AQR ‘Young Disruptors’ Series: The Semiotics of Alcohol
Last Thursday, AQR hosted an event as part of their “Young Disruptors” series, aimed at introducing semiotics to young researchers (focusing on the world of alcohol). At Big Green Door, semiotics plays an important role in the work we do — so we decided to find out more…
What is semiotics?
Semiotics is the study of how meaning is created, communicated and interpreted through signs and symbols (both visually and linguistically).
It focuses on an “outside in” model, identifying how various cultural elements (namely codes, symbols and language) influence us as consumers and as individuals. This contrasts with most other human sciences (such as psychology), which follow an “inside out” model, focussing on how people interpret the world around them based on their knowledge, experiences and emotions.
As part of the evening, Dr Rachel Lawes, a renowned semiotician who’s written several books on the topic, was invited to talk at the event.
She initially introduced the audience to the discipline, showing its many uses within the commercial world. She familiarized us with some of the basic lingo, enabling us to distinguish the difference between icons, symbols and semiotic codes (ensembles of several signs which signal a particular entity – eg the Loch Ness, kilts and bagpipes coding Scotland).
We then got our (semiotic) hands dirty, examining different bottles of beer within our teams, deep-diving into the singular worlds of Corona, Heineken, Brewdog and Asahi.
The semiotic analysis enabled us to understand and dissect why we have a certain, immediate perception of a brand, demonstrating how signs (which we often overlook) actually have a strong influence on our thinking.
It also let us see how a brand could use its product in a consistent and strategic way: For instance, Brewdog’s punk IPA, displays a level anarchy on its label (consistent with its identity) through adopting a revolutionary lexical field, a bold font and by mixing different reading directions and overwriting information.
Best of all, after sharing all our findings we were left to appreciate the beer…but this time in a slightly less intellectual way.