the end - and I am no exception. I've spent the last 10 years promoting qual research, and it seems to me that semiotics is a qual 'superpower'. I loved the clarity of this book and the clever synthesis of so much academic research that I wouldn't have had the time to read for myself, but most of all I appreci­ated gaining an insight into current trends that I have been observing without fully understanding. If you are a 'boomer' (like me), some of the ideas of metamodernism are bewildering and very hard to assimilate - but the effort is very definitely worthwhile for the light it shines on the modern world."
*Phyllis McFarlane, Market Research Society Gold Medallist*

"Lawes excels at writing in a way that demystifies semiotics and makes it clearly actionable in an engaging way, exploring the cultural changes happening in society that only semiotics can truly identify. The new chapters include identifying the consumer needs of the 2020s and provide several different lenses that businesses can instantly learn from. A shout out here goes to the way that the case studies and activities dovetail seamlessly together, to provide the tools for marketeers to apply immediately."
*Alan Hathaway, MD, Discovery Research Ltd and Judge, MRS Awards 2022*

"An invaluable tool for any researcher looking to go beyond the traditional methodologies to successfully level up and differentiate their analysis and storytelling. Lawes has made semiotics accessible to those of us who aren't expertly trained as semioticians but still understand the value of decoding the cultural symbols and language all around us. Lawes' Using Semiotics in Marketing gets us results for our clients every time with its inspiring advice for market researchers. It's full of amazing revelations and stories you won't read anywhere else. This expanded second edition has even more fascinating insights concerning social change in the United States."
*Stephanie David, Vice President Research and Design, Vital Findings*

"In writing Using Semiotics in Marketing, Rachel Lawes has succeeded in both simplifying and making a complex subject accessible. This book is a great practical guide to semiotics written in an engaging style. I would highly recommend it to all insight professionals who want to further their under­standing of the subject."
*Julie Irwin, Co-Founder and Board Director, Citrine Market Research and Judge, MRS Awards 2022*

"If you're looking for a well-written, easy-to-understand and informative book on the use of semiotics in marketing then look no further. Dr Lawes has taken years of experience and succinctly summarized it into a practical and interesting book. The second edition builds on the first by bringing an explanation of semiotics in relation to recent yet rapid changes to western-influenced culture. Dr Lawes continues to deliver further knowledge to the reader and practical responses that brands can make to meet the changing expectations of their market and consumers."
*Steven Darby, Director, AURA*

"If you read just one book about the shifting consumer culture and what it means for brands, make it this one! Dr Lawes sets out the criticality of semi­otics in this powerful, practical and immensely insightful second edition. It brilliantly elevates semiotics from a 'nice to have' to a 'must have' for all insight and marketing practitioners. It bravely challenges old ways of think­ing and catapults us into a state of readiness for the future. It's an essential, enlightening and hugely enjoyable read."
*Sandra Grandsoult, Co-Founder and Equity Architect, Equitas Insight*

"This is a weighty tome of information and thought-provoking content. What is most relevant and fruitful for me is the way Rachel Lawes helps marketers (in the broadest sense) understand that semiotics can make tangi­ble what their customers are thinking and feeling in ways that are much more insightful than the kind of answers we tend to get in Q&A market research."
*Hilary Woods, Strategic Partner, Crater Lake & Co and Agency for the Third Age*

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