Breakthrough applications in market research

This conference highlights applications of semiotics and cultural analysis in market research. Hear from organisations that are developing semiotic frameworks and applying semiotic and cultural analysis to influence behaviour and to improve brand messaging, content representations and physical environments.

Find out how Unilever, Reckitt, GSK, BBC, Costa Coffee, Sky, Co-op, Save the Children and HSL are using semiotics and cultural analysis to transform their messaging and meet a range of business challenges.

Purchase your on-demand ticket hear how to:  

  • Decode brand messaging to understand how signs and symbols create meaning for consumers
  • Blend semiotics with data, analytics and qualitative & quantitative methodologies to extend insight
  • Recode communications and content representations based on robust semiotic analysis
  • Implement breakthrough applications of semiotics beyond brand messaging & communications
  • Apply cultural analysis to global projects to develop nuanced communications
No Biography Available

10.00 Welcome from the Chair

Dr. Nick Gadsby, Founder & Principal, The Answer: Strategic Semiotics and Cultural Analysis


10.05 Creating global health & wellness codes: fusing semiotic thinking with image-based machine learning

Health & Wellness Codes brings together the principals of semiotic thinking with the rigour and scalability of image-based machine learning. Working with G=MC2 and their cultural insight platform ‘Visible’, GSK gathered emergent visual content from across the world to understand how health and wellness is expressed both in culture today and by the creative consumers of tomorrow. In this conversation James and Clare will discuss how GSK created Global H&W Codes across health and co-created USA pain relief codes for a specific brief. They’ll talk about the iteratively ways of working and agile methodologies employed.

James Sallows, Head of CBIA Transformation and Capability, GSK Consumer Healthcare

In conversation with…

Clare Gough, Global Head of Innovation - Consumer & Business Insights & Analytics, GSK Consumer Healthcare
Izzy Pugh, Visual Anthropologist, G+MC2


10.30 Designing the future store experience

Semiotics is frequently used to ‘decode’ brands but has yet to be established within the field of experience design. In this case study, which looks at the development of a mini format store catering to on-the-go commuters, Costa & Space Doctors share a new hybrid methodology which fuses experience design, service innovation & semiotics to deliver more meaningful and effective customer experiences.

Cato Hunt, Director, Space Doctors
Adam Dunt, Global Creative Design Lead, Costa Coffee


11.00 Break


11.20 Panel: Putting the human back into semiotics

Conventional semiotics is principally focused on decoding culture through the identification of codes, signs and symbols. In this panelists will discuss using semiotics to explore highly emotive subjects. They’ll explore how blending semiotics with other techniques such as neuroscience, behavioural science as well as qual and quant methods can help track the complexity of human emotions and affect, decode the decision-making process and nudge towards new behaviours.

Sunita Bhabra, Research Director, Walnut Unlimited

Dr. Nick Gadsby, Founder & Principal, The Answer: Strategic Semiotics and Cultural Analysis
Andreea Tarasescu, Research Director and Behavioural Science Lead, Walnut Unlimited
Ameline Jean, Head of Insight, Save the Children


11.50 The importance of identity and context: unstereotyping at Unilever

2020 reinforced the need for brands to be more inclusive than ever before, and Unilever wanted to extend its understanding of how to champion inclusiveness and diversity. In this conversation, Quantum and Unilever will discuss how a framework was created for guiding best practice in avoiding stereotypes and tokenistic portrayals across brands and advertisements. Hear how semiotics and cultural insight were harnessed to examine existing stereotypes and to define what good representation looks like, in order to craft the next wave of action in inclusivity & representation.

Siddarth Kanoria, Partner, Quantum

In conversation with…

Laurie Sommer, Global Brand Engagement Senior Manager CMI, Unilever


12.20 9 lessons from a semiotics first-timer

Furniture retailer HSL, had never heard of semiotics before embarking on a three-part brand development project with Practical Semiotics which included an analysis of their brand, competitive analysis and a cultural deep dive into the emergent meanings around ‘comfort’. This case study will share the project journey and highlight the ‘first timer’s lessons’ learnt by the brand and its marketers. It will show how semiotics has impacted the core thinking for current brand development, influencing everything from web to products to store design.

Rob Thomas, Director, Practical Semiotics
Venessa Hodgson, Group Marketing Director, HSL

12.50 Lunch


13.30 Panel: New & breakthrough applications of semiotics & cultural understanding

Since the early 2000’s semiotics and cultural insight has been increasingly used to inform far more than brand communications. Semiotics is also being used as a hybrid methodology, one which interfaces with sensory testing, behavioural analysis, data analytics, ethnographic approaches, speculative design methodologies and more. This panel discussion will explore successful examples of interfacing semiotics with other methodologies in new or break-through ways. In particular it will focus on how semiotics has been used to tackle novel business challenges that go well beyond communications development. 

Cato Hunt, Director, Space Doctors


J Paul Neeley, Service Designer & Speculative Designer, Neeley Worldwide
Colin Mair, Head of Horizon Scanning, Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (formerly, Head of Innovation, Insight & Technology, Heathrow)
Mariline Alsuar-Dean, Sexual Wellbeing Global Consumer Insights Lead, Reckitt


14.00 Avoiding the stereotype trap: decoding media content to create more nuanced portrayal 
Influenced by socio-cultural events, authentic representation has increasingly become a priority for brands and content creators. This case study will explore how the BBC sought to identify nuanced cultural codes and best-in-class examples of portrayal in media content. Working with Ipsos, they applied semiotics to decode contemporary culture and uncover how different audiences are portrayed in the media. Hear about the semiotic approach designed by Ipsos to tackle such a complex issue and how its results are informing decision-making within content creation across BBC Teams.

Lamberto Ferrara, Semiotic & Cultural Strategist, Ipsos
Lauren Eriser, Research & Insight Specialist, BBC


14.30 Break


14.50 A methodologically agnostic approach to segmentations: how advanced analytics, quant and semiotics work together to deliver the ‘how many’ and the ‘why’

 When Sky created a TV viewing segmentation, as well as requiring robust numbers and analytics, they also wanted to explore TV-show key art imagery to provide creative direction for future Sky shows. This session will examine how a blended methodology, including a large-scale survey and semiotic analysis, fed into Sky’s segmentation. The segmentation informed show imagery, messaging and marketing campaigns, boosting brand metrics.

Ed Nash, Qualitative Research Lead | Consumer Strategy, Sky
James Morgan, Research Analytics Lead | Consumer Strategy, Sky


15.20 Applying semiotics to Co-op’s business challenges

Co-op and Sign Salad have partnered on a number of projects, over an 8 year period and across all of Co-op’s business divisions. This wide-ranging conversation would bring to life the role that cultural insight and semiotics has played in helping Co-op resolve various strategic and tactical challenges, at both a master-brand and sub-brand level.  It will reveal the powerful impact of semiotics across an entire business, and demonstrate how partnerships between marketing teams and cultural insight agencies are increasingly vital for successful 21st century businesses.

Alex Gordon, CEO & Founder, Sign Salad

In conversation with…

Matt Walker, Customer & Member Research Manager, Co-op

15.50 Closing comments from the Chair

16.00 End of conference

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