Meanings in Time (Introduction to Semiotics Part 5)

May 31 2012 Published by neilgains under semiotics

The times they are a changin’

I’ve been busily preparing myself for the new James Bond film later this year, by spending each weekend rewatching one of the films (in order). What has struck me most while watching them is how the portrayal of the central character and his relationships to others (especially women) has changed over time, despite the consistency in the plot structures (which is where I left off in the last article). Read more »

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Signs that Matter (Introduction to Semiotics Part 2)

May 14 2012 Published by neilgains under semiotics

“Consumers shop for meaning, not stuff”

Identity matters

The world is full of signs, and our brains constantly use mental shortcuts to simplify and manage the world in all its complexity. Many of these shortcuts are triggered by the signs we see around us in the world as we use our knowledge and experience  to create mental impressions of new experiences. For brands, these interpretations are heavily influenced  by how we perceive category and product identities (characteristics) and once established such identities are hard to disrupt. Read more »

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Asking Questions Without Asking The Question

Apr 20 2012 Published by neilgains under market research

Curiosity has it’s own reasons (Einstein)

The lifeblood of market research is curiosity and curiosity is a great thing in all aspects of life (as Einstein said so eloquently on several occasions). Market researchers are very adept (and trained) to ask lots of questions, but I think we ask far too many and should ask far fewer and be smarter in the way we design research in order to do that. Let me be clear from the start. Asking questions in market research is very often at best a waste of time, and at worst positively misleading. Read more »

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Big Data, Big Changes?

Apr 09 2012 Published by neilgains under market research

What will the entry of Google into market research mean for the industry?

Google Consumer Surveys is a deceptively simple product. Limited questions, simple (and low) pricing, and the promise of focused customer feedback. Other DIY tools such as Survey Monkey (which I use regularly), have not yet gained strong traction, perhaps because they lack the access to consumers that is an important part of an agency’s service. Read more »

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Signs of Making Meaning

Dec 13 2011 Published by neilgains under semiotics

Making meaning

We are a peculiar species. For example, many of us continue to risk our long term survival for the pleasure of puffing on a stick of nicotine, while others make it very difficult to walk by wearing uncomfortable high heel footwear. Read more »

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Plotting the Universal Story

Dec 06 2011 Published by neilgains under storytelling

A universal story

Although there are seven basic plots which have been the basis of storytelling for thousands of years (even if there have been some developments in recent years), the plots share many common trait. All the plots can ultimately be summarised as a single universal story, and share many common features such as a tension between light and dark and masculine and feminine, use of archetypal symbols, patterns and personalities, and an overarching theme of self realisation in their narrative structure and elements. Read more »

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Rebirth (Plot #7)

Oct 30 2011 Published by neilgains under storytelling

Born again

The plot of rebirth is one of the oldest of all, seen in many of the fairy tales that are part of our childhood and mirroring the very act of growing up and being reborn as an adult after years in childhood. Read more »

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Tragedy (Plot #6)

Oct 25 2011 Published by neilgains under storytelling

mask of Dionysus

The unfolding Greek tragedy

As events unfold in Europe this week, there is a sense of inevitably that they will end in further pain and suffering in Greece (and many other countries). I suspect they may only resolve themselves fully when there has been a full catharsis (literally a ‘dramatic cleansing’) for the main characters and countries involved. Read more »

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Voyage and Return (Plot #4)

Sep 20 2011 Published by neilgains under storytelling

Into another world

My favourite film of last year was Inception (you can read about marketing inception here and the psychology of inception here). For those who haven’t seen it yet (and please do if you haven’t), the plot involves the main character played by Leonardo di Caprio entering someone’s dream world with a team of helpers in order to plant an idea in the dreamer’s mind. As with similar ‘Voyage and return’ plots, Leonardo’s character starts the movie with a shadow (his wife’s suicide) hanging over him, restricting his mental world and opening him to the potential of a voyage into the unknown (with the promise of a return to his home). He finally returns home after  a strange and dangerous voyage of discovery, a changed man. Read more »

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The Quest (Plot #3)

Sep 14 2011 Published by neilgains under storytelling

The quest for the original plot

Writers such as Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee have identified the Quest (or variants of it) as the single original plot. The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey (and the Aeneid) all follow the outline of the Quest plot and are two of the oldest and greatest stories we know. Although only one of the seven plots outlined by Christopher Booker, it is an important one which appears frequently, sometimes combined with other plot structures, and often as a framing device for multiple individual stories which follow other structures. Read more »

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