Semiotics is a well-established market method in Europe but it is North America’s loss that it is considerably less well known on this side of the pond. As a North American practitioner of this invaluable approach, hosting this continent’s first Semiofest in Toronto this past July was a real passion project for me.
Semiofest is the world’s only conference of applied semiotics and is a showcase for how Semiotic Analysis can help companies position brands, assist in new product development, strengthen brand communications and so much more. In hosting North America’s first Semiofest, the hosting team’s objectives were three-fold. 1. Use the conference to raise awareness of Semiotics amongst market researchers over here. 2. Engage the still-nascent North American Semiotics community (and show off some of their talent). 3. Re-create the unique conviviality that has fostered fantastic work partnerships and even friendships, all while showing off my fabulously diverse, cosmopolitan and lively city.
It was thrilling to see these objectives realized. Market researchers from across North America came to learn about this intriguing new method and consider how it might benefit their clients. Some of North America’s most illustrious Semioticians were keynotes including Professor Marcel Danesi, author of many influential books including Why It Sells: Decoding the Meanings of Brand Names, Logos, Ads, an
d Other Marketing and Advertising Ploys, and Laura Oswald, author of Marketing Semiotics: Signs, Strategies, and Brand Value. And, as always, it was amazing to watch the incredibly smart and nice delegates from across the globe having great conversations and making real connections.
In homage to my hometown’s most famous public intellectual, Marshall McLuhan, the conference theme was: “Media, messages, and meanings: Semiotics, form and content”. And the conference program featured a wide-ranging set of papers exploring how Semiotics can be used in every medium from packaging to internal business processes. Here’s just a few of the papers that stood out (I wish I had room for more):
Where the Digital Meets the Cultural Unconscious”
As pragmatic North Americans, we also featured a triangulation workshop led by
ABM’s Charles Leech where Semiotic analysis was compared with the reactions of actual consumers to demonstrate the need for real world relevance, and a panel of clients who shared their thoughts on how to make Semiotics invaluable to corporations.
And, last but not least, we had a fabulous party featuring Marcel Danesi’s Semiotones, the world’s only Semiotically-inspired band, and, my pride and joy, a King Kong meets Godzilla CN Tower cake, to celebrate the birthday of the legendary Gabriela Pedranti of Semiotica Studio!
If you haven’t been to a Semiofest conference… you should go! Check out this video for more inspiration!