Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Brand Equity Planning with Structuralist Rhetorical Semiotics: A Conceptual Framework

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Brand Equity Planning with Structuralist Rhetorical Semiotics: A Conceptual Framework

Article excerpt


Semiotic research is an integral perspective of the wider discipline of interpretive market research. Proliferating perspectives on branding lay claim to the polyvocal nature of branding research (De Chernatony, 2009). Branding related semiotic perspectives have been propounded by various scholars (Floch, 2000, 2001; Semprini, 1992). However, no concise brand equity related models have been put forward. This paper presents a semiotic conceptual framework for brand equity planning, by drawing on structuralist rhetorical semiotics.

Mick (1997) made some vehement, yet insightful remarks about the application of semiotics in consumer research. In summary, he contended that there is a troubling tendency on the part of consumer researchers to use terms such as semiotics or semiology in a flippant manner, without a reasonable discussion of which particular semiotic tradition or concepts the research is drawing on, while urging researchers to strive for greater rigor in applying semiotics. All too often semiotic concepts and analytic approaches are not adequately clarified before their implementation.

By taking on board these words of caution, I embarked on developing a structuralist rhetorical semiotic model of brand equity with view to furnishing an applicable planning platform for managing sources of brand equity, with an emphasis on the ad filmic text. The contribution of this conceptual framework to the extant literature on consumer-based brand equity consists in furnishing a novel and focused outlook on how brand equity may be managed from an encoding point of view, with regard to ad films as key sources for the formation of brand equity. According to Keller, brand knowledge perspectives draw largely on cognitive psychology. "Important perspectives on branding and brand knowledge obviously can be, and have been gained from other disciplinary viewpoints, for example, anthropological or ethnographic approaches. Part of the challenge in developing mental maps for consumers that accurately reflect their brand knowledge is how best to incorporate multiple theoretical or methodological paradigms" (Keller, 2003, p. 600; also see Heding et al., 2009, p. 111). The propounded approach in this paper responds to Keller's plea, while addressing a significant opportunity gap in the extant literature by recourse to the discipline of structuralist rhetorical semiotics.

My exposition of the conceptual framework begins with rooting rigorously in structuralist semiotic terms the brand trajectory of signification, as brand planning blueprint. Then, I proceed with an analysis of structuralist operations that are mandatory for effecting brand signification across the generative trajectory. Structuralist operations are enriched with operations of rhetorical transformation, which are responsible for reducing the complexity of figurative discourse to a brand's depth meaning as semic nucleus. The exposition of the framework continues with an illustration of how the transition may be effected from the binarist rationale that underpinned the structuralist approach to depth grammar, which is still common currency among researchers, to a connectionist rationale. I conclude with the benefits for applied brand equity research that stem from the conceptual framework of the brand generative trajectory of signification and the connectionist rationale propounded for making sense of how morphologically distinct elements of the three strata of the trajectory interact in terms of managing brand equity in the light of the ad filmic text as its key source.

The brand trajectory of signification as blueprint for brand equity planning

In structuralist semiotic terms, a brand's semantic kernel as core brand identity or a brand's DNA consists in a semic micro-universe. The key brand image attributes or semes that make up its semantic edifice constitute nuclear semes, which, while enriched with contextual semes or classemes in discrete communicative contexts, make up sememes as manifestations of a brand's core and peripheral semantic territory. …

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