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Cultures and Semiotics. How Are They Connected to Advertisements?

In advertising, three things matter:

The message

- How is the message being conveyed (to your target audience) through the content strategy?

The audience(s)

- Will your audience(s) understand and relate to your ad's message?

The response (or result)

This is the most important as it connects the message to the audience.

- What is the intent of the message as it pertains to your audience? What is your message hoping to convince your audience to do?

Now that you know what matters in advertising, let's see how cultures and semiotics are connected to it. We'll start by learning the definitions behind them.

What is culture?

  • Culture is a society's way of life. It can be seen in the customs and traditions, artistic achievements as well as intellectual pursuits that generation after generations have passed down to keep their culture alive.

What is semiotics?

  • Semiotics is the discipline that studies signs, symbols and narratives for their embedded cultural meaning.

  • Or the study of how signs and symbols create meaning and communicate ideas through visuals.

If you couldn't already presume the connection, let's continue to look into what cultures and semiotics have to do with advertising...

It's simple. To address an audience or to communicate directly to a group of people you must first understand who they are; what is their way of life, how do they believe, what is it about their natural behaviors, what speaks to them, what is life like through their lenses, etc., etc.. And when it comes to semiotics, if you plan on creating symbolism through visuals, you must understand the value of a semiotics analysis before you move ahead with your advertisements. From art to advertisements that seek out symbolism for their messages, semiotics is used to tell stories or represent what you're trying to communicate without words.

The cultural relevance and symbolism in an ad campaign is essential for target markets to understand. If brands want their message to be well-received, they should take into account what that particular cultural meaning means within the overall context of their messaging. A successful advertising strategy relies heavily on successfully communicating with customers while also making those advertisements culturally relevant enough.

Now we will get into those behind the advertising the brands themselves and the ad agencies brands hire to help communicate a message through a campaign.

When it comes to the team putting together the communications and creative initiatives for campaigns, these ad agencies need to embrace their responsibility. What's their responsibility? To research whatever market they want to help their clients target before running their campaign(s). Or better yet, the minute you leave the brainstorming session, start researching. No matter how well you think you know a market, don't rely on your assumptions. And keep in mind, that perspectives matter. Seeing an idea one way may translate in a completely different way when looked through the lenses of the audience you want to target.

So how can you and your team be avoid a tone-deaf campaign?

As noted above, research, of course. You need to explore all aspects of the local market you are aiming to advertise your product to. Understand what the opportunities are and what the challenges are that you could face with the creative concepts you'd like to move ahead with. If you don't have the bandwidth (or background and expertise) to know what to look for in your research, outsource a budget to hire a cross-cultural consultant to provide this very valuable, very necessary, oversight. This person can act as a brand's (or agency's) cultural expert to audit all materials prior to its execution. At the end of it all, brands and agencies end up saving time, money, and headache...because they invested in the most valuable area of their communications: the message and how effectively it resonates with the people they want to impact.

With a dedicated cultural consultant and semiotician on board, you can make sure to cover all aspects of research. And also, how best to communicate the right message at each stage, from product packaging all the way to copywriting and all around creativity for advertisements. It's a win for all parties involved...your customers included.

Do not neglect this. Thinking you and your team already have it all figured out is a mistake that can cost you.

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