The Value of Signs in Brand Strategy
Authors of Super Signs, the infamous Hua Brothers, share insight into the value of signs in brand strategy and how they can influence customers to purchase your products.
“What is communication? Communication is the giving and receiving of information and feedback through meaningful signs, whether between people or between people and society.
Communication is a process in which signs are encoded and given to the receiver for decoding. The goal of marketing communication is to influence the thoughts and actions of consumers so that they purchase your product.
If you want to persuade consumers to buy your product, you’ll need a sign to represent the product. This is the first function of signs – representation.
The representation of being a sign can be very simple. For example, the word ‘dog’ is a sign that represents a kind of animal. However, a sign can also efficiently represent an enormous amount of information in high condensed form. This is the second function of signs – condensation of information. Take the mathematical equation 1+1=2, ‘+’, ‘=’ and 2 are all signs. Without these signs, we might be fine with a simple equation like one plus one equals two. Yet, something like three thousand eight hundred and fifty-two multiplied by fifty-eight thousand three hundred and twenty would be much more troublesome.
Think back on those math, physics and chemistry formulas you learned back in high school. There would be no system of science without signs. Of course, we wouldn’t even have language without linguistics signs.
Greetings, rituals, games, literature, art, myth – all of these are comprised of signs. Military salutes, Boy Scout salutes, a blown kiss, a thumbs-up, a raised middle finger – all of these are signs as well. When you raise your index finger, put it to your lips and say ‘shh!’ this is also a sign – a sign for quiet.
The Nazi salute, given by a hundred thousand people at once, is a sign with formidable and terrifying power. A single motion to unify the will of an empire, to suppress opposition and to bring about a genocide. Hitler’s Germany was an empire of signs. In Hitler’s monstrous hands, the terrible and violent power of signs came to its apex.
The third function of signs is to convey direction. A sign is an order.
We are accustomed from childhood to rely on signs telling us what to do. Zebra-stripe lines painted on pavement tell us where to cross the street. Stoplights protect us from being hit by cars when we cross. The signs on public restrooms tell us which door to go in.
Because you know what signs mean, you know what button to press when someone calls your mobile phone. if you showed your phone to a two-year-old bot, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. One day, his father will tell him that tapping the green button will pick up the call. And when that happens, you’ll find him fascinated – every time the phone rings, he’ll want to be the one to tap the green button.
A child might not be able to reach the buttons in an elevator. But the moment they discover that they can push those buttons to tell the elevator where to go, they’ll become obsessed. Every time they’re in the elevator they’ll want to be the one to push the button. They might not even want to leave the elevator. They’ll be perfectly content going down to the first floor, up to the ninth, back down to the first, and then up to the eighth. The elevator never makes a mistake, the kid discovers: push the button for the ninth floor, and the elevator door will open on the ninth floor. Push the button for the eight floors, and the door will open on the eighth, never the ninth.
And so the child slowly learns how to use signs, how to obey signs, and how to work with signs to control themselves and the world.
Signs are immensely powerful. They affect how people think and influence how people act. People obey the directions and orders given by signs. ‘Stop on red, go on the green’ is an example of people obeying signs. Apple founder Steve Jobs used the same concept to design the user interface on his computers: the red button closes a window, the green button maximises it.
In the above discussion, we saw that signs can convey an enormous amount of information. The third function of signs: to direct action.
All three of these functions are precisely what is needed in marketing communication. This is what makes signs so valuable in your brand strategy.
After the above discussion, it should be easier to understand why we say that to establish a brand is to establish a sign. When we’re building a brand., we want to find a sign to represent us; to express our brand value in a condensed way; to influence consumer opinions – so that they like us – and their actions – so that they buy our products and recommend them to others.
The action is something that needs to be emphasized here. The ultimate goal of everything in action. The basic pattern of communication is that of stimulation and reaction. A sign is a form of stimulation, but we need a reaction on the part of the audience as well. if you don’t get the reaction, that means your stimulation was ineffective.”
About the Hua Brothers
The Hua Brothers are amongst China’s leading branding the strategy consultants. In this book, learn how to leverage the power of super signs and create exceptional brands.
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