Combining semiotic perspectives in consumer research

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure




Ogilvie, M., & Mizerski, K. (2009). Combining semiotic perspectives in consumer research. In Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies: ECRM (p. 244). Academic Conferences Limited.


In recent years semiotics has been used to examine consumer research on a range of issues including fashion, advertising, everyday possessions and entertainment and is re-emerging as a useful framework to examine issues of symbolism and meaning. This paper introduces a new method through which to study consumer phenomena by combining two different semiotic philosophies. The paper proposes that by using this technique the researcher can gain greater insights into the communication aspect, as well as the experiential perspective of the sign under study. Using cosmetics as the vehicle to test the methodology, this study explores the semiotics of visible face make-up in Australian Caucasian women. It aims to understand why women wear makeup and how they experience the sign of makeup and appearance in everyday life? The study comprises of two phases where the initial phase adopts a communication model extended from Saussurean semiotics; while the second phase employs a triadic semiotic philosophy as proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce. Results indicate that by combining two semiotic perspectives within the one study, the researcher is able to gain greater depth and understanding of the phenomenon. The managerial implications are that this provides the marketer with more insight into the consumption behaviours of individuals from a communication as well as an experiential perspective. This means greater depth of understanding of how the consumer interacts and experiences brands and products, thereby allowing marketers and business managers more strategic and focused communication with their target market. This approach also provides useful information to understand symbolic consumption by consumers and enables the marketer to predict trends and the direction of cultural paradigms. It is therefore a useful tool in developing brand positioning or new product development.

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