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23 Sep 2022 -

Originating within the social sciences, semiotics is increasingly finding its way into the commercial world. By understanding existing and emerging cultural codes of a target group, companies can innovate in a more targeted manner. That’s how we use semiotics at Beautiful Lives.

What is semiotics?

Semiotics can be described as understanding the way in which ‘signs and symbols’ acquire meaning in daily life. Through this, we map out codes of target groups, categories and brands in a systematic way. For example, think of the use of words, visual language, symbols, colors and shapes. With the abundance of codes on online (social) media, it means that today semiotics is a rich way to understand and interpret the world around us and developments within it.

We do not only look at the most common ‘signs and symbols’, but also look for emerging codes that can provide inspiration and direction for innovation.

How we use semiotics

A semiotic approach, like any research challenge, requires a clear definition of the theme or category. Once that is clear, we determine which related themes/categories are interesting to analyze.

Let’s take candy as an example. If we want to know which emerging codes can become relevant within candy for an innovation issue, we also analyze language use, colour, shape and structure of categories such as ice cream, biscuits and perhaps less obvious categories such as beauty and fashion.

With the help of our BL*AI tool, we explore these themes in the online and social media and discover dominant (current) patterns and see which emerging patterns become visible. We indicate what significance they could have for the issue we are working on and on that basis, for example, we develop directions for innovation.

Practical examples

Semiotics can be used in countless ways. We often combine the insights with qualitative research, mostly with a dialogue with the target group. In this way, the findings from the semiotics research are embedded.

For GNT, a developer of natural color solutions for the food industry, semiotics was used to investigate the power of color. Color has a lot of influence on what consumers expect from a product. There are cultural codes associated with colors, which can be used effectively for product design. In this way, GNT can strike the right chord with the intended target groups now and in the future.

As a basis for an Ideation project for a Swiss client, we looked at the way in which images of women today influence the image of motherhood in the future.


There are so many possibilities with semiotics. Are you curious what this could mean for your company? Send us a message, we are happy to think along with you!


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