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Marketing Semiotics


Heilbrunn B.

Docente titolare del corso



The course aims at developing an understanding of the fundamental role of semiotic codes in fashion and design companies and the way they relate to them. After an introduction into the foundations and definitions of semiotics, the studies on the boundaries of marketing and semiotics are presented. The course analyzes how fashion and design companies can use the system of codes in their favor and create ways of communicating that allows them to connect to customers’ perceptions and increase their understanding of a brand’s values. The main output of this course is to understand how brand may create and communicate meaning to their customers. After completing this course, students should be able to undertake a semiotic analysis of a fashion brand and of communication campaigns. On all levels of corporate repositioning activities, issues of semiotic codes have to be taken into consideration.

This Course aims at:

  • To understand the basic principles of semiotics as well as semiotic thinking
  • To examine the role of semiotics in the fashion and design system
  • To take advantage of the variety of students’ backgrounds and experiences


The Course is organized as follows:

PART I. Foundations of semiotics applied to markets

Class 1 Semiotics and structuralism

Class 2 The semiotics square and the axiological level

Class 3 Application to marketing issues


PART II. The narratological approach to products and brands

Class 4 The narrative scheme

Class 5 Storymaking and story staging

Class 6 The study of marketing images


Participants will be evaluated on
(1) Individual participation and workshops (30%)
(2) A final exam (70%)

Jean-Jacques Boutaud, « Sensory Analysis: Towards the Semiotics of Taste », Advances in Consumer Research, 1999, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p337-340.
Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1976.
Jean Marie Floch, Semiotics, Marketing and Communication: Beneath the Signs, the Strategies, translated by Robin Orr Bodkin, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Jean-Marie Floch, Visual identities, London, Continuum, 2000.
Benoît Heilbrunn, Market mediations, London, Palgrave Mc Milan, 2016.
Douglas Holt, Douglas, How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, University of Chicag Press, 1968.
Winfried Nöth, Handbook of semiotics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990.
Christian Pinson (ed.), Semiotics and Marketing Communication Research, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 4, 3&4 (double issue); 1988.
Jonathan Schroeder and Myriam Salzer-Mörling (eds.), Brand Culture. Routledge, London, 2006.
Jonathan Schroeder, Visual Consumption, Routledge, London, 2002.
Jean Umiker-Sebeok, Marketing and semiotics: Selected papers from the Copenhagen symposium (Studies from the Marketing Institute), Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1987.

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