The undiscovered world of brand semiotics

In the world of branding, jargon is rife: brand pyramids, corporate identity, salience . You could be forgiven for thinking that brand semiotics is just another word on this list. That’s because it is, but unlike brand onions, apples or melons (these may or may not exist), semiotics is actually really fascinating. 

Wikipedia, the source of all truth, defines semiotics as “the study of signs”. Of course it is much more complex than this; there are theories about it, there are books about it, it even has its very own jargon. But the world of branding isn’t the cloistered, academic world of Oxford; semiotics can essentially be whatever you want it to be, providing you talk a little about signs.

Look at this. What do you see?

A box of Oreos? Read the signs and look again.

What the packing is actually saying (or screaming) is:

“Look at me!”: The combination of yellow and blue is a very striking one. 19th century French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul demonstrated that placing complementary colours such as ultramarine and yellow next to each other heightened the intensity of each colour “to the apogée of their tonality”. This contrast was widely used in Impressionist and post-Impressionist art as In Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

“We’re different and exciting”: The colour electric blue is often associated with lightning, a massive random electrostatic discharge. This surge of unexpected power is well conveyed by the idiom: “a bolt from the blue”. The combination of the electric blue packaging, yellow font and UFOesque biscuits paints a scene from a science fiction film. It promises something out-of-this-world, literally out-of-the blue. See a similarity?

“Hey we’re like so American”: In addition to the tagline, “America’s Favorite Cookie’ which is offensively missing a ‘u’, the Oreo brand name is emblazoned across the entire package in the style of an American Football team. This in-your-face-ness could not shout America more loudly. The inconspicuous Nabisco logo in the corner stands for the National Biscuit Company, an American manufacturer of cookies and snacks and the red of this logo combined with blue and white reconstitute the colours of the American flag.

“Healthy indulgence”: This product embraces indulgence: Oreos aren’t simply biscuits, they are ‘Chocolate Sandwich Cookies’. All three of those are foodstuffs in their own right and Oreo combines them into one! However, take note of the giant overflowing jug of milk in the corner, an accepted symbol of healthiness and goodness. Now imagine you’re a typical gullible, greedy consumer wandering up and down the biscuit aisle in search of gustatory gratification while keeping your conscience clear. You see this Oreos pack: score.
Here’s some food for thought.

Is it just me or does it remind you of 50 Shades?

Written by Chiara Quadranti, AdSoc’s Events Manager