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UNDERSTANDING NEW AGE SIGNS: SEMIOTICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA


(http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/understanding-new-age-signs-semiotics-of-social-media/)
Sanhita Dasgupta (http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/author/sanhitadasgupta-2/) - Mar 31st, 2015 - Social Media Marketing
(http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/category/social-media-insights/) - 0 Comments - Advertising Campaign on Social Media
(http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/tag/advertising-campaign-on-social-media/), Marketing Semiotics (http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/tag/marketing-semiotics/), Semiotic Analysis
(http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/tag/semiotic-analysis/), Social Semiotics (http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/tag/social-semiotics/), Visual content in Social Media
(http://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/tag/visual-content-in-social-media/)

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You know, whileresearching on the above topic, really breaking my head to find out some appropriate ad campaigns to start with, and was founding myself going blank in my brain,
which is what precisely happens when you try real hard for something, it came across and remembered seeing a very unique advertisement on T.V. a few years back. It was an ad
for a Nokia N series phone but it the exact model numbercould not be recalled. So, the search given was with a phrase fairytale in YouTube and viola! Fairytale it was! It was the
video ad for Nokia N82 where the tagline was storytelling rediscovered. It was a one-minute ad with powerful moments taken out from daily life and presented with an equally
commanding voice over that transformed the moments into something oh-not-so-daily-anymore visuals.
Further, the efforts went into tolook for the Kindle Paperwhite advertisement and lastly, visited the website of Paper Boat drinks. Also, efforts were put into to try out in putting the
finger on the one factor that made me remember these three advertisements or brands all of a sudden at once. Later, it wasrealized that essentially all these three brands were
able to harvest the feelings of nostalgia in me through their ads. It was not very overt in Nokia N82 ad or in Kindle Paperwhite ad like the famous Paper Boat tagline drinks and
memories. However, they could awaken the same feeling through their ad, be it the nostalgic music in Kindle ad or the suggestions of forgotten fairytales in Nokia N82. Now, why
were two paragraphs devoted to express my personal experience and feeling towards certain ads? The quest will require interpreting multilayered signs and symbols presented by
the ads, academic term of which is semiotic analysis.

History of Semiotics, in a micro-capsule


It is possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it
semiology (from the Greek semeon, sign).
These were the words of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure when he explained about Semiotics in general. A very many scholars (like Charles Sanders Peirce, Roland Barthes,
Algirdas Greimas, Christian Metz, Umberto Eco and Julia Kristeva to name a few) had contributed to the development of Semiotics. Scholars from different disciplines also worked
within semiotic framework (Claude Lvi-Strauss in Anthropology and Jacques Lacan in Psychoanalysis).
From around 1960s Semiotics began to become a major approach to cultural studies as a result of the work of Roland Barthes. He explained: semiology aims to take in any system
of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all of these, which form the content of ritual, convention or
public entertainment: these constitute, if not languages, at least systems of signification. One of the broadest definitions is provided by Umberto Eco: semiotics is concerned with

public entertainment: these constitute, if not languages, at least systems of signification. One of the broadest definitions is provided by Umberto Eco: semiotics is concerned with
everything that can be taken as a sign.
Let us now see how brands utilize Semiotics in creating brand value or how we, the target market, read the brand values using Semiotics. We must remember that advertisements
are basically a way of communication between a consumer and a brand. In this context, Semiotics acts as the framework of that communication which the brands use consciously
to penetrate the subconscious of consumers. To quote from Internet:
Marketing Semiotics decodes the cultural codes structuring consumer myths, archetypes, and icons. It translates consumer insights into symbolic elements, such as the brand
lexicon and iconography, design strategy, and stories. Marketing Semiotics applies semiotics to consumer research, design strategy, and cultural branding.

A few commercials and Semiotics: Manufacturing Nostalgia


Paper Boat Drinks:
Clearly, it is the image, or the shots played in a video overall, are the first thing that we notice when we encounter an advertisement. The first time I saw a Paper Boat juice packet I
immediately connected with it because of its bright, happy colors and extremely beautiful but simplistic drawings at the bottom of the packet.
It is the same drawing with three houses, a few trees and fishes and a floating boat for all the drinks, only the colors are different every time. This is a kind of picture that we used to
draw as a child; a one-dimensional, idyllic landscape which emits weightless-ness more than anything. The drawing takes full advantage of the white body of the package as does
the bright happy colors.
Then, we see the tagline: Memories and Drinks. Now, this is a wonderful example of how without advertising one can sell. We have to remember that the brand meaning of Paper
Boat is nostalgia as they are trying to sell flavors like Aampanna, Imli, Tulsi Tea or Golgappe ka pani which are heavily laden with childhood memories and cultural connotations.
Together with the picture, the colors and the tagline the makers of the brand conjures up the nostalgia in their consumers. Let us not forget about the paper boat.

Kindle Paperwhite:
For Kindle Paperwhite it is celebrating the joy of reading. The video ad shows a young man reading from a Kindle while on a journey. This represents, I would say, at least three
generations; our parents or grand parents generation when a book used to be ones companion in a long journey; the future generation when the concept of a book, or reading so
to say, will change; and our generation, which are experiencing the transitional phase from a book to a Kindle. The journey, both symbolic and realistic, reaches its culmination
when the man arrives at an island. It is revealed that he was reading it so that he could tell a story to the children of the island who might not have access of anything.
This again, plays with our memory when our grandparents used to read stories during bedtime. Beside, India always had a tradition of story telling as a folk performance, where
the storyteller transformed in to a performer, constantly shifting from one character to another; which is exactly what happens in the ad.
The whole journey is supported by a fantastic slow strumming of acoustic guitar and a violin, may be? The more it approaches the end the more it integrates. Lastly a song starts
with equal calmness and solace to depict the satisfaction of the man. The joy of reading is not limited only in reading, but also, in sharing the story, and thus, celebrating it.

Nokia N82:
Nokia N82 dealt with the age-old tradition of fairytale. The tagline of the model was storytelling rediscovered. The model was a high-end smart phone with an advanced camera
that had xenon flash beating the then-best camera phone N95 in the process.
Let us look in to the voice over here. We identify some very familiar words and phrases like once upon a time, princess, unicorn, wizard, waving wand, shining star, pirates,
hidden treasure, knight- slay dragon, clock striking midnight. Our cognitive minds recognize these words as elements taken from fairytales. And so they are, but used in a
completely different context. The video follows a normal day in a busy mundane city from morning to midnight and shows various moments of it. It juxtaposes the words against
such images that we would not otherwise think of as the iconic representations of the same words. Thus, displacing the text, the brand conveys the meaning of storytelling
rediscovered successfully. So much so that even after 7 years (the model was launched in November, 2007) I remember only what was projected by the ad: an urban fairytale!
This was a small attempt to interpret and analyze advertisement and to see how the brands are skillfully taking advantage of the discipline. Let us now see how and why Semiotics
is becoming more and more important in social media.

Social Media Campaigns, Signs and Semiotics


Celebrating the power of language: Micromax Unite 2
In 2014 Micromax launched a unique campaign to promote their smart phone model Unite 2. The tagline of their commercial was Azaadi bhasha ki, shabdo ki arth ki, vicharo ki,
azaadi apni matri bhasha ki. They celebrated the freedom of speech, freedom of choice and expression in a multilingual, multicultural country like India by giving the user to choose
from 21 Indian languages (among the 22 scheduled languages). Let us see how the Twitter campaign #DeshkiDictionary becomes metonymic in nature as a social media campaign.
Here, Micromax invited users to participate in creating an urban slang/jargon dictionary by providing definition for the Word of the Day or by nominate their own word from their
own language. Participants had to log on to the Micromax #DeshKiDictionary microsite and provide definition for the Word of the Day. They could nominate their own Word of the
Day by tweeting to the official Micromax Mobile twitter handle with the hash tag #DeshKiDictionary and #MySlang. The winners were decided on the basis of the maximum
retweets received.
Now, here the users were given the power not only to use their own language but also the power to vote their chosen words. In a country like India where multiple languages,
cultures and religions coexist, and where one of the official languages (another one being Hindi) is English (not to mention that it is also the language of communication when it
comes to electronic devices), this freedom is bound to be formidable. People feel strongly about their vernacular even if they are completely unaware how much it is related to
their socio-cultural background. The users are allowed to keep their cultural and linguistic identity intact while they unite under the umbrella of freedom that Micromax is offering.
The words like rokra, paandu, mandawali, jugaad, syaapa, kem cho are representative terms of the languages from where they are taken. Slangs or colloquial jargons are the
most innovative way to express ones feeling, as they are full of extra-linguistic features, cultural connotations and novel linguistic coinages. Having been able to use ones own
language thus signifies the freedom of choice. Together, on the other hand, they signify the metaphoric representation of unity in diversity, as they all are Indian languages and are
now been taken/used under Micromaxs app Desh Ki Dictionary.

Conclusion
Social media has been an influential medium as it allows consumer to be a part of the game, to be vocal about his/her needs, complaints, satisfactions or expectations. As we all
now know, it is a two-way communication between a brand and its consumer. Campaigns like Paper Boats Facebook page where people can go and write about their childhood
memory or Maggis campaign Meri Maggi are some of the examples where the brands have taken a personalized approach to engage users more than ever they did before.
However, interpreting the drive for these posts that users share on a brands official page can demonstrate how these brands are actually making use of Social Semiotics in a
multilayered way. The nostalgia that we feel while experiencing a Paper Boat drink is carefully manufactured by the brand. The logo of the boat signifies a time, a childhood which
the children of this era may not share anymore; games that are mentioned in Paper Boat website like Antakshari or Pitthu are not played anymore; children now play video games.
But, our children do have memory of these; mostly, they inherited it from their parents. Thus, the brand is actually using this constructed exhausted memory as their way of
invading in to consumers psychology, which would not be possible without interpreting the signs and symbols of childhood. The new age signs are not unidirectional; they are
multilayered and ever evolving as the medium (social media) itself is still evolving.
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