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the symbolic messages of two pairs of advertisements (perfumes and cigarettes) are decoded using semiotic analysis in order to compare the different strategies that are utilized to target different customer groups according to demographic variables such as gender and age. The findings of the semiotic analysis are discussed from the point of view of effective advertising campaigns.
THE APPLICATION OF
SEMIOTICS IN ADVERTISING
A semiotic analysis of two pairs of advertisements
JUNE 24, 2016
Submitted as part of Cork English College Pre-Master Program
Marketing semiotics is one of the richest areas to study communication and meaning in
the marketplace. It provides marketers with the tools to introduce new marketing concepts and
bring new advertising messages, through using meaningful signs and symbols, to a variety of
products or services. This paper outlines the emergence and principal theories of semiotics.
Particularly, the two leading scholars’ theories in semiotics, namely Ferdinand de Saussure and
Charles Peirce, are presented. This is because of the fact that these two theories are commonly
used as a reference in the field of marketing. Then, the application of semiotics in marketing,
especially in advertising, is discussed. In addition, the symbolic messages of two pairs of
advertisements (perfumes and cigarettes) are decoded using semiotic analysis in order to
compare the different strategies that are utilized to target different customer groups according to
demographic variables such as gender and age. The findings of the semiotic analysis are
discussed from the point of view of effective advertising campaigns. Finally, limitations and
suggestions for further study are mentioned, and a conclusion is outlined.
1.1. Semiotics: Origins and Evolution
Definition. Semiotics is one of the oldest paradigms for perceiving meaning (Mick &
Oswald, 2006). The word semiotics derives from the Greek “semision” which means “sign”. In
general, the definition of semiotics, as different semioticians agree it on, is “the study of signs or
an epistemology about the existence or the actuality of sign in social life” (Yakin & Totu, 2014,
p.1). In a semiotic sense, signs are anything that signify something else (Eco, 1979). According
to Eco (1979, p.8) “Semiotics studies all cultural processes as processes of communication.
Therefore, each of these processes would seem to be permitted by an underlying system of
significations. To be more precise, during a communication process, when the message (signal)
stimulus and arouses an interpretive reaction in the receiver (when the destination is a human
being in particular), a process of signification takes place. Accordingly, Eco (1979, p.8) points
out that to establish any form of communication, a system of signification is used to correlate the
expression and content of signs
Background. Historically, the notion of symbols and signs as a conveyer of ideas initiated
from ancient Greece in the fields of medicine and philosophy (Mick, 1968; Oswald & Mick,
2006). Greek medicine used the name semiotike to refer to the science of medical signs in terms
of sickness and health. It was Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the founder of western medicine as a
rational science, who described disease symptoms (signs) as a natural reaction of the body to the
disease process (a symptom is a mark that stands for type of illness) (Danesi, 2002). Hippocrates
also stated that the role of the physician is to unravel these signs to overcome the imbalance and
restore health to the individual (Danesi, 2002).
Consequently, medieval semiotics became the primary focus of the works of many
philosophers namely, Aristotle, St Augustin, Poinsto, Vico, and Locke. The most influential one
was Aristotle's seminal work, which provided a fundamental contribution to the development of
contemporary semiotics (Deely, 1982, p.14). Aristotle essentially used the word a ‘sign’
(semion), in his own classifications of sciences, as an instrument to develop these sciences and
create knowledge itself (p.14). The next influential work was by St Augustine who classified
signs into three categories: natural, conventional and sacred (Danesi, 2002). His classification is
now used in modern-semiotics as verbal and non-verbal words and other linguistic structures
(p.29). Ultimately, the formal study of sign was introduced into philosophy by a British
philosopher John Locke in his work “Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (as cited in
Danesi, 2002, p.30) .He explained the interrelation between signification and human knowledge.
However, the development of this science within a linguistic framework did not occur
until the beginning of the twentieth century by two independent scholars; Swiss linguist
Ferdinand de Saussure, whose ideas laid a foundation for many important developments in
linguistics, and the American philosopher Charles Peirce (Oswald & Mick, 2006). Interestingly,
they developed a field of signification, elucidating the meaning behind signs, independently as
they did not know or recognize each other’s studies (Leeds-Hurwitz, 2012).
Theories of semiotics. Regarding de Saussure’s theory of sign, he coined the
term sémiologie at his lectures at the University of Geneva from 1906 to 1911 . His lectures,
which were compiled from his students' notes, were published as a book entitled " Course of
general linguistics". According to de Saussure
“A science that studies the life of signs within society is conceivable; it would be a part of social
psychology and consequently of general psychology; I shall call it semiology. Semiology would
show what constitutes signs, what laws govern them…linguistic is only a part of the general
science of Semiology” (as cited in Leeds-Hurwitz, 1993, p.4)
He posited that a linguistic unit (sign) consists of two parts: a "concept" that is the
signifier and a "sound-image" that is signified (de Saussure, 1974, p.179). From de Saussure’s
perspective, signifier-signified relationship is arbitrary. In other words, there is no natural
connection between a certain sound-image and its concept. Rather they are conceptual and
defined according to social convention (Danesi, 2002). Therefore, to study the sign system of a
language, de Saussure suggested the use of “Synchronic” and “Diachronic” approaches (as cited
in Danesi, 2002, p.30). While the former considers the study of the usage of the linguistic
elements at a particular moment, the latter concentrates on the study of the changes of the
language over time (as cited in Danesi, 2002). Generally, de Saussure’s theory of signs
emphasizes the internal structured system of the language that is used for meaningful
communication (Yakin & Totu, 2014).
Simultaneously, Charles Peirce adopted a three-dimensional system for his theory of sign
(Peirce, 1958). He describes the process of signification as a communication process which
requires three elements: “representamen” that is the sign, the “interpretant” that is the meaning of
the sign, and the context where the process takes place (Mick, 1968, p.198). His theory, then,
explained signs in terms of triadic relations (Peirce, 1958, p.198). Despite the widening
consensus regarding the general scope of Pierce’s theory, theorists differ in their attempts to
conceptualize the actual meaning of "the interpretant". For example, Eco (1976, p.68) defines
the interpretant as “another representation which is referred to the same object". He explains the
meaning of interpretant by concentrating on the interpretation process regardless of the existing
of the interpreters. On the other hand, Sebeok (1976, p.7), the founder of biosemiotics, refers to
the interpretant as “the interpreter’s reaction to the sign”. His definition includes the presence of
interpreters in the interpretation process.
However, it is noteworthy that although there was an overlap in the theories of de
Saussure and Peirce respectively, there were subtle differences in their semiotic paradigms
regarding their individual interpretations of how signs are used as a means of communication.
According to de Saussure, signs are delivered intentionally in terms of conventions (Chandler,
2002). This means that people in a certain culture use the signs, which they all agreed on, in
order to communicate with each other. However, he also stated that signs are arbitrary in their
nature, which means that a certain sign has different meanings based on different interpretations
(as cited in Chandler, 2002, p. 26).
In contrast with de Saussure's theory, Peirce, as a philosopher who studied how people
communicate logically using their common sense, did not confine signs to conventional
symbolic signs, rather he refers to signs as everything that can represent an individual's
interpretation (Yakin & Totu, 2014). In this sense, he categorized signs into three components
(symbols, indexes, and icons) based on the relationship between the sign and its object (Mick,
1989, p.199). Symbolic signs depend on conventional usage to determine meaning. Iconic signs
(flow charts and diagrams) relate to their objects by resembling them. Ultimately, indexical signs
have a causal relationship with their object. It should be mentioned that while symbols require
interpreters and indexes require object to refer to, icons do not have such requirements (Mick,
The approach and the thoughts of these two prominent scholars have inspired other
followers in the field of semiotics, namely Roland Barthes and Holman. In addition to that, de
Saussure's and Peirce's approaches are not limited to the field of linguistics and philosophy, but it
also has a significant impact on other disciplines such as arts and literature, theaters, film,
advertising, and recently consumer research and marketing in general (Yakin & Totu, 2014).
1.2 Marketing Semiotics
The introduction of applying semiotics theories to marketing first took place in the 1950s
by French semiotician Roland Barthes (1968). He suggested that using theoretical tools related to
semiotics would be of particular use and benefit in analysing media (as cited in Danesi, 2002,
p.33). Consequently, the publication of his significant book “Mythologies” in 1957 laid the
foundation for using semiotic theories in critical analysis, examining the relationship between
audiences and media genres, and functional analysis which studies the impact of media on the
behaviour of certain groups (p.33). After that, this science spread throughout Europe becoming a
significant international concept in the marketplace (Mick, 1986). The first application and
extensive exposition of semiotics in the field of marketing was by Holman’s 1976 dissertation
“Clothing as Communication: an empirical investigation” (as cited in Mick, 1986, p. 202).
Understanding the role of meaning in marketplace activities such as product design,
branding, advertising and retailing is significant among marketers and market researchers (Mick
1986; Oswald & Mick, 2006). Hence, marketing semiotics research is oriented towards
consumer behavior and culture rather than product profits. This consumer-centered tradition in
market research was reflected in seminal articles by Grander and Levy (1955) and Levy (1995).
In relation to the process of marketing semiotics research, it includes collecting data from three
sources: cultural research (identifying consumers’ cultural codes), consumer research
(considering factors such as personality, life style, beliefs, and attitude and dividing consumers
according to these factors), brand communication (associating consumers’ value and beliefs to
the brand logo and advertisements) (Oswald, 2015). Unlike conventional research, semiotics
delivers strategic analysis that leads not only to uncover the cultural resonances of certain
products, but also helps brands actively to create culture. Accordingly, semiotics is used for a
range of marketing activities from brand strategy, planning to creative development. However,
the main scope of this paper is the use of semiotics in advertising.
Advertising as an ideology. Many theorists have correlated advertising with the notion
of ideology (Bourne, 1981; Goldman, 1992; Elliott & Ritson, 1997; Bignell, 2002). This
ideological nature relates to the usage of symbolic messages to represent the reality and reflect
human values (Elliott & Ritson, 1997). In other words, advertising tends to associate certain
products or brands to a particular set of beliefs in the consumer's minds. Bignell (2002, p.36)
points out that “social status, membership of particular social groups, and our sense of our social
individuality, are all signified by the products which we choose to consume”. The ideological
function of advertisements can be identified through the latent meanings that are created by signs
in advertisements (Williamson, 1978). To decode the meaning of the signs, Williamson (1978,
p.19) identifies three essential elements. The first element is the “formal structure” of the ads
(creating a relationship between one sign to another based on their places in the ads). Secondly,
consumers are able to read the connotation of these signs, and thirdly the connotation meaning
already exists in the consumer’s culture.
Applying semiotics to advertising. The advertising industry is part of marketing
communication used to promote certain products or something. Commercial ads, for example,
are found in a wide range of media, billboard, newspaper, magazine and television. Advertisers
use persuasive techniques, both verbal and non-verbal techniques, to covertly reach their
messages to targeted audiences and influence people's attitude and life style (Danesi, 2002).
Given the pivotal role of understanding meaning in advertising business, semiotics has its
importance in identifying the advertisers target market. Semiotics is used to decode
advertisements as well as to create them (Bignell, 2002).More precisely, to be more effective,
advertisements "reflect the ‘shifts’ already present in popular culture"(Danesi, 2002, p.179).
Regarding the decoding process, in printed advertisements, for instance, semiotics is
utilized to analyze the images and slogans in certain adverts. As mentioned above, in order to
study the meaning of signs, the formal structure of the advert should be analyzed (Williamson,
1978). This could be reinforced by Kress and Van Leewen's (1996) theory of visual grammar.
They point out that "Just as grammars of language describe how words combine in clauses,
sentences and texts, visual ‘grammar’ will describe the way in which depicted elements –
people, places and things – combine in visual ‘statements’" (p.1). They established a theoretical
framework, which is stemmed from Halliday (1978) seminal work in social semiotics, to analyze
visual communication. According to Halliday (1978), language is a semiotic system which uses
semiotic resources to express how people communicate meaning in social settings. Given the
interpersonal function of the language, Kress and Van Leewen created their theoretical
framework based on the potential interaction of the images with the audience (Kress and Van
Leewen, 1996). According to them, interactive images communicate messages that could show
feelings. Those feelings could be interpreted through the gaze of the participants and the social
distance of the participants from the viewers. In this sense, they distinguish between two types of
pictures: "demand" pictures and " offer" pictures (Kress and Van Leewen, 1996, p.254). In
"Demand" pictures, participants look directly to viewers and want something from them. In
"offer" pictures, participants are offered "as an information to be taken in by viewers" ( p.254).
Regarding the social distance, Kress and Van Leewen refer to Hall’s (1964) work “Proxemics”
which describes how the use of space could determine social relations (Kress and Van Leewen,
1996; Hall, 1964).
2.1 Purpose of the Study
The aim of this study was to analyze advertising images by applying a semiotic approach,
based on a combination of the theories of de Saussure and Peirce. Hence, studying the meaning
and the symbolic messages that advertisers try to send through this approach is the key focus of
this study. Briefly, analyzing these advertisements using a semiotic analysis would help to
formulate an understanding of the different strategies that advertisers use to communicate and/or
sell to their target customers.
2.2 Advertisements Selection
For the purposes of this paper, two pairs of printed advertisements, all of which are
strong brands which have established a reputation and presence in customers’ mind globally,
were chosen based on the variables of the target customer. These ads were DKNY perfume
campaigns for different genders, and two cigarette companies (Kiss and Winston) which targeted
different age groups.
Regarding the DKNY advertisements, they were chosen as a subject of the research for a
number of reasons. Primarily, it was used because this brand offers products to men and women.
Therefore, this allowed a semiotic analysis of advertisements for the respective products based
on gender differences. In addition, considering its fast growing success and utilizing the same
technique in its advertising (Be Delicious campaign for women), it is plausible to assume that
their advertising approach has been successful and, therefore, may merit an analysis.
The second advertising campaign chosen for the current study were that of Kiss and
Winston cigarettes companies. Generally, cigarette ads were chosen to examine the semiotic
strategies that have been adapted to implicitly show desirability and satisfaction since cigarette
companies are not allowed to recommend their product directly. To choose specific companies,
the present author chose tobacco companies from Russia and the United States. The former is
among the world’s heaviest smoking countries. According to the World Health Organization's
Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), Russia has the biggest percentage of adult smokers
among the 14 countries surveyed with more than 60 percent of Russian men and almost 22
percent of Russian women smoking (WHO, 2010). Regarding the latter, cigarettes were one of
the most heavily advertised products. Furthermore, these ads were chosen in order to analyze the
approaches that are used to target different age groups.
This study examined the usage of semiotic approach in advertising for different products
based on variables such as age and gender. The research questions, which directed this
investigation, were as follows:
How are semiotic approaches used in decoding certain advertisements?
Do advertisers vary semiotic approaches in advertisements when considering gender and
age differences? If so, how?
2.4 Analytical Framework
A two-step analysis was used to analyze the advertisements. These two steps included
examining non-verbal and verbal signs. The non-verbal signs include signifiers, the denotative
and connotative meaning and the general theme of the images. The verbal signs include the
language that is used in the adverts.
The first step. The non-verbal signs (the signifiers and the denotative and the
connotative meaning) of the printed advertisements were examined through a semiotic analysis,
stemmed from de Saussure and Pierce theories of signs. In this respect, the visual images were
studied from the point of view of factors such as the images themselves, colors of the images,
font, size, color of the words, the choice of models to endorse the products, facial expression
(signifiers) and the possible meaning are explored through theses visual cues (the denotative and
Regarding the advertising theme, it was examined through Kress and Van Leeuwen’s
(1996) theoretical framework in visual communication. To do so, the social meaning, encoded by
the producers (advertisers) into images, was investigated by considering two elements: eye
contact, and the social distance.
In terms of eye-contact, looking directly to the viewers (customers) signifies demand to
enter a relationship with the participants (the models) whereas looking indirectly implies offering
the participants as a subject of information (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996)
The social distance is related to the fact that the relation between the participants and the
viewers could be suggested by determining the distance between them. Accordingly, the shorter
distance means the more intimate relationship (Hall, 1964).
The second step. The verbal signs (linguistic signs) was investigated. In doing so, a
number of questions were addressed; Are slogans used? If so, what do these slogans mean? How
is this language associated with a certain group of society? Do the words suggest something
about the products?
2.5 Results and Discussion
2.5.1 DKNY: The First DKNY Advertisement
Signifiers. In the first DKNY advertisement, (Appendix1), five main signifiers can be
identified (three non-verb signs and two verbal signs): the woman’s face and naked shoulders,
some green apples, two bottles of DKNY perfume, and the text” Be Delicious” written in capital
Denotative and connotative meaning. The denotative meaning of this ad is the model
(Lara Stone) holding a bitten green apple against a background of other green apples. There are
also two apple-shaped DKNY perfume bottles mirroring the New York City skyline in front of
her. The connotative meaning could actually be interpreted as overtly sexual in its detail. It
implies the signified theme of seductive and natural beauty in a calm peaceful setting. This can
be clearly seen in the model’s face, which has little make-up, and in her windblown hair. The
usage of apples could also connote the common name of New York City as the "Big Apple". The
colors used are warm colors: green and brown which symbolize nature and the color of the earth.
This could imply that ingredients of the product are from nature.
Theme. The seduction theme appears in the model's look, facial expression, and via the
slogan 'Be Delicious'. In this ad, the model looks directly to viewers which implies an intimate
relationship with them. Her look shows confidence as well as seduction as if she asks the viewers
to desire her. This interpretation could also be seen in the distance of the participant from the
viewers (only the head and the shoulders are visible) which indicates a close and personal
relationship. Furthermore, the way that the model is holding the bitten apple suggests that the
apple is delicious and that the woman is seductive.
Verbal signs. In terms of linguistic signs, using the slogan 'Be Delicious' is used to
emphasize the sexual meaning of the product as the women who would buy and wear this
perfume would feel delicious and attractive. The font has been used in big capital letters colored
in green (the color of the apple in the ad) to attract the eye. Small capital letters words with the
phrase (fragrance for women) are used to indicate the target audience.
Overall, the product is quite obviously targeting female customers by giving the idea that
women who wear this perfume could appear to be very tempting, beautiful and glamourous.
2.5.2 DKNY: The Second DKNY Advertisements
Signifiers. In the second DKNY advertisement (Appendix 2), unlike the previous one,
this ad has fewer signifiers (three non-verbal signs and one verbal signs): the man (the focal
point), the women, and the perfume bottle.
Denotative and connotative meaning. The denotative meaning of this ad is two young
models (the male and the female) wearing wet casual clothes and holding each other in an
intimate way with close physical contact although the woman's face cannot be seen entirely. The
colors that are used are light blue and grey. The connotative meaning could be interpreted as
male dominance over women. It connotes the masculinity theme in a casual lifestyle setting. This
can be seen in the male’s physical appearance. The usage of the female model beside the man
could suggest an intimate relationship, although their physical contact implies male dominance
in the relationship. The dominant color that is used in this ad is light blue which could suggest
that the scent is refreshing and cool. In addition, it also symbolizes a masculine color. Hence, the
signified theme is masculinity and dominance, the opposite of the femininity theme in the
Theme. This masculinity theme is portrayed in the male's physical appearance (strong,
muscular body) and facial expression (smile and happy face which signifies satisfaction).
Regarding eye-contact, he does not look directly to the viewers which implies that he does not
demand a close relationship with them rather he is offered as an object of contemplation for the
viewers. This could suggest that he is happy in his relationship with the female model and not
seeking a new one. Simultaneously, the sense of male dominance can be seen clearly in the way
that the woman leans to the left of the viewers and how she is touching the man intimately. On
the other hand, he looks satisfied with her passionate emotions without looking at her and the
way that he holds her represents that he is the one who controls the relationship.
Verbal signs. In linguistic terms, the font has been used in small capital letters to indicate
the target audience with the phrase ‘fragrance for men’. Unlike the previous DKNY ad, this ad
does not use slogans.
Overall, this ad represents a good example of how semiotics can be used to indicate the
ideology of masculinity in order to target male customers. It uses many masculine cues such as
the blue color, the ideology of male dominance and the muscular body of the model.
2.5.3 Cigarette Advertisements: Russian Cigarette
Signifiers. The first tobacco advertisement (Kiss’s advertisements) (Appendix 3) consists
of three non-verbal signs and two verbal signs. In relation to non-verbal signs, there is one
teenage girl, an ice cream, and a packet of cigarettes. The verbal sign is the company’s slogan ‘if
you are not allowed, but you really want it, then you can have it’. The other slogan “Thoughts in
the style of Kiss”. The colors that are used pink, purple, and white
Denotative and connotative meaning. The denotative meaning is a happy teenage girl
with a double-braid hairstyle who is enjoying eating an ice cream. The connotative meaning
could be novelty, independence, and pleasure. This is reflected in in the model's facial
expression, the colors that are used and the company’s slogan. The usage of the ice cream to
imply that the cigarette is flavored just like the ice cream. In terms of colors, the purple is usually
associated with royalty, power and independence whereas pink usually represents sweet, joyful
and friendship. It is also associated with little girls and babies. The white color is linked with
purity. Therefore, the signified theme is the teenager’s psychological needs of novelty and
Theme. The novelty and pleasure theme is depicted in the teenage girl’s facial expression
(a happy, excited face) which suggests that she enjoys the taste and she is very satisfied with it. It
could also imply that she is very excited about the whole new experience. The model, who
represents the target audience, emphasizes this interpretation. Her double-braid hairstyle
indicates a trendy teenage girl who likes trying everything new . This also symbolizes an
The independence and freedom theme can be clearly seen in the model’s gaze. She does
not look directly at the viewers, which signifies that she is detached and preoccupied in her own
joyful world. However, this social distance from the viewers appears to contradict the intimate
relationship with them, which is implied by the fact that, in the image, the entire figure of the
model is not visible and viewers are given only the head and shoulders. This contradiction
emphasizes the desire to be independent even in the model’s intimate relationship. This desire
reflects the personality characteristics of teenagers.
Verbal signs. In linguistic terms, two slogans are used in this ad. Using the slogan
‘Thoughts in the style of Kiss’ is to emphasize the novelty, pleasure and excitement theme of the
product as the targeted customers who buy and use this product would feel modernity and
difference. The second slogan is ‘if you are not allowed it, but you want it, then you can have it’.
This slogan reinforces the independence and freedom theme by encouraging the customers to try
this product without restrictions. The font, in the first slogan, has been used in big capital letters
colored in purple, whereas in the second slogan small capital letters have been used.
Overall, it is clear that the product targets female teenagers by promoting the importance
of the brand to their identities and images. It gives them the idea that by buying this product they
would become cool, happy, adventurers and fashionable.
2.5.4 Cigarettes Advertisements: Winston Cigarettes
Signifiers. In the second tobacco advertisement (Appendix 4) there are three non-verbal
signs and two verbal signs. The non-verbal signs are blond women, the packet of cigarettes and a
background of a city. The verbal signs are two texts. The first one is “I smoke only for one
reason”. The other text is "I don’t smoke a brand to be like everybody else. I smoke because I
enjoy it. I smoke Winston Super King. Super King’s extra length gives me an extra smooth taste
that’s real Real taste – and real pleasure – are what smoking’s all about. Winston is for real". The
colors that are used are black, brown, gray and red.
Connotative and denotative meaning. The denotative meaning is a bold and middle-
aged woman with a wavy hairstyle who is holding the pack of Winston cigarettes. The model has
little makeup and her nail is polished in red. Moreover, she is dressed in formal clothes. The
brown scarf, red blouses and gray jacket are a classic formal style. The connotative meaning
could be confidence, individualism and pride. This appears in the model’s facial expression and
physical appearance and the usage of colors. Regarding the colors, the brown color is usually
associated with nature and symbolizes confidence and relaxation. The gray signifies the
intelligence and seriousness. Ultimately, the red color, which is usually associated with love and
passion, could also signify the determination and courage. Therefore, the signified theme could
be fulfilling the woman psychological needs for self-sufficiency and relaxation.
Theme. The confidence and pride theme employed in the model’s facial expression and
physical appearance and reinforced by the company's slogan "I smoke for only one reason". In
this ad, the model’s facial expression appears blank. This could signify that she is practical,
determined and engaged. It also could connote that she is working woman. the formality of the
scene could be emphasized by the model's formal clothes and the color of the background
(black), which is usually associated with power and formality. Not only does her style reflect
seriousness, but also symbolizes a highly feminine and self-indulgent woman.
The model's self-confidence and pride is portrayed in her gaze. She looks directly to the
viewers, indicating a 'demand' picture, which in this ad means that the model asks the viewers to
look at her as an independent woman. This can be seen clearly in the distance between the model
and the viewers. In this image, the viewers are given only the area from head to the waist, which
indicates a personal relationship (friends and family zone).
Verbal signs. In linguistic terms, the two texts, mentioned previously, are used to
indicate individualism. This is employed in the word "I" in the first text “I smoke only for one
reason" and reinforced by the second text. In the second text, a further explanation implies that
she does not use the product because of its popularity among people. Rather, she uses it because
it gives her a sense of pleasure. It also could imply that she is self-reliant.
Overall, the target audience of this product is obviously female woman. It symbolizes the
psychological needs for a mature woman, independence and relaxation.
2.6 Limitations and suggestions for further study
The main purpose of this paper was to give an insight into some advertising themes that
are utilized to promote certain emotions to target certain audiences. However, given the
relatively small sample that was examined, this research could not make generalizations about
how semiotics is used in the marketing of these specific products. In addition, the interpretations
of these themes were made by the present author. Therefore, there is a possibility of other
interpretations based on cultural differences. Furthermore, the sample is restricted to
demographic segmentation (age and gender variables) of the consumer market. Other market
segmentations such as geographic segmentation (region, population density, and climate
variables), psychographic segmentation (values, attitude, and interests’ variables) and behavioral
segmentations were not discussed. As a result, further research could explore marketing
semiotics in these segments.
The purpose of this paper was to discuss the importance of meaning in marketing and
explore ways in which semiotic analysis is applied in the marketplace, particularly in advertising.
Given that advertising could function as an expression or reinforcement of ideology, semiotic
analysis occupies a significant place within the framework of encoding and decoding adverts’
messages. Regarding encoding, it allows advertisers to deliver meaningful messages, associating
the product with consumers' lives and values. Considering the decoding process, semiotics
provides the tools to study the hidden meanings of advertisements through analysing verbal and
non-verbal signs. This paper has shown that in order to promote certain products like those
examined in this paper, advertisements use sets of organized signs to symbolize different social
ideologies. For instance, in the first pair of advertisements, the social ideology of femininity is
used to target a female audience, while masculinity is symbolized to target a male audience. In
the second pair of advertisements, advertisers also used different symbolic messages to target
different age groups based on their respective psychological needs. While Winston’s ad
represents female adults' needs (self-sufficiency, confidence and individualism), Kiss’s ad
express teenage girls' needs (adventure, excitement and novelty). In general, the broad scope of
semiotics, ranging from studying the meaning of words to become an analytical tool of cultural
messages, plays a pivotal role in studying communication aspects in marketing. It is a key tool to
determine consumer’s responds to certain products by conceptualizing them as part of their
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