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Towards a model of multimodal rhetorical semiotics for sustainable management of sources of brand equity

by George Rossolatos


Overview of the research project

The principal aim of this project consists in the construction of an innovative model of rhetorical semiotics as a formal metalanguage in the form of a transformative grammar with view to addressing a crucial gap in the existing consumer and advertising research literature (and ma rketing/advertising practice alike) concerning how advertising stimuli may be selected, how they may be transformed into brand elements and how brand elements may be transformed into brand associations as sustainable sources of brand equity. The research project is situated in the wider area of interpretive marketing research, as delineated by E.Hirschman and M.Holbrook, while, more particularly, drawing on the disciplines of theoretical and applied semiotics, rhetoric, consumer research, branding and brand equity, advertising planning, advertising effectiveness and cultural studies. The research is concerned with demonstrating the usefulness of a systematic theoretical and practical approach through the import of semiotics and rhetoric to the construction and ongoing management of brand associations as sources of sustainable brand equity by offering a stepwise advertising planning model that links the macro aspect of consumer culture (in terms of cultural codes) with the micro aspect concerning the modaliti s e whereby cultural codes may be inscribed in advertising stimuli / advertising texts and crystallize into brand elements and brand associations through the transformative power of rhetoric , semiotics and stylistics. The key point of differentiation and at the same time major opportunity gap of the proposed project versus the existing literature in brand semiotics (also including deconstructive readings of advertisements), advertising effectiveness and brand equity consists in its focus in the coding, rat er h than decoding process of advertising texts. Whereas the largest portion of research in brand equity, as will be illustrated in ensuing section, is concerned with outcomes of the brand equity building process (ie perceived brand image dimensions, such as heritage, affinity, and individual image attributes, such as innovative brand, with a diverse portfolio, price sensitivity and the production of utility factors that are reflective of brands relative standing in equity terms) and the largest part of the advertising effectiveness literature is concerned with reading backwards ex post facto the impact of generic categories of ad texts structural elements, such as plot, music, characters, colors in the light of salient effectiveness variables (recall, likeability, differentiation, credibility etc.), as well as the depth of processing of advertising stimuli from a consumer point of view (eg. semantic vs episodic processing), almost no formal methods have been yielded thus far on the encoding process of advertising stimuli as constitutive of brand elements and hence as indispensable sources of brand equity or how brand meaning is generated in the first place through the import of semiotics. 2.1 Advertising stimuli as sources of brand equity and the notion of brand meaning as the vantage point and end-result of the model of rhetorical semiotics Brand equity is the added value with which a given brand endows a product (Farquar 1989)1.Customer-based brand equity [my note: henceforth consumer will be used ins tead of customer in order to avoid connotations with B2B marketing, in line with the general adoption of the term in the concerned consumer-based brand equity literature] occurs when the consumer has a high level of awareness and familiarity with the brand and holds some strong, favorable and unique brand associations in memory (Keller 1998, p.50). The definition of consumer based brand equity does not distinguish between the source of brand associations and the manner in which they are formed (ibid, p.51). However, as the research at hand will attempt to demonstrate, it is precisely the modes whereby stimuli as sources of brand equity are transformed into brand associations that determine the level of potential equity erosion or the degree of sustainability of brand equity. The contribution of brand meanings and perceptions to profitability testifies to the power of symbolic representation to capture the hearts and minds of consumers by means of visual, audio, and verbal signs. The semiotic or symbolic - dimension of brands is therefore instrumental for building awareness, positive associations, and long-term consumer loyalty, and contributes to trademark ownership and operational advantages such as channel and media clout. Consequently, managing brand equity means managing brand semiotics (Oswald 2008)2. In essence, managing brand equity is indistinguishable from managing the transformative grammar from stimuli to associations, with the aid of semiotics and rhetoric.

For more definitions and a comprehensive review of the brand equity related literature see my MBA dissertation mba.pdf ; I have been exploring different aspects of brand equity from a theoretical point of view for over ten years (including e-brand equity and its linkages with marketing accountability), while having conducted in practice brand equity studies for ico nic brands. 2 L.Oswald, Semiotics and strategic brand manage ment, working paper 2008

Brand associations contain the meaning of the brand for consumers. The strength, favorability and uniqueness of brand associations play an important role in determining the differential response that makes up brand equity (Keller 1998, p.93). Advertising constitutes one of the principal semiotic modes whereby brand meaning is generated. Advertising has become such a pervasive mode of semiosis in todays advanced economies that it is now an essential way of knowing the world, particularly through which the arbitrary and culturally determined are made to seem necessary and natural, even as a society is constantly evolving (Mick, Burroughs, Hetzel, Brannen, Semiotica 2004, p. 26). Insofar as sources of brand equity, based on Keller, primarily concern how brand meaning is constructed through strong, favorable, unique brand associations and given that brand associations concern signifying structures made of advertising stimuli or ad text signs, we infer that semiotics is the overarching method whereby the encoding and decoding of brand meaning may be accomplished as a set of brand associations effected through the employment of advertising stimuli or ad text signs. Advertising can influence brand equity in two ways (Edell 1992). First, advertising can influence brand attitude, an important component of brand equity. Second, and more important, advertising can influence brand equity by influencing the consumers memory structure for a brand (Edell and Moore, The impact and memorability of ad induced feelings; Implications for brand equity, in Aaker&Biel, Brand Equity and Advertising, 1993, p.96). This structure has been termed by Keller as brand knowledge structure denoting the set of brand related associations formed in consumers minds as the outcome of leveraging sources of brand equity, such as those constructed through advertising texts. In this project the focal point will be how brand associations are constructed and even more importantly how they may be managed in an ongoing fashion for sustainable brand equity creation, by drawing on the import of rhetoric and semiotics in advertising research with an added focus on the encoding rather than decoding process of advertising textual stimuli. . In terms of ad stimulus characteristics and their quasi-causal relationship to the potential for indepth memory encoding, Krishnan & Chakravarti (Varieties of brand memory, in Aaker&Biel, op.cit., pp. 223-226) list (i) a brand names association set size or the number of concepts associated with the brand name [my note: which may also be qualified, for example, as the number of links to brand image and user image atributes emanating from a t node/brand in an associative network map] (ii) strong associations between various ad components may enhance memory through viewer elaboration of the component relationships, including pictures and music [my note: particularly useful when elements of a cultural code are operationalized in/migrated to the ad text as signs/stimuli] (iii) well-associated ad components should also facilitate recognition through increased familiarity,although the incremental benefit may be smaller [my emphasis; my note: of paramount importance in conducting a competitive textual analysis with view to determining category relevant master tropes and schemes, from a rhetorics point of view, and multimodal signs as code dependent textual stimuli, from a sem iotics point of view, and concomitantly deciding to what extent leveraging such relata and structural elements is a case of leveraging worn-out cues, insofar as signsovercoding is likely to mitigate the artfully devious or disruptive character of an ad text and thus result in diminished interest/likeability and Aad (attitude towards the ad)]. Brand associations may be classified into three major categories, viz. attributes, benefits and attitudes. Attributes may be distinguished in two categories, product and non-product related, denoting respectively the ingredients necessary for performing the product or service function and the aspects that relate to their purchase and consumption. Benefits can be distinguished into three categories, functional, sy mbolic and experiential. Functional benefits correspond to product related attributes, symbolic benefits correspond to non product related attributes, especially user imagery. Experiential benefits correspond to both product and non product related attributes and reflect emotional aspects of brand usage. Attitudes concern overall evaluations of brands by consumers. Attitudes towards brands are the outcomes of attributes and perceived benefits. The level of ownability of brand associations by a brand, acco rding to Keller, depends on three dimensions, viz their strength, favorability, uniqueness (ibid, pp.51-53). Keller contends that strength is a function of both the quantity of processing of brand related associations and the nature or quality of that processing. Strength of association is further complicated

by the personal relevance of the information (or the ad text, in semiotic terms) and the consistency with which this information is presented over time. Consistency is in fact a major issue in advertising development and deployment and it will be one of the focal points of this research, insofar as dynamically managing sources of brand equity or brand associations as perceptual renditions of attributes and benefits involves potentially relifting or wholly reinventing a brands associative network, and this is where the import of rhetorical semiotics may assume its foremost significance. Sources of brand equity must be constantly monitored for strength, relevance, favorability, uniqueness, alongside the semiotic codes used, the rhetorical figures employed for providing meaningful directionality among the element(s) of code(s) and stylistic issues determining subtle nuances of ad text inscription. Favorable brand associations are those associations that are desirable to consumers and are successfully delivered by the product and conveyed by the supporting marketing program for the brand. Again, the construction of favorability concerns at its core marketing communications, during both stages of ad planning/creative delivery and media planning/media execution. Insofar as the ad planning process constitutes the focal point of the proposed research the concept of favorability in terms of desirable ad texts will be explored in the context of the model of rhetorical semiotics for sustainable management of sources of brand equity. Uniqueness refers to the distinctiveness of brand associations, ie associations not shared with other brands. The import of rhetorical semiotics in attaining this qualifying dimension, as will be demonstrated, is paramount , especially in product/service categories with marginally differentiating functional attribute/benefit structures. Code, rhetorical figures and stylistics are the major determinants of uniqueness. In recapitulation, brand associations and their qualifying dimensions constitute the outcome of successfully inscribing in consumers perception and memory attribute and benefit-related elements or , in semiotics terms, ad textual stimuli. What seems to be lacking in Kellers otherwise seminal account of how brand equity is built is the transformative grammar or the how brand elements are selected in the first place and how they are morphed or transformed into semiotic registers. Brand elements are those trademarkable devices that serve to identify and differentiate the brand (ibid, p.131). Keller identifies the main brand elements as brand names, logos, symbols, characters, slogans, jingles, packages (a more exhaustive list will be provided in the context of the proposed model). From a semiotic point of view, such definitional approaches are tantamount to atomistic endeavors that aim at identifying the elementary structural components of ad texts (and brand meaning texts, to incorporate packaging, even though packaging will not be explored among the brand meaning related stimuli in the course of this research), even though the elements themselves constitute se sememes or constellations of semes, that is of even more elementary units of signification in a semiotic structure. Kellers reference of the how or the modalities of brand elements selection is exhausted in a remark about judicious manner , apparently referring to the key stakeholders involved such as agencies and advertisers. However, it is the opening up of this judicious manner through recourse to rhetorical semiotics and stylistics that resolves the puzzle or allows for an exploration of the black hole concerning the selection among theoretically infinite tropicalities and modalities that may be recruited while morphing ad textual stimuli into signifying discursive units. The most proximal term in the existing advertising related literature concerning the semiotic transformations involved during the encoding process of the ad text is transformational advertising, viz developing associations with the brand or brand use such that the experience of using the brand is transformed or changed into something quite different. Transformational advertising involves two types of associations. The first are the associations of certain feelings with the use experience. The second kind of association is the association between the user experience or user and the brand (Batra, Myers & Aaker, 1996, p.289) Kellers crucial contribution in the selection process of brand elements continues with the offer of a set of five more qualifying dimensions, viz. memorability, meaningfulness, transferability, adaptability, protectability. Memorability

Brand elements can be chosen that are inherently memorable and therefore facilitate recall and/or recognition in purchase and/or consumption (ibid, p.131, my italics/emphasis). From a semiotic point of view there is nothing inherent in the structural properties of an ad text that determines their potential for meaningful inscription. Memorability is a function of the surface grammar or the combination of ad stimuli and the texts depth grammar, that is its diachronic anchoring in cultural codes. Transferability The extent to which brand elements are transferable across product-lines, categories, geographies and segments. Adaptability This is a crucial dimension in the choice of brand elements as it concerns the ongoing and sustainable attribute of brand equity, in short to what extent the choice of brand elements may withstand changes in consumer values and opinions. Protectability This dimension reflects both the legal aspect (eg trademarking) of a set of brand elements, as well as the level of perceptual ownability of a string of brand elements inscribed in an ad text, ie the ease of copying. Meaningfulness Brand elements can also be chosen whose inherent meaning enhances the formation of brand associations (ibid, p.132, my italics/emphasis) Over and above the same criticism on inherentist metaphysics inscribed in value judgments about stimuli properties, one may argue that meaningfulness is a gestalt concept and not a singular dimen sion. Meaningfulness is a function and inclusive of memorability, transferability, adaptability, protectability. Brand meaning is the semantic counterpart of brand equity, hence their quite often interchangeable employment in the branding literature, even though the methods employed for exploring each concept vary (eg whereas brand equity is operationalized by combining scores and weights on image attributes with price perceptions in quantitative studies, brand meaning is mostly explored in qualitative stud relating to core DNAies brand associations and peripheral brand associations). , In recapitulation, brand associations constitute brand meaning as a gestalt of sources of brand equity. Sources of brand equity consist of product and non (directly) product related attributes and benefits. Product related sources of brand equity consist of brand elements. The qualifying dimensions for the successful registering of brand associations in consumers perception and memory are strength, favorability and uniqueness, while the qualifying dimensions for the successful registering of brand elements into product related sources of brand equity are memorability, transferability, adaptability, protectability, which should result in superior meaningfulness of sources of brand equity versus the competition. Advertising stimuli are responsible for transforming sources of brand equity into a set of communicators or a brand mythic chain of connotators through a transformative grammar that relates elements with stimuli with associations. What is lacking in this chain -like process of brand meaning generation is precisely such a transformative grammar. 2.2 Consumer research into the uses and effects of rhetorical tropes and schemes and how they function as relational elementary units in advertising discourse responsible for generating brand meaning and hence responsible for the inscription of sources of brand equity Rhetoric as an art of textual composition and audience persuasion mechanism remains relatively underexplored in the marketing literature. Even more so when it comes to considering rhetoric as a strategy for advertising semiosis and particularly so from a multimodal perspective, where all semiotic vehicles are treated as equal inter pares. With the exception of pathbreaking analyses by scholars such as Mick and McQuarrie, no attempts have been made thus far at formalizing the plethora of rhetorical tropes and schemes under the rubric of an advertising semiotic metalanguage consisting of relata,

rather than signs, as the elementary units of communicative semiosis, in tandem with codes constituting horizons of semiotic potentialities based on the relational possibilities among signs and signifying units. In the context of proliferating interdisciplinary approaches interest on behalf of consumer researchers in rhetoric has been steadily on the rise over the past twenty years. Ever since their seminal 1993 paper Reflections on Classical Rhetoric and the Incidence of Figures of Speech in Contemporary Magazine Advertising Mick and McQuarrie had brought to the attention of the consumer research community an immense gap in existing research methods concerning the ways of structuring advertising texts, as well as decoding their effects on target audiences. Historically, rhetoric has been a practical discipline, It seeks to understand what works in the area of persuasive communication (Mick & McQuarrie 1993). In a modern context this might be translated in terms of linguistic pragmatics by allusion to Austins and Searles speech act theory as rhetoric is concerned with the illocutionary and perlocutionary effects of discourse, viz what meaning is conveyed through the configuration of signs with the aid of rhetorical schemes and tropes, as well as towards what actions discursive units are conducive, that is their semantic and pragmatic effects. Given that advertising objectives vary from merely informing/creating awareness about a brand to inciting action, we may infer that the degree to which such objectives will be met is highly incumbent on streamlining the discursive configuration of advertising texts with the intended semantic and pragmatic outcomes. Some of the reasons why rhetoric as a toolbox for encoding and decoding advertising discourse has not gained prominence among current scholars (and these rest on a speculative level) consist in that classical rhetoric has been concerned with stratagems for quasi rational persuasion in the context of oral and written speech in eras where verbal communication was overarching as against visual, auditory and other forms of sensory communication, as well as that strictly speaking the modes of discourse rhetoric concerned itself with (and is concerned until today) relate traditionally with the realms of politics and in general with the delivery of oral speeches. Also, sub disciplines of modern linguistics, such as pragmatics and stylistics, have taken over rhetoric in terms of theoretical models and research methods regarding the encoding and decoding of contemporary modes of discourse, such as media discourse, with which the bulk of communication theories have been concerned, while concerns have been raised about the translatability of concepts originally intended for verbal communication into other modalities (which, as will be argued, have largely been dealt with). And yet, the conceptual richness and pragmatic applications of rhetoric over the millennia is second to none. Without delving into great detail regarding the genres of rhetoric and rhetorical figures3 in order to illustrate its uptodate nature and enormous scope of applicability (beyond the confines of literary criticism and its uses in deconstructive readings of traditional philosophical texts) in the field of commercial communication, it suffices to say that interest in rhetoric has been reignited with the morphing of semiotics and discourse analysis into mainstream research paradigms. An illustrative analogy in the progressive addition of methodological and inte rpretive depth to the applications of rhetoric in advertising and consumer research may be drawn by allusion to the progressive transformation of advertising effectiveness research from print ad to print+radio to print+radio+TV to D.Schultzs IMC paradigm, which has extended into encompassing direct, experiential, interactive communicative vehicles and bespoke journals on IMC. Likewise, the application of rhetoric in advertising and consumer research started with Mick and McQuarries research (1993) into the effects of the figurative language of print ads headlines, involving an ever increasing recording of rhetorical tropes and schemes involved in the transformation and channeling of meaning. Research extended to the decoding of print ads, while enriching the matter of expressive forms with pictorial signs and progressively with auditory signs. In 1994 Scott (Images in Advertising: Need for a theory of visual rhetoric) put forward a model for reading advertising images as a sophisticated form of visual rhe toric . The argument deploys by separating radically the function of advertising pictorial signs from any iconic dimension, and

As an introduction I would recommend The History and theory of Rhetoric: an introduction, by J.A.Herrick (Pearson Education, Boston 2005); Classical Greek Rhetorical Theory and the disciplining of discourse by D.M.Timmerman and E.Schiappa (Cambridge University Press 2010) ; The New Rhetoric: A treatise on argumentation by Ch.Perelman and L.Olbrechts -Tyteca (University of Notre Dame Press 1969); E.Corbett, Classical Rhetoric for the modern student (Oxford University Press 1990). It should also be noted that various rhetorical figures have been explored in a standalone fashion, such as On the concept of irony by Soren Kierkegaard, Topics in Ellipsis by Kyle Johnson and On Metaphor by Sheldon Sacks, The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, to name a few.

reconstituting their signifying function, and by implication the rationale of their ordering, to the symbolic dimension (tacitly applying Peirces tripartite distinction of signs into symbols, icons and indices) that is governed by convention. Mannerism in terms of a visuals color gradation/saturation and visual elementsarrangement combine with normative expectations on behalf of the audience and the intended effects behind the elements rhetorical configuration. Through variations in the selection of viewpoint, style and context, as well as through references to or interactions with other texts and systems, these images become capable of highly sophisticated rhetorical tasks (ibid, p.264). Despite the fact that ad 4 decoding is laden with high degrees of subjectivism , based on the readers cultural repertoire, intentions, experience and that, especially in the case of pictorial and even more so auditory signs, it is impossible to coin an exhaustive set of configurational rules, yet it is possible to systematically describe (and in part admit of a relative prescriptive status as part of a dominant code) certain stylistic manipulative devices. Scott attempts to provide generic guidelines or key variables on which stylistic decisions are usually and hence must be made, however these do not constitute a theory of visual rhetoric, but empirical stylistic guidelines. Similar attempts at constituting deductively rules of thumb under the guise of theoretical tenets have been made in the field of social semiotics. However particular caution should be taken when transferring hard science epistemological constructs, such as theoretical tenets to soft science empirical fields of research, such as pictorial rhetoric and social semiotics, where projects at coming up with principia do not necessarily translate into modernist encyclopedic utopias of omniscience but to navigational tools in languages as forms of life, quoting Wittgenstein, from where stems the primarily pragmatic, rather than metaphysical intention behind such mappings of the relationship between stimuli configurations and intended/achieved consumer responses. Thus, despite pointing out the need for a theory of visual rhetoric, Scott merely attained to provide empirical remarks, such as that the modes of ordering and delivery of visual stimuli affect the intended meaning of advertising stimuli. In a similar vein, from a social semiotic angle, Jewitt & Oyama (Visual meaning: a social semiotic approach, 2001; In Handbook of Visual Analysis, Van Leeuwen & Jewitt, p.135) remark that point of view also creates a meaning potential. This does not mean that it is possible to say what different points of view will mean exactly. But it is possible to describe the kinds of meaning they will allow image producers and viewers to create, in this case, the kinds of symbolic relations between image producers/ viewers and the people, places or things in images. In the case of the vertical angle this relation will be one of symbolic power. If you look down on something, you look at it from a position of symbolic power. If you look up at something, that something has some kind of symbolic power over you. At eye-level there is a relation of symbolic equality. In the case of the horizontal angle, the relation will be one of involvement with, or detachment from, what is represented. Frontality allows the creation of maximum involvement. Again, these remarks do not constitute axiomatic theoretical tenets, but ways of prescriptively navigating a semiotic language as a form of life, in the same manner as a map would allow for navigating the sea, without implying that every particular wave encountered by a vesse is l prescriptively inscribed in the map. The reason why I quoted this passage from Jewitt & Oyama is to demonstrate that such remarks are pragmatically useful for coding and decoding ad texts, however they constitute stylistic insights and are not aspects of a visual rhetoric. What changes in the incidence of pictorial signs as against verbal signs is the matter on which rhetorical elementary units act. Therefore, a theory of visual rhetoric, or rather, a mapping of ways of pictorial semiosis would still draw on the same list of rhetorical devices and stands in relationship to stylistics in the same manner as marketing strategy to marketing tactics. A theory of visual rhetoric would be concerned with the narrative structure that underpins different classes of signs and, thus it would amount to a theory of inter-semiosis, as already on offer by, for example, narratology. Barthes was concerned with the same task in his text The Rhetoric of the Image, when he remarked while decoding semiotically advertising texts that text and image stand in a complementary relationship. The words, in the same way as the images, are fragments of a more general syntagm and the unity of the message is realized at a higher level, that of the story (R.Barthes, The Rhetoric of the Image, in Image-Music-Text, Fontana Press 1977, p.41) or, as Greimas puts it, according to the structural logic of narratives deep structure. Another indispensable addition to the research into advertising rhetoric is Mick and McQuarries provision of a taxonomy of figures of advertising rhetoric in advertising language (1996). The principal aim of their taxonomy is to provide a framework capable of reflecting the range of rhetorical figures present in advertisements, but also restricted to include only those rhetorical figures that actually appear in ads.The framework consists in a tree diagram with three levels corresponding to figuration, two

apprehending and interpreting stylistic characcteristics of this sort depend heavily on the ability and skill of the interpr eter (Mick&McQuarrie 2003, p. 195, in Scott&Batra)

modes of figuration and four generative rhetorical operations (see Figure 1 in Appendix 1). Mick&McQuarries taxonomy constitutes a rendition alongside different axes of J.Durands (1987) initial pathbreaking endeavor (see Table 1 in Appendix 1). The taxonomy constitutes a significant step in the categorization of rhetorical figures employed in advertising, however by focusing partially on print ads at the expense of multimodal executions the authors exclude a priori the largest portion of advertising signs and signifying units. In tandem with coining the above taxonomy, the authors reached the conclusion that both schematic and tropic ad languages are more memorable than literal ad language, however schemes are overcoded and tropes are undercoded. Because schemes are overcoded they add internal redundancy to the advertising text. On the contrary, because tropes are undercoded, they lack completeness in terms of semantic closure. However practical as it might be that the employment of a select set of rhetorical tropes would result directly in the intended consumer response, this is hardly the case. Mick & McQuarrie introduce in this article for the first time a set of moderating factors (even though such factors had been tackled implicitly in previous papers, such as when investigating message processing under directed versus non-directed circumstances, cf. above) that are likely to impact the elaboration of the message embedded in a rhetorical configuration. Such moderating factors include, but are not limited to, distractions, lack of ability, available interpretive resources (eg knowledge of elements of the sociosemiotic code of which employed signs partake). The proposed taxonomy, despite being suggestive of likely consumer responses to figurative techniques, does not take into account the potential shifts in response patterns such moderating factors may effect, therefore the taxonomy still rests on a speculative level. Complementary to a lack of focus in terms of multimodality, both in terms of the taxonomical framework and the moderating factors, we should also add the absence of focus in terms of media planning issues and the media vehicles where the same execution appears, which are likely to add extra complexity to the stimuli elaboration process. For example, even if we isolate the impact of multimodality provisionally, let us assume that the same creative execution appears in print ads and (static) outdoor advertising (lets assume that touchscreen billboards have not even been invented). By virtue of being exposed to the same creative in different touchpoints, message awareness is likely to increase in an incremental fashion, Thus, when exposed to the same execution in a magazine ad, a consumer is likely to elaborate the execution to a greater extent compared to another execution without outdoor presence. Now, will the additional elaborative effort in this case be due to the superior stopping power, clutter-reducing nature of the rhetorical figures making up the execution or to its multimedia presence and what is the relativ e contribution of the above in the ultimate elaboration process? Another assumption repeatedly made by Mick&McQuarrie is that the more effortful the processing the more likely it is that it will be engraved vividly in memory,while the degree of deviation of a speculative base level of denotation is equivalent to the positively surprising nature of the sign when it comes to elaboration. The more cognitively demanding complex figures should also be more memorable than their simple counterparts, parallel to the argument developed earlier with respect to the greater degree of deviance that distinguishes tropes from schemes, An issue that merits further investigation in this instance, and which will feed into the exploratory scheme of my research concerns whether positive inclination towards elaboration of the figuratively constituted advertising stimuli is a function of inherent properties of rhetorical schemes and tropes as relata or a combined function of the inherent figurative properties of the relata in combination with their infrequent usage in a given category. For example, a paradigmatically constituted multimodal metaphor per se may be more devious than a syntagmatically constituted alliteration per se , however the former may be the province of a leading category player and three followers, among a total of six players in a product category. Thus, despite the fact that the undercodedness of the metaphorical trope on a speculative level is more inviting towards resourceful interpretation (certainly providing for an equally appealing stylistic landscape), however , precisely due to the overusage of the trope its effects are likely to wear out quicker than otherwise, whereas a pun, despite its apparent overcodedness, may cut through the perceptual apparatus more effectively. Thus, despite the speculative usefulness of the taxonomical endeavor of Mick & McQuarrie, perhaps a more product category sensitive approach

should be adopted and a more skeptical approach to the likely effects of the figurative typ ologies on consumer response in the light of the plethora of moderating factors. A more comprehensive taxonomy of advertising figures and a more extensive list of stimuli processing moderating factors is offered by Huhmann (2007; see Table 2 in Appendix 1) Huhmann expands on Scotts programmatic declaration concerning the need for a theory of visual rhetoric as well as Mick&McQuarries prior work by drawing on experimental aesthetics and recent attempts at systematically accounting for the rhetorical function of non-verbal signs. In addition, he employs the resource-matching perspective for processing advertising stimuli, already hinted at by Mick&McQuarrie in a more expansive manner with view to encapsulating the emotive, alongside cognitive effects of rhetorical figures. One of the key limitations in Huhmanns approach that may be tackled in terms of social semiotics is his over reliance on the hedonic value of the text as the sole value related territory influencing the proclivity to proceed with the processing of rhetorical ad figures at the expense of other value typologies, such as symbolic value (cf Elliott 1994), information value, sacred value (cf. Belk 1989) etc, apparently as a result of approaching the reading of ad texts as primarily an aesthetic experience, based on the existing familiarity with and level of involvement with the concerned category/brand. Aesthetic impact is not exhausted in feelings of pleasure (without implying that displeasure or uncomfort might be equally successful in effecting positive brand associations, which is a wholly different area of research), but, bearing conceptually on classical aesthetics, such as Kants Critique of Judgment or psychoanalytic writings such as Freuds Beyond the Pleasure Principle, to quote a few, it may be demonstrated that feelings of awe, fear, repulsion may have a superior impact in nurturing unique, differentiating, relevant, credible brand related associations. Again, such emotive effects of advertising semiosis are highly context dependent and prioritizing any of them in a disinterested fashion would amount to a major conceptual and analytical fallacy. The main contributions of his approach consist in demonstra ting through the employment of the resource-matching perspective that processing is opti ized when ones available resources match m resource demand, even though the level and depth of processing are likely and have been demonstrated to vary according to distinctive configuration patterns among ad figurative textsstructural properties, processing motivations and processing outcomes. The complex definitional apparatus of Huhmanns approach in terms of the aforementioned three-dimensional approach is summarize in d Table 3, Appendix 1. What is of particular importance for the research project at hand is Huhmanns identification of additional moderating factors, again building on Mick & McQuarries previous research, that may impact on the likelihood of ad elaboration and emotional and cognitive response patterns as a result of the three aforementioned dimensions. In terms of demographic moderating factors his focus lies solely with age, however this list could clearly be extended in order to encompass SE class, gender, ethnic background etc. Of equally great importance is the potentially moderating effect of category/brand knowledge/familiarity and/or level of involvement with a category/brand, as well as knowledge of persuasion mechanisms, which resonates the phenomenon I termed earlier as rhetorical literacy, message relevance, ad medium involvement, which is likely to add a wholly different plane of complexity in the context of multimodal executions alongside different communicative touchpoints, as well as, extremely relevant for a social semiotic process of coding/decoding advertisements, cultural knowledge, which is the degree of knowledge about a societys symbols, values, traditions, conventions, interpretive lenses, and other culture-based components of communication. 2.3 Rhetoric and semiotics combined applications in consumer research and the emphasis on the element of multimodality of ad textual stimuli In his review of the contribution of rhetoric and semiotics in the coding/decoding of ad texts (2003) Mick&McQuarrie laid particular emphasis on the inextricably linked nature of these applied fields of empirical research. The more signs deviate from a verbal substratum and extend into the visual and auditory territories the more polysemous the advertising text becomes. This poses particular challenges in terms of taxonomical generalisations about the prospective affective and cognitive outcomes of distinctive sign configurations and renders the project of a visual rhetoric a quite strenuous endeavor. As

above mentioned, Scotts preliminary attempt towards a visual rhetoric of advertising signs ended up in a set of constructive remarks about stylistics. Mick & McQuarries extension of their taxonomy of rhetorical figures from verbal to visual (and the same would hold for auditory) signs rests on an implicit isomorphism between the classes or typologies of signs, while reducing their irreducible difference to a stylistic variation of a hypothesized underlying structure. The claim of rhetoric itself to be a general theory of persuasion via stylistic variation is also supported. In that sense, the taxonomy, as an explanation, and visual figures, as a phenomenon requiring explanation, are mutually supportive (p.202). In the course of my research I will demonstrate that (i) the differences between classes of signs are not just symptoms of stylistic variation, but stylistic variation constitutes a second order semantic qualification of differential effects among different classes of signs as outcomes of inherent structural differences (such as the different spatiotemporal meaning of verbal, visual, auditory signs) (ii) their interweaving in a multimodal ad text takes place against the background of the same rhetorical figures, yet their semiotic fit as expressive matter merits qualification against inherent structural properties (iii) stylistics is of enormous importance in the directionality of semiotic configurations, especially when viewed from the angle of performative pragmatics as is the aim of commercial discourse vs plain art, but constitute second order tropical configurations or qualifications of rhetorical figures. If the case of structural isomorhism held for distinctive classes of signs and visual rhetoric was equivalent to stylistics then stylistic notions such as tone/tonality would be applicable uniformly across classes of signs (eg tone of voice, color intonation, sonic tonality etc), which is hardly the case. Music and pictures, for example, have their own means of representing semantic information and semantic relations. Kress and Van Leeuwen give the example that some meanings conveyed by locative prepositions in English are realised in pictures by the formal characteristics that create the contrast between foreground and background. Gestural communication is coded, although for most people, only a relatively small range of gesture signs will have firmly agreed, specic signicance within a community (Routledge companion to semiotics and linguistics, p.171).Further credence may be added to this argument by drawing on psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic approaches to the study of the influence of stylistics on social status. For example, Prestons (1991) empirically validated funnel of factors influencing linguistic variation suggests that the relative weight of stylistics as a key determinant comes third, after linguistic factors and social factors5 . By analogy, the determinants of the perlocutionary force, in speech act theory (rather than persuasive force), of an assemblage of multimodal signs rests primarily with the choice of rhetorical figures and elements of semiotic codes and then to stylistic variations, and is by no means reducible to the latter. Visual communication operates along the lines of associations by similarity or contiguity. Associations of similarity operate on a rhetorical level in metaphorical gures, and on a discursive level in paradigms such as those mentioned above. Associations of contiguity operate on a rhetorical level in metonymical gures linking the part to the whole, for example, and on a discursive level in the alignment of elements in a sequence or syntagm (Mick&Oswald 2006, p.37, in Belk 2006). Thus, despite being in agreement that the principles and intended effects and relative impact from the employment of different rhetorical figures does not differ between verbal and visual signs, hence the need for a theory of visual rhetoric seems to be satisfied in part by existing taxonomical approaches, what differs markedly as an ad text extends to greater levels of multimodality is the mode of application of rhetorical figures in acts of semiosis. For the sake of clarification, let us assume that our analysis will draw on ad films as against print ads. Complementary to the greater degree of semiotic complexity of an ad film compared to a print ad insofar as it may involve all three classes of signs (verbal, visual, auditory), and gestural, it also presents greater complexity in terms of narrative structure or in terms of the advertising concept holding together the string of multimodal signs in a uniform signifying unit. In order to address, both from a coding and decoding perspective, the narrative structure of such a multimodal ad text one should perhaps employ theories of narratology, complementary to the known effects of rhetorical figures. From a semiotic perspective the advertising concept is translated into a narrative schema or a prototype for the structure of narrative, involving the relationships among actors, the content of their communication, the style of their intercourse, the mode of taking communicative turns, alongside background criteria, such as physical/social setting, occasion, everyday rituals and all sorts of structural code(s) components that make up a narrative structure. In this case rhetorical figures may still account for the transformative potential among structural multimodal components, however the texts directionality and ultimately meaning will be determined by the combined effect of rhetorical figures and cultural code element . For s example, whereas in the context of a print ad decision making may embark with the aim of coining a pun

D.Preston, Style and the psycholinguistics of sociolinguistics: the logical problem of language variation (in Style and socio linguistic variation, Eds P.Eckert, J.R.Rickford, Cambridge University Press 2002


or alliteration or metonymy as the figurative relatum, in the context of a filmic text decisions must be made at the same time and of equal weight with regard to cultural code elements and rhetorical figures. Another example of the superior expressive potentiality of a multimodal ad text vs a less complex one concerns the figurative employment of the semiotic concept of chrononym, that is the illusory depiction of temporal units. The passage throughout millenia may be established through the transition of visual synecdoches emblematic of different historical periods (eg the part-visual of Colosseum standing for the whole signified of Roman empire) as chrononyms stringed in the context of a 30 tv ad with a product/signifier of perennial values remaining constant. In this case, the objectively syntagmatic juxtaposition of frames in a motion picture emits the illusion of paradigmatic, transtemporal diachronicity. As a syntagmatic unit the Colosseum functions figuratively as a synecdoche, however as part of the motion picture it functions as a chrononym (a couple of seconds stand for/signify centuries). The above example illustrates how brand meaning embedded in an ad text is a function of Jakobsons total communicative act, viz. that meaning derives from variable configurations of sender, message, mode of contact/format via which contact is effected, context, code, addressee In order for rhetorical figures to configure the message as a function of context/code, the format/mode of contact must also be taken into account. In terms of the contribution of applying rhetorical figures in the construction of advertising stimuli, McQuarrie and Mick (1996) contend that the primary reason why such advertising executions attain greater recall levels is their artful deviation from expectations. This interpretive remark may be resounding part of the rhetorical truth, so to speak, but it does not encapsulate the function of rhetorical figures to their full blown extent insofar as they do not take into account how the deposit of a product category specific semiotic code has been put to use up to the point of conducting research regarding the semiotic effects of specific brands on selective target groups or what kind of multimodal semiotic configurations have been offered with the employment of rhetorical figures, the relative frequency of applying specific rhetorical figures, the relative frequency of applying the s ame configurations of typologies of signs (verbal, pictorial, auditory, olfactory etc), through different rhetorical figures as their relational assemblage and vice versa, in short, what is lacking is a further qualification of the notion of artful deviation. Strictly speaking, given that a code is dynamic and constitutes a horizon of relational possibilities among signs and signifying units, deviation from the code is not feasible (unless a code becomes redundant). What is feasible is deviations from dominant relational configurations. A further limitation, on a methodological level, in Mick and McQuarries research is that it spans different product and service categories. However, a diluted focus in terms of product category, as I will attempt to demonstrate, does not attain to unearth the master tropes, master schemes or most often used rhetorical figures in a category, master multimodal renditions or the proportionate weight allocated to each semiotic typology and the proportionate weight of a n uanced semiotic typology (eg color, gradation, and a plethora of manipulative effects regarding motion pictures, static images, sounds) prior to qualifying and drilling down configurational aspects of multimodal semiosis to ever more detailed levels and semiotic planes, such as above mentioned.

In terms of how advertising stimuli are rhetorically configured, Mick and McQuarrie (2003) imply , without rendering this distinction explicit, that the reason why a semantic irregularity is encountered in the meaning of the portrayed ads is that a semiotic element regularly functioning on a denotative plane is substituted for an element functioning on the connotative plane (eg in the belt/buckle example). Again, such a contradistinction draws on a with/without principle and aims to establish that there is a superior response in terms of recall for figurative advertising. Similar findings drawing on the with/without principle are reported in Tom&Evesresearch (The use of rhetorical devices in advertising, Journal of advertising research, Jul/Aug 1999). However, and this is one of the reasons why the blend of semiotics with rhetoric is indispensable both for decoding and coding advertisements, there are all sorts of signs in an ad that might be substituted in an alliquid pro alliquo fashion. The employment of a visual of a car already positions someone within the rationale of a code whereby it makes sense to use the experience of car driving as a metaphor for being in motion. Insofar as the car stands metaphorically for motion (and is not used denotatively qua a car), and the product advertised is against motion sickness, then a train or an airplane might have been used quid pro quo. Therefore, the ad is not figure-free, while substituting belt for buckle does not reinstate the picture to a rhetoric-free fashion. Bearing in mind that, as already mentioned in the semiotics literature review, meaning is equivalent to the sum of connotators, the more elements of the execution are interdependently operationalized (yet directionally based on the intended brand related associations) in a figurative fashion, the greater the likelihood that the Gestalt outcome will


stand out while meeting the communicative objective(s). This does not imply that there is a golden means or a one-size-fits-all pattern of configurative modalities (advertisements are not a commodity product and their effects do not obey universal rules S.Broadbent, 456 view of how advertising works, Admap Nov 1992), but that, given the category context and consumersrhetorical literacy, controlling for the differential effects of execution alternatives may be effected not just through modulating a sign in a Gestalt signifying unit, but through transfiguring the trope of the unit according to the stretchability potential of the code (as would be the case of comparing not merely between control/treatment, nonfigurative/figurative advertising, but between limited code resourceful and expanded code resourceful executions). The latter distinction, which is more likely to be the case in the current historical predicament, where ad and rhetorical literacy6 levels have intensified among target audiences as a function of the communicative mediums lifestage, the proliferation of expressive formats and technological advances favoring easier access to information, all of which pose greater challenges in terms of multimodality. This does not imply that exploratory research approaches into the effects of rhetoric in advertising that bear on a with/without figures rationale are extant or regressive (eg that they might be more applicable during the vehicles initial steps), but that the without is already overcoded to such an extent as to force us to adopt comparative approaches among multimodal executions based 7 on their level of code resourcefulness . In tandem with this programmatic declaration, Mick and McQuarries adoption of the figurative potential of rhetoric seems to rely one sidedly on the synchronic/syntagmatic axis at the expense of the diachronic/paradigmatic axis, which, as I will argue, constitutes the trajectory determining the level of code resourcefulness of a multimodal advertising execution, as well as why rhetoric in advertising, and discourse genres in general, is optimally employed as part of semiotics or as the elementary relational units of a semiotic horizon and responsible for the perceptible rendition of loci communes or the depth grammar underpinning a language as form of life. Another key limitation of rhetorical/semiotic advertising related research conducted thus far is that it rests largely on verbal+pictorial stimuli, while underplaying the importance of multimodal executions, encompassing sound, touch, olfaction, such as TVCs and experiential events, where 360 sensorial targeting is feasible and due to which the level of inscription of communicative stimuli is expected to be higher. The emergence of fields of research, such as sonic semiotics, sonic branding and several strands of research aiming at operationalizing the sensory spectrum, beyond verbal, pictorial components has attested to the need for more holistic approaches to decoding configurations of advertising signs. And yet, no synthetic approaches at formalizing such features have emerged thus far in the form of a metalanguage. Mick & McQuarrie occasionally seem to favor a logocentric paradigm to persuasion, for example while proclaiming that no other modality can match the Protean quality of words (Contribution of Rhetorical and Semiotic perspectives to understanding visual persuasion in advertising 2003), even though they recognize that persuasion in the context of commercial communication is effected through irrational means and that seduction over persuasion, echoing Baudrillard (cf Seduction), describes more accurately the function of advertising (1993).

In the context of a follow-up research (Verbal rhetoric versus message repetition under heavy processing load and incidental exposure to advertising, 2006) to the above quoted (2003) Mick and McQuarrie concluded with the findings, among others, that individuals differ according to their metaphorical thinking ability, thus pointing to the importance of controlling for rhetorical literacy among audience members both in the sample selection and data analysis/synthesis of consumer research. Another important findi ng , which echoes the need for addressing stimuli from a multimodal perspective, is the need for controlling for different types of rhetorical figures and stimuli complexity. 7 By analogy, the key area of research with which I shall be concerned is not whether brand equity may be built and sustained w ithout successful advertising, drawing on a with/without principle. It is well-known in the plethora of ad effectiveness models an d studies that advertising does contribute to the building of brand equity. The question is how and how we may get past generic axiologica l judgments such as because of the creative, because of its standout characteretc. The question is more foundati onal and concerns how such evaluative judgments are reached in a post hoc fashion, in short what is it about the encoding process that increases the probability of standing out of the clutter, having more stopping power, with more involving imagery a nd similar generic evaluations. The question concerns what transformations occur and if there is a transformative grammar for successful ly encoding ad texts prior to their roll -out and prior to employing ad effectiveness tools aiming to gauge the relative likeability, relevance, credibility etc of ad texts and their generic structural components, viz music, characters, tagline, overall feel and other g eneric variables that are usually employed in practioners and academic ad effectiveness studies. For examp le, speculative remarks pertaining to the effectiveness of ad stimuli in the context of ad effectiveness studies are normally encountered in passages such as there may a direct link between the two processes, with advertising associations acting as the ve hicle for storing and encoding the message. However, the link does not have to be a direct one. The correlation nay result because the factors which generate a high level of ad memorability and cut-through are the same as those which ensure that the advert ising is capable of creating a halo of excitement, uniqueness and supremacy about the brand in the viewers mind; namely, that the advertising is actively involving , distinctive, often enjoyable and linked to the brand (A.Farr, Advertising and Brand equit y: how to evaluate brand equity- and how to identify those advertising campaigns most likely to generate brand equity in the short term, Admap Apr 1996). And yet, these factors still remain largely unaccounted for.


Thus far it has been established that rhetorical figures play an indispensable role in the configuration of advertising texts. This configuration would not be feasible werent it for the parallel import of insights from the realm of social semiotics, insofar as the types of signs to be syntagmatically/paradigmatically configured rest with semiotic genres/codes. The act of semiosis is inextricable linked to social conventions and symbolic languages as forms of life. One of the most popular semiotic constructs is the Greimas Square, a map of logical possibilities. As such, it can be used as a heuristic device playing with the possibilities of the square is authorized since the theory of the square allows us to see all thinking as a game, with the logical relations as the rules and concepts current in a given language and culture as the pieces, invented by A.J.Greimas (1986) in his structuralist semiotic approach (see Figure 2 in Appendix 1). The semiotic square not only represents underlying categories of opposition, but also gives an account of surface structures of narrative syntax (Dictionary of Semiotics, p. 6) This is the level of abstract or conceptual syntax where the fundamental values which generate a text are articulated (ibid, p.12;p.117). This diagrammatic portrayal, alongside other heuristic devices from the vast literature of structuralist and poststructuralist semiotics and social semiotics will be operationalized in this research with view to yielding a structural model of multimodal ad text creation through rhetorical semiotics through an informed selection of stimuli as sources of sustainable brand equity. By the same token, a theory of auditory rhetoric and its function in the context of the ad text would be concerned with qualifying existing taxonomies of rhetorical figures in the light of the expressive mediums particularities. A particularly unique rhetorical facet of the class of auditory signifying units is their enthymematic function. The rhetorical type of the enthymeme which is not included in Mick and McQuarries taxonomy, constitutes a very powerful indirect persuasion tool insofar as it concerns the evocative power of signs or signifying units with regard to mnemonic assemblages. The enthymematic function of musical / auditory signs/signifying units is further compounded by their uniquely synaesthetic rhetorical power, that is their ability to semiotize contemporaneously on various sensory levels, eg evoke pictures, events, verbatims, based on the semiotic trajectory of the code in which they are embedded. Whereas in the context of verbal signs an enthymeme would be used by a narrator through the embellished recitation of a collectively binding event, in the context of musical signs, the same connotator may be evoked through the playback of a piece of music or even a minimal sonic sign, not to mention the additional possibilities that open up for a multimodal execution comprising visual and sonic signs. Advertising music is a cultural mirror reflecting the social meanings of different music (Erkki Pekkil, Connotative Meaning and Advertising Music, in Journal of Applied Semiotics, Issue4,Vol.2, Semiotics of Music). This is the self-referential reflexive relationship between code and signs. Complementary to the variable modes [in terms of contact, based on Jakobsons scheme] whereby different classes of signs enter in rhetorical relation to codes, the same rhetorical function may be attained on an inter-sign class or intersemiotic level. Thus, even more emphatically to examples of repetition through the coupling of visual/verbal signs, cited by G.Mick, B.Stern, L.Scott, among others, the same rhetorical function, eg repetition, is achieved through a multimodal ad rhetorical approach , combining image/music/text, as in the example of the Wrigley commercial cited by Pekkila (op.cit.) , where all these elements balance well with each other and give support to each other. The music, lyrics and the picture are bound to each other because the same things are repeated in each other. Last, but not least, an expanded adaptation of the Peircian tripartite semiotic structure (icon, index, symbol) has been offered by Kawama (1990), which has been implemented in the field of NPD and product design (see Figure 3 in Appendix 1) Summing up, academic research regarding the combined applications of rhetoric and semiotics in the field of advertising has focused on two major axes. On the one hand, the focus of research has been on the systematic reading of ad texts in terms of the rhetorical figures and the import of semiotic assumptions in the creative or encoding process and the provision of taxonomies of rhetorical figures used in advertising coupled with the intended effects the application of such figures is likely tohave on recipient audiences, based on knowledge consolidated over the millennia. On the other hand, the focus of research bore on the modes of consumer processing of advertising stimuli that have been constructed with the aid of rhetorical figures, in an attempt to anchor this research strand in the existing literature concerning the formation of attitudes towards ad texts, and concomitantly the impact of ad text likeability on attitudes towards brands. In essence, the two research strands, which are treated in a uniform manner in the bulk of Mick&McQuarries research, concern two different parts of the ad development process, the former representing account planning and the latter ad effectiveness. In fact, one of the major black holes in media effectiveness studies has always been the quality of the execution. This black hole has occasionally posed significant limitations in attempts to quantify the relative impact of media pressure (share of voice) or absolute GRPs in multimedia modelling exercises on awareness, trial, brand likeability etc, even when complementary salient variables such as quality of placement are controlled. It


is deemed that a more formal approach to advertising planning through the application of rhetorical semiotics will attain to elucidate some of the black hole aspects (or white spaces, as Oswald (2006) calls them) and hence transform intuitions into research assumptions open to validation through recourse to formal planning aspects. 3 Literature gaps as opportunities for further research and the aims of the research project at hand

One source of disruption [my note: artfully deviating connotations, in Micks terms] can be found by asking oneself in which area would I like to situate the campaign? You must choose. Do you want to reinforce top of mind awareness, highlight an attribute, emphasize a benefit, stake out a territory, reflect a value, or claim a role? The objective is to shift the advertising focus from one register to another in such a way that it creates a rupture both in content and style with what has gone before (Jean Marie Dru, 1997, p.181) Insofar as a figuratively loaded ad text constitutes an artful deviation from a normative standard, according to Mick&McQuarries definition, which has been largely endorsed by researchers in the field of advertising rhetoric and semiotics, J.M.Drus quest for the ways whereby differential positioning and unique ad concepts are coined against the background of what he calls disruption advertising constitutes a most resourceful analogy from a practitioners perspective, while emphasizing the same concerns that have been raised in academic research. Doubtless as it may be that there is no single way of choosing among the alternative positioning routes and concomitantly advertisi g planning n routes as above quoted by Dru, a systematic method bearing on the merits of rhetoric and semiotics may be coined for optimizing decision making and determining textual opportunity gaps. As Mick and Oswald (2006, p.39) stress by positioning brands in the white spaces between cultural stereotypes, marketers gain access to emerging realms of meaning that ultimately drive brand creativity, originality and innovation. In the existing literature on the interdependent applications of rhetoric and semiotics in the development of ad texts a vast number of adjacent research areas emerged, as well,as moderating factors potentially mitigating the validity of discreet research findings were hinted at by researchers in the concerned field. Complementary to the adjacent research areas pointed out by the aforementioned authors, I mentioned some of the limitations in existing research, in order to highlight potential areas for future research, complementing in certain respects the comprehensive literature revi w offered by Mick, Burroughs, e Hetzel, Brannen (Semiotica 2004). In recapitulation, the major gaps and at the same key opportunities in the existing literature on the application of semiotics and rhetoric or what I call rhetorical semiotics, which concern the model s building aspect of the proposed research, may be summarized as follows: 1. The expansion of the taxonomies of rhetorical figures offered so far by Mick, Durand, Huhmann. Mick contends that there are about 100 rhetorical figures, whereas he drew on a smaller sample, based on the extent to which such figures were employed in the sample of ad texts he used. Despite the fact that listed rhetorical figures by relevant scholars (eg Sonnino 1968) total at least 150, it is advisable to include an exhaustive list in a taxonomical account, as I will endeavor in this project, in order to expand the combinatorial horizon among ad textual signs. The type of moderating factors in terms of likely consumer responses (affective responses, cognitive responses, message elaboration, preexisting attitude towards the advertised brand, preexisting attitude towards the brands advertising, attitude towards advertising in general8) The types of moderating factors in terms of level of control by the ad planner and the c reative directors, divided between non-controllable factors such as degree of consumer knowledge of semiotic codes (even though such knowledge might be established through prior lifestyle research), range and stylistic details of discourses/genres, distraction, ability and willingness to apply resourcefulness and effort in decoding (I hold that Micks standpoint , shared by consumer researchers in the advertising/brand equity literature, that the more artfully deviant an advertising execution the more it is likely to evoke positive associations due to its resource demanding character is highly speculative, especially given the current overcoded advertising landscape, as



For example, A.Mehtas research co ncluded that individual attitudinal factors related to advertising in general do influence how a respondent reacts to any particular advertisement how much they like to look at advertising, believe advertising helps them s tay informed about developments in the marketplace and see it as not being manipulative (Advertising attitudes and advertising effectiveness, Journal of advertising reserach, May/June 2000).


4. 5.





well as moderating factors such as prior to exposure involvement / interest in the category/brand, attitude towards the communicative medium of advertising in toto, to name a few), rhetorical literacy (complementary to ad and media literacy) in conjunction with attitude towards the medium and communicative type versus factors that are directly within the control of the ad planner and the creative team, such as competitive positioning vis a vis category related master tropes, schemes and stylistic considerations and levels of executional multimodality The salience of a brand player in a given category in terms of market share and familiarity, which ex positio is likely to influence considerably what claims and to what extent they may be raised Thus far the bulk of research in the field of semiotics and rhetoric has taken place in a non category specific manner, which is highly surprising given that traditionally marketing planning (and in practice advertising and media planning) take place in the context of specific brands /specific categories and by taking into account their inherent dynamics. In an equally surprising manner strategic and tactical marketing objectives, alongside advertising objectives, have not been considered in accounting for the potential creative effectiveness of ad texts, thus the majority of ad text readings have been made in a decontextualized manner. This is a crucial component in the ad planning decision making process, concerning the extent to which the application of a rhetorical semiotic method to the generation of ad concepts and ad stimuli should start in a disinterested (ie irrelevant to the brand strategy) fashion or by taking into account the directions given in a brand strategy. A brand-differentiating message can be the result of the product strategy or the advertising concept (Giep Franzen, 1994, p. 179). For example, an analysis of consumptive codes may point out that certain potentially appealing consumptive occasions have not been leveraged by a brand. However, a company may not have the resources (or it may be unwilling to proceed with new capital investment due to solvency constraints) to extend its current brand offering to such formats and sizes as would be required for meeting demand in alternative consumptive occasions. Therefore, without taking into consideration brand related constraints, alternative communicative opportunities opened up through rhetorical semiotics would not be feasible. Let us recall that the types of codes/discourses, the elements of these codes in terms of cultural cues, the ways of transforming them into advertising stimuli and the combinatorial logic or transformative grammar of these stimuli into ad texts are literally infinite. Without importing an a priori set of constraints in terms of brand strategy directives, creative imagination might waver into potentially harmful territories. The occasional conflation of rhetoric with ornamentation, rather than the very essence of perceptual orientation as a transformative grammar of ad text stimuli, and semiotics with stylistics, which is equivalent to the equation of strategy with tactics The majority of rhetorical semiotic readings from the angle of consumer researchers rests with verbal+visual stimuli in the context of print ads to the exclusion of verbal+visual+sonic stimuli, such as ad films and to even more all-encompassing communicative vehicles, from a sensorial spectrum point of view, such as experiential marketing events and interactive advertising (including social media), where the relationship between signal source and receiver is dynamic and often deployed in real time versus one-to-many or lagging (in terms of responding based on consumer feedback gathered through research). Given that most brands nowadays follow an IMC paradigm, coining advertising concepts with the import of rhetorical semiotics by relying partially on verbal+visual stimuli would amount to a major planning fallacy. On the other hand, approaches to advertising discourse from non marketed related researchers from fields such as semiotics/linguistics, media theory, critical theory and cultural studies (eg McCracken, Williamson), tend to produce quasi romanticized accounts of advertising, while disregarding significant facets of marketing reality and the fact that advertising discourse is primarily commercial discourse, as well as media planning issues that pose hurdles to the directions ad texts may assume. However, the usefulness and contribution of other than marketing disciplines approaches to advertising discourse is indubitable, especially in the context of conceptual model building. With the exception of Oswald a complete lack of providing a systematic approach to linking ad text stimuli to brand associations, thus pointing to a significant area of research in terms of the potential operationalization of rhetorical semiotics in the field of brand equ and more particularly in the ity ongoing management of sources of brand equity as sources of perceptual competitive advantage The uncritical import of conceptual constructs and interpretive diagrams from and occasionally decontextualized intersections of diverse semiotic schools of thought (eg Hjelmslev, Eco, Greimas, Barthes, Saussure) without considering issues of terminological conflict, which impact on modelling issues and hence on the output and the validity of semiotic readings. Semiotic schools


of thought vary considerably, so attempts at building, for example, a model that would employ bits and pieces, such as Peirces tripartite sign structure and Greimas semiotic square, without concern for the conceptual differences embedded in the respective models, would be confronted with serious methodological and epistemological/ontological issues. 10. The import of approaches from the fields of filmic and cinema semiotics (eg the Franco -Italian school), which are closer to the reality of multimodal executions, such as tv commercials, has been almost totally absent from consumer research. The same holds for the import of social semiotic approaches to the construction of multimodal stimuli, such as Van Leeuwen and Kresss.