The CEO of any enterprise will no doubt ask themselves the question “who am I delegating responsibility for my organisation’s marketing to?” Like kings and leaders through the ages they are sometimes drawn to mystics who profess powers of understanding and influence. There is a type of marketing professional that might be described as The Sorcerer’s Saussurer’s Apprentice.
Their platform of managerial knowledge and experience is the study of signs and their meaning. Semiotics. This field of knowledge is interested in ‘The Sign’ and ‘The Signifier’. The Symbol and its Meaning. It is grounded in philosophy’s Linguistic Turn, and the evolution of post modern thinking about the nature of world and how we understand it. Rich territory for a Brand expert. After all that’s what Brand means isn’t it? A sign.
Knowledge from the arcane world of Semiology underpins communications studies and in its turn (sic) this knowledge underpins marketing communications management. For people unfamiliar in its workings, semiotics is a beguiling subject that offers an explanation of how and why people respond to communciation. It is a short step from explanation to normative prescription. From this is what seems to be happening to this it what you should do.
The Saussurer’s Apprentice knowing there is a difference between Brand Sign and Brand Meaning offers the magic of being able to change the meaning of any sign. S/he will Re-present re-position the image and language associated with your brand. With special incantations (more commonly known as straplines) and mystical symbology (more commonly known as a brand identity) the Saussuer’s Apprentice will give reassurance where there is fear and uncertainty and after all we all know that fear sells.
I fear my competitors. I fear my loss of revenue. I fear my inability to compete. Miller Heimann call this ‘being in trouble’, and being in trouble is a mind set that is open to a sales pitch. The charlatan smells trouble. S/he recognises and seeks out the ignorance of others because s/he can be sure that there will be no critical thinking and probing of ideas. S/he is skilled at seeking out the fears of the powerful because they need new ways to control an uncertain destiny.
“Once upon a time in the Land of Aitchtoo-Oh the ruler was becoming worried, he wanted an heir to the throne but no one wanted to marry his daughter the princess. She was known throughout the world as the Ugly Princess. In the eyes of the King his daughter was a symbol of beauty, the prettiest and most attractive person in the world. This is not what his subjects thought, and there wasn’t a Prince in the world who could bring themselves to ask the King for her hand in marriage. An uncomfortable reality was beginning to dawn on the king. His daughter was nothing like the beauty he believed her to be.
One day the King heard of a Sorcerer who was travelling the land. He came to to King and told him that he was wise in the ways of the mind and that he had a magic spell that would make his daughter irresistable to anyone who saw her. “I will pay you handsomly” said the King. The Sorcerer cast his spell. The Kings daughter became known as the Princess of Magical Dihydrogen Monoxide Land. “We need to get rid of any association with Aitchtoo-Oh” he explained. “A fresh start requries a fresh name, something that conjures up mystery, a sense of the unknown. A new name a new beginning.” The sign had been re-signified. Anyone who saw her would fall instantly in love with her beauty and charm. The problem was solved. A Prince from the faraway kingdom of Adland married her and they were all about to live happily ever after (as people always do in Adland) when the spell wore off. The Prince saw that he had married the ugliest princess in the world and was very upset. The Sorcerer hadn’t told the King the spell wouldn’t last. Furious at being made to look a fool the king sent his soldiers looking for the Sorcerer and they never found him. He had simply disappeared in a puff of hot air.”