Edited by Russell W. Belk
David Glen Mick and Laura R. Oswald 1 The importance of understanding the nature and role of meaning in marketplace activities such as product design, branding, advertising and retailing is indisputable among marketing strategists and researchers today. Consumer culture is, in a sense, the product of the consumer’s relationship to messages of all kinds, from advertising and the organization of retail space to the cultural cues internalized through group participation and ethnic identiﬁcation. One of the richest and oldest paradigms for understanding meaning is semiotics. The term itself originates from ancient Greece in relation to the study of signs, which were regarded in medical treatises as vital to the diagnoses of diseases. More generally, signs are regarded as anything that can stand for or communicate about something else (Eco, 1976, p. 7). As such, they permeate much of life in various ways: language, behavior, dwellings, clothing, artifacts, and so forth. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, scholars such as Saint Augustine and John Locke elaborated on the character and functions of signs, but it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that semiotics was developed in detail by two intellectuals who were working independently on diﬀerent sides of the Atlantic Ocean. They were the Swiss linguist F. de Saussure and American philosopher C.S. Peirce. Saussure (1913/1971/1983, pp. 100–101) envisioned a general science of signs modeled after linguistic science, which he named la sémiologie. Peirce (1955, p. 98) used the term ‘semiotics’ to describe...
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