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COP3 - Secondary Research- The objects of Affection / Semiotics and Consumer Culture

"The objects of Affection / Semiotics and Consumer Culture

In this book, preeminent semiotician Arthur Asa Berger decodes the meanings of common objects of consumption and their perceived “sacredness” in consumerist cultures. Using semiotic theory, consumer culture is dissected in new and fascinating ways. The first part of the book introduces semiotic theory and its key theorists and practitioners. The second part applies semiotic theory to interpret advertising, marketing, and branding. With levity and precision, Berger leads students to think critically about our lives and the menu of lifestyles promoted by corporations that profit from branded consumption.


Semiotics : The Science of Signs

Page 14


"Symbols are a complicated matter...symbols are never completely arbitrary, suggesting that there is usually some kind of bond between symbolic signifiers and what they signify."

"Semiotically speaking, symbols are things with important historical and cultural meanings, such as the cross for Christians, the Star of David for the Jews, and the American Flag for Americans. These symbols are ties to history and play important roles in every society." 

"Fron the point of view of any in particular individual, such symbols are largely given. He finds them already current in the community in which he is born and they remain, with some additions, subtractions, and partial alterations he may or may not have had a hand in, in circulation he dies."

"Geertz argues that we learn the meaning of symbols as we grow up in certain culture or subculture and that the symbols importance is enhanced by historical events and other happenings in that culture. Symbols help us make sense of things and play an important role in shaping our behaviour in many areas: religion (the cross), nationalism (the flag), status (the kind of car we drive). 

Denotation & Connotation 

Page 15

"Denotation involves a literal and detailed description of the meaning of a word or the measurements of objects. Connotation, on the other hand, involves the cultural meanings and myths connected to words and to things."

Page 16 & 17

Metapohor & Metonymy 

"Metaphor : My love is a rose 
Simile : My love is like a rose"

"Metaphors, as it turns out, are an important part of our thinking...We have found...that a metaphor is persuasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphoric in nature... They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people."

"Metaphors, then, play an important role in determining the way we perceive the world and act in it because our concepts govern the way we behave...through analogies, including comparisons and contrasts, that we make sense of the world." 

Page 18

an Example of a metaphor is lifestyle is...

If you want to know what goat meat tastes like, you can ask someone who has eaten goat and if he or she says "it tastes a lot like chicken", you have a pretty good idea of what goat meat tastes like.

"Becasue they provide shortcuts to generating information, advertisers use metaphor and meonymy a great deal. Metaphor allows advertisers to convey information very quickly, and metonymy allows advertisers to use information sotred in our brains, in the form of codes, for their particular purposes...These can also be expressed in images in advertisments and commericals, which means they often have a powerful emotional impact on us."

Page 23 / 24


"What we call culture can be seen as a collection of codes that tell us what to eat, how to dress, and how to relate to others... most of these codes are imprinted on children as they grow up in a family in a region of some country."

Good quote on how most of these semiotic codes are implanted on children at a young age as they grow up in society. This happens through Mcdonalds in our age and it's what happened also with Hitler Youth. 

"If the codes we learn when we are children so, in fact, shape our beaviour in profound ways, we can understand Freud's suggestion that "the child is the father of the man." He meant it psychologically, but we can also suggest it applies to our national cultures."

Bringing Freud's theory into it slightly on how children are effect behaviourally from early symbols and signs. 

Page 25

"Codes shape our behaviour as individuals and as members of groups,societies, nations and cultures. "

"The important thing to recognise about codes is that they pervade our lives.; you can think of them as culturally specific rule books that we have internalized that tell us how to make sense of the world and how to behave in all different situations that we find ourselves in. Codes affect everything from how we think about cheese, what we wear, what we find suitable for eating, how we raise children, what gestures we use and how we look at other people, to how we are buried after we die."

Another great quote on how these codes control our life and how we think about everything!

Marketing Theory and Semiotics

Page 56

"Todays marketing isn't simply a business function . It's a philosophy, a way of thinking and a way of structuring your business and your mind. Marketing is more than a new ad campaign or this months promotion. Marketing is part of everyones job, from the receptionist to the board of directors."

Good quote on how in depth marketing is in this day and age. The mundane details are controlled some might say, like that of what Hitler said - could link it to this?

Brands and Identity : We Are Our Brands

Page 75

"A brand name, term, sign, symbol, design, or combination of these elements that is intended to identify the goods and services of a seller and differentiate them from these competitors. A Brand name is he part of the brand that can be vocalised.... A brand mark is the part of the brand that can be recognised but is not utterable, such as a symbol, design or distinctive colouring or lettering....A trademark is a brand or part of the brand that is given legal protection;it protects the sellers exclusive rights to the use the brand name or brand mark."

Semiotics & Brands

Page 78

"From a semiotic perspective, brands are signifiers (often in the form of icons) companies use to establish their idenitites. Brands generate ideas and notions we have, generally provided by advertising by also by word of mouth, about the qualities of certain products and, by implication, the way they differ from competing products. "

"the opposite of a brand is a generic product or one that has become a commodity."

Page 79

The essence of branding lies in the claims a product have to being distinctive and having special attributes not found in competing products....Some products are integrated into films and television programs, a practice known as product placement. The products pay to be shown in these texts, so product placements can be considered a form of advertising."

Another great quote on PRODUCT PLACEMENT. This can be linked to the way Hitler used product placement in his own way, to make sure that branding visual scheme of the Nazi party was seen everywhere all across Germany. He didn't have to pay for it, but in a sense, it's the same sort of concept. 

"Non branded products son't advertise as a rule and are purchased on the basis of their functionality;they are, sociologically speaking, functional alternatives to branded products."

Page 80

"Brands are everywhere: in the air, on the high street, in the kitchen, on television and, maybe on your feet. But what kinds of things are they? .... The brand, a medium of exchange between company and consumer, has become one of the key cultural forces of our time and one of the most important vehicles of globalisation. "

The Objects of Our Affection

Page 116/117

"Behind every object there are usually teams of artists, designers, engineers and others who are responsible for bringing the object into existence, whether it's an MP3 player, a pair of running shoes, or a package of cereal. "

Page 129

The "Evangelical" Hamburger.

"McDonald's offers the hamburger without qualities for the man without qualities. It must be seen as more than a gaudy. vulgar oasis of tasteless ground meat, a fountain of sweet, syrupy malted milks in a big parking lots that caters to insolvent students, snack seekers, and hard-up hungers who grid it's bloody gristle through their choppers at fifteen cents a shot. No! McDonalds is not just a hamburger is America, or, rather, it is the supreme triumph of all that is insane in American life."

AMAZING QUOTE! about Mcdonalds and the shit it serves! 

"But we purchase our McDonald's hamburger at great cost. We cannot have it rare or well done, we cannot have it without "the works" for that would destroy the genius of the McDonalds hamburger. No! WE get the great national hamburger---prepared to hamburgize the masses---which forces us to sacrifice our individuality, our gastronomic identity, for a few pennies. Instead of a hamburger being prepared for our tastes, we are forces to adapt ourselves to it; we must become, so to speak, moulded to its taste. The triumph of McDonalism is the death of Individualism and the easting of a Mcdonalds hamburger is the next thing to a death wish.

A Mcdonalds hamburger reminds you how very mortal you are, how you too will be thrown away someday in the moral equivalent of a paper bag."

ANOTHER AMAZING QUOTE. This time it talks about how the hamburger is never changed and we have to adapt our taste to it. Indivisuality is lost in Mcdonalds, there is no choice or freedom and this very much relates to how Hitler took individuality away from the German masses and certainly away from the Jews. 

Page 130

"I saw a small white building with huge arches and an electronic sign, full of rapidly rising numbers, indicating the number of people who had eaten McDonald's hamburgers. It struck me that the arches had a religious significance to them and the electronic sign indicated that people who ate a Mcdonald's hamburger were members of a community, or, even stronger, a congregation. And the way one ordered a hamburger seemed very structured or, in effect, a ritual. The fifteen cents could be constructed as an offering to the new religion."

GREAT QUOTE. referring Mcdonalds to a cult in some ways. 

"In 1999 there was one fast food restaraunt for every 196 households in the United States."

Page 131

"Mcdonalds in China is making 'steamy' print advertisements and even steamier television commercials linking beef to manliness, luxuriousness, and sexiness"

"There seems to be good reason to suspect the growth of these fast food restaraunts, with their fat-filled products, have contributed in some measure to the epidemic of obesity in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Obesity now is a problem in China, India, and many other third world countries."

"I can recall hearing a news program recently in which a doctor pointed out that because of all the fast food they eat, the vein and arteries of many adolescents now are similar to those of people in their fifties and sixties."

"So there are major social, political, and economic considerations tied to every bite a person takes of a Mcdonald's a hamburger."

Comments on Mcdonalds, Advertising and Obesity. 

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