BSL is a commercial semiotic consultancy. Our approach is semiotics applied to branding – brand strategy inflected by semiotics – not a pure academic product. There is no point over-intellectualising: leave that to the academics.

Semiotics is at its best when it starts from an intuition, or a problem. Something that just isn’t connecting, or a long-term failure to solve a particular challenge. Like qualitative research, there is no point doing semiotics for the sake of it

Semiotics isn’t colour theory. Colours don’t have universal signification, and their meaning depends both on context and how they are deployed.

The Residual –Dominant-Emergent model is only so useful: most categories endlessly re-cast the same story. There is no point breaking up a simple, single story into 15 or more ‘codes’. Much emergent material is likely to remain insignificant for many brands. Brands often just need consolidating around a single story.

Archetypes are useful, as shapes to ‘think with’. Beware of 12-part archetype models masquerading as semiotics.

Semiotics is not just research: it was developed as a means of critiquing hidden power structures. Expect to be challenged.