Crack and break your target audience’s codes

By cracking the cultural codes of your target group, you can work much more effectively on great customer centric innovations! And if you also manage to break those codes, you can even entice your target group to look at your product in a completely different way. This is how you give new meaning to your brand or category with semiotics.

Crack and break your target audience’s codes

Once originated within the social sciences, semiotics is increasingly finding its way into the business world. Semiotics examines the signs and symbols, the cultural codes, that people use in everyday life, and the meaning they give to those codes. Think of word usage, imagery and symbols, as well as colours and shapes, for example.

The flood of codes on online (social) media makes semiotics a great way to better interpret the world around us and developments within it. At Beautiful Lives, we regularly use semiotics to dive deeper into the target audience. What topics keep your target group busy? And what codes do they use in their communication about your product category?

Our approach – how we use semiotics

Beautiful Lives systematically maps out the relevant codes. What new words, images and symbols does your target group use to communicate about sustainability, convenience, or health, for example?

BL*AI tool

With the help of AI tooling we search for codes online, especially on social media. For example, we look on TikTok, follow influencers and check the right hashtags to see how people communicate about a topic.

In doing so, we don’t just look at the dominant “signs and symbols,” the codes people use most often now. Instead, we also look for the codes that are emerging. Based on that, we can develop several innovation options for you.

Cocktails in the afternoon

As with any research, a semiotic approach first requires a clear delineation of the topic or product category. Then we determine which related topics and/or categories might also be interesting to analyse.

Suppose you want to innovate within the cocktail product category. It is then a good idea to learn from emerging codes within categories such as beer and spirits. But it can also work very well to include product categories that are less obvious, such as lifestyle and fashion.

In that case, we see a nice shift in perception in the cocktails category. Yes, cocktails are still seen as a drink for a special night out. Words like festive, luxurious and upper-class still came up a lot. But partly due to the rise of the non-alcoholic mocktail, we also see a clear trend towards a cocktail as a nice drink you can have whenever and wherever you want. Even in the afternoon on a sunny terrace. There are now even cans of pre-mixed cocktails on the market!

Examples from the practice

Semiotics can be used in countless ways. We often combine the insights with qualitative research, in which we enter into conversation with the target group. In this way, the findings from the semiotics research are embedded.

A few examples from our practice.

The power of colour

For GNT, which develops natural colour solutions for the food industry, we used semiotics to investigate the power of colour. Colour has a lot of influence on what consumers expect from a product. There are cultural codes associated with colours, and you can use that very effectively in product design and packaging design. By cracking the right codes, GNT can strike the right chord with its intended audiences now and in the future.


For an innovation project, a client wanted to know more about the image of motherhood in the near future. By looking at codes in current pop culture, fashion and product categories that specifically target women, we learned that today’s young women have a different perspective on gender equality than a while ago. Young women now see themselves as different, as beings with a “superpower. Seen in this light, bringing a child into the world is increasingly becoming a powerful thing. Our client can now respond to that much better.

Want to know more?

A lot is possible with semiotics. Wondering what we can do for you?

Send us a message. We are happy to think along with you.