This chapter outlines some of the main principles and concepts of semiotics in the context of research in marketing and consumer studies. There are differing approaches within semiotic, or semiological, studies of visual or linguistic phenomena. This chapter draws on the concepts and terminology of semiotics used in North American traditions of consumer and marketing research to illustrate important subjects of study and to suggest practical applications for student researchers.
Chapter objectivesAfter reading this chapter students will be able to
• understand some important principles of semiotic analysis as applied in marketing and consumer research
• appreciate the contribution of semiotics to understanding marketing and consumption phenomena
• apply semiotic analysis to varied kinds of data in student research projects
Semiotics is, broadly, the study of signs and their meaning in communication. A sign in this sense is something that can stand for something else. 'Semiotics' or 'semiology' is etymologically derived from the Greek sema. It can be traced back to the ancient Greek medical techniques of Hippocrates and Galen who inferred medical conditions from the symptoms reported or presented by patients. The word semiology is usually associated with the study of linguistic signs. The tradition of semiology deriving from European linguistics is associated with Ferdinand de Saussure (1974).