An abstract set of feelings and impressions shared by a large group of consumers. We are so used to the idea of the brand that we rarely define what we mean by it. Think of it as a kind of collective mind-space.


Sum of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Brands make connections with culture in complex yet subtle ways; they can both resonate powerfully against culture, and fall out of step with culture.


Way of talking. Often brands automatically adopt the same way of talking as the category around them rather than finding a unique voice.

Sign, Code, Text

Units, or sets of units of communication in any form: a word, an image, even a smell or a taste.

Signifier & Signified

What a thing is (signified, often the product) and how it communicates (signifiers, often the brand) – the link between the two is said to be ‘arbitrary’.


A story or narrative with an underlying structure recognisable across cultures. Myths were used by primitive people to help them negotiate a problem or resolve a dilemma.


Primordial mental image or recurrent symbol (usually in the form of a deity). Robert Graves said that these were ‘good to think with’.


The way that a group of people or a culture likes to think of itself, or a collective aspiration.

Deconstruct / Reconstruct

A fancy way of saying ‘pull apart and put back together again’.


A psychoanalytical term closely associated with the work of Freud. Brands can forget or actively bury elements of their personalities that they find difficult to express at a certain time, or within a particular culture.

Residual, dominant, emergent

The old way of doing things, the current and generally accepted way of doing things, and new and still-forming ways of doing things.