Semiotics

SEMIOTICS ROLE IN DESIGNING MESSAGES FOR PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATION

Oleh: Jultje Rattu, SS. M.Mktg

Abstract

Artikel ini membicarakan tentang peranan semiotik dalam merancang pesan-pesan yang dikomunikasikan dalam dunia periklanan. Pembahasan ruang lingkup semiotik pada artikel ini didasarkan pada teori Jakobson yang melingkupi komunikasi dalam bidang eko-nomi. Sebelum dijelaskan mengenai perancangan pesan-pesan dalam iklan, lerlebih dahulu dijelaskan pula mengenai unsur-unsur komunikasi yang terdiri dari pengirim, media, pesan, dan umpan-baliknya. Dalam merancang pesan-pesan dalam iklan, untuk mempengaruhi konsumen, salah satu caranya yaitu menciptakan pesan-pesan yang bisa menarik perhatian konsumen.

Semiotics is a study of the meanings implied by signs and symbols (Noth, 1995). According to Jakobson (1995), the subject matter of semiotics is the communication of any messages whatever, whereas the field of linguistics is confined to the communica­tion of verbal messages. Based on the rela­tionship to spoken language, he distin­guished three types of sign systems, such as: (1) language substitutes, including writ­ing, drum and whistled languages, and the Morse code; (2) language transforms, which are formalized scientific languages; and (3) idiomorphic systems, such as ges­tures or music, which are only indirectly related to language. The place of linguistics and semiotics, according to him, is within a larger framework of communication stud­ies. There are three integrated sciences en­compass each other and present three gradually increasing degrees of generally, such as:

1. Study in communication of verbal mes­sages = linguistics;

2. Study in communication of any mes­sages = semiotics (communication of verbal messages implied);

Study in communication = social an­thropology jointly with economics (communication of messages implied);

Furthermore, he distinguished three levels of social communication. There are

exchange of messages, of commodities, and of women (more generally, of mates). Therefore, linguistics (jointly with the other semiotic disciplines), economics, and fi­nally kinship and marriage studies, ap­proach the same kinds of problems on dif­ferent strategic levels and really pertain to the same fields.

Additionally, in semiotics it can be learnt non-verbal information that takes the form of symbolic communication. It is very useful for designing communication. Basi­cally, communication is a unique tool that people use to send the message. In business, marketers use the communication to per­suade consumers to act in a desired way (e.g. to vote, to make a purchase or dona­tion, or to patronize a retail store).

Actually, there are many ways to de­fine communication, however most writers would agree that communication is the transmission of a message from a sender to a receiver via a medium of some sorts (Schiffman, 2001). In order to reach the purpose of communication, it should be de­signed properly. Before describing the de­sign of persuasive communication, it is bet­ter to describe first about the communica­tion components.


Components of communication

Schiffman (2001) explains that com­munication is a complex process involving the sender, receiver, communication me­dium, and message characteristics.

1. Sender and receiver

The sender, as the initiatior of com­munication, can be a formal or an informal source, while the receiver of formal com­munications is likely to be targeted prospect or a customer (e.g. a member of the mar­keter’s target audience).

2. The medium

The medium or communication chan­nel can be interpersonal, an informal con­versation (face to face, by telephone, or even email) between two friends, or a for­mal conversation between a salesperson and a customer. Nowadays, direct marketers, many of whom use sophisticated database-marketing techniques, seek individual re­sponses from advertisements placed in all mass media, for example broadcast, print, Internet, as well as from direct mail. De­spite the general use of the term ‘mass me­dia’ to describe impersonal media, there is also a growing trend towards media de-massification as publishers shift their focus from large, general interest audiences to smaller, more specialized audiences.

3. The message

The message can be verbal (spoken or written) or non-verbal (a photograph) or combination of the two. A verbal message, whether it is spoken or written, can usually contain more specific product (or service) information than a non-verbal message. Sometimes a verbal message is combined with an illustration or a demonstration and together they may provide more informa­tion to the receiver than either would alone. Nowadays, marketers often try to develop logos or symbols that are associated exclu­sively with their products and which achieve high recognition. The Coca-Cola

company, for example, has trademark both the word ‘Coke’ in a specific typographic style and the shape of the traditional Coke bottle- and both are instantly recognizable to consumers as symbols of the company’s best-selling soft drink (Bloom, 1990).

4. Feedback

Feedback is an essential component of both interpersonal and impersonal commu­nication.

After understanding the communica­tion components, it will be described how to design communication that can persuade consumers.

Designing persuasive communications

To create persuasive communications, the sponsor (who may be an individual, a for-profit company or a non-profit organi­zation) must first establish the objectives of the communication; then select the appro­priate audience for the message and the ap­propriate media through which to reach them; and then design (Le encode) the mes­sage in a manner that is appropriate to the medium and to the audience. More explana­tion will be in the following paragraphs.

1. Communication strategy

In developing its communication strategy, sponsor must establish the primary communication objectives. Company with many diverse audiences sometimes find it useful to develop a communication strategy that consists of an overall (Le. umbrella) message to all their audiences, from which they spin off a series of related messages targeted directly at the specific interest of each individual segment.

After developing the strategy of com­munication, it is continued to do the strat­egy of media.

2. Media strategy

Media strategy is an essential compo­nent of a communication plan. Before selecting specific media vehicles, advertisers must select a general media category that will enhance the message they wish to con­vey. Fortunately, numerous research studies have compared the effectiveness of one me­dium over others for various products, audi­ences and advertising objectives that are very useful to help marketers to select the media category (Pope, 1995). Once they have identified the appropriate media cate­gory (e.g. magazines), they can then choose the specific medium in that category (e.g. Women’s Weekly) that reaches their in­tended audiences. In doing so, it must be considered some aspects, such as:
Overlapping audiences
Since many media, especially those with similar editorial features and formats, have overlapping audiences, advertisers usually place their advertising messages simultaneously or sequentially in a number of media with similar profiles.
New media
The Internet has spawned a number of online media, newsletters, cyber magazines and news programs.
Precision targeting
Marketers use syndicated marketing research services (such as Roy Morgan’s asteroid service) to obtain data on media audiences, their demographics, product pur­chases and brand preferences. Direct mail and direct marketing are excellent examples of precision targeting. Mail order cata­logues is a prime example of direct market­ing sent through the post to carefully honed databases.
3. Message strategies
Following the media strategy, it is the time to arrange the strategies of message. The message is the thought, idea, attitude, image or other information that the sender wishes to convey to the intended audience. In trying to encode or frame the message in a way that will allow the audience to under­stand its precise meaning, senders must recognize exactly what they are trying to say, and why (what the objectives are and what the message is supposed to accomplish). Senders must also know their target audi­ences’ characteristics in terms of education, interests, needs and realms of experience. They must then try to phrase their messages so that their audiences decode the messages in the ways intended (Vakratsas, 1999). Overall, advertisers are looking to produce messages that strike a responsive chord with the interest and feelings of the audi­ence. This matching is known as resonance (Schwartz, 1974).
This article focus on the persuasive messages that should begin with an appeal to the needs and interests of the audience and end with an appeal relevant to the mar­keters’ own needs. Generally, advertise­ments that do not conclude in the closing action tend to provoke much less response from the consumer than those that do. Re­cently, advertisers need to recognize that consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about how advertising strategies are devel­oped and the devices used to attract atten­tion and persuade (O’Donahoe, 1998).
Non-verbal stimuli, such as photo­graphs and illustrations, tend to reinforce verbal message arguments. A number of studies have manipulated the proportion of visual and verbal content used in print ads to investigate their relative impact on learn­ing and persuasion, but the findings were inconclusive. At times body copy alone was more effective than the body copy plus visuals, while in other experiments the re­verse was true. One study showed that when verbal information was low in im­agery, the inclusion of visual examples in­creased consumer recall of the verbal infor­mation (Unnava, 1991). Message strategies consider these following linguistics matters, for example:
Advertising rhetoric and persuasion
Researchers study not only the se­mantics of ad messages (i.e. the meanings of the words used and resulting inferences) but also the syntax (the sentence structure). One study found that ads using simple syn­tax produced greater levels of recall, re­gardless of the strength of the argument, than ads of greater complexity (Lowrey, 1992). Researchers also focus on the rheto­ric and resonance of advertising language (McQuarrie, 1996). The major focus of rhe­torical research is to discover the most ef­fective way to express the message in a given situation. Recently, researchers are interested in rhetorical forms, such as Hew­lett-Packard’s ‘Don’t you have something better to do?’ ad for its plain paper fax or Hertz’ ‘The sooner you’re out of our sight the better’ (i.e. fast check out) ad. The pur­pose of these studies is to discover the best way to phrase an advertising proposition to encourage processing those results in per­suasion. Research findings suggest that rhe­torical speech is most effective with unmo-tivated consumers, who would not other­wise process the ad (Schiffinan, 2001).
Advertising resonance sees a strong fit between the receiver and the message on both the emotional and cognitive level The mix of world play and picture in ads thus becomes very important. Using insights from semiotics, researchers have found that, by manipulating the resonance of an ad, they could improve liking for the ad, brand attitudes and unaided recall of ad headlines (McQuarrie, 1992). Small changes in reso­nance were shown to produce a measurable impact on consumer response. Involvement theory
Another consideration includes in­volvement theory, suggests that individuals are more likely to devote active cognitive effort to evaluating the pros and cons of a product in a high-involvement purchase situation, and more likely to focus on pe­ripheral message cues in a low-involvement situation. Despite the fact that many mar­keters have found that action closings tend to be more effective in encouraging con­sumer response, researchers has also found that, for high-involvement audiences, open-ended advertisements (i.e. ads that do not
draw explicit conclusions) are more effec­tive in terms of creating positive brand atti­tudes and purchase intentions (Sawyer, 1991).
Message presentation
Finally, the way marketers present messages can drastically affect their persua­siveness. Four key issues are now dis­cussed. They are message framing, one­sided/two-sided messages, order effects and repetition.

Message framing
Should marketers stress the benefits to be gained by using a specific product (positive framing) or the benefits to be lost by not using it (negatively). Re­search suggests that the appropriate message framing decision depends on the product category. One study found that positively framed messages are more persuasive in low- involvement situations where there is little emphasis on detailed cognitive processing and negatively framed messages more per­suasive in situations encouraging de­tailed information processing (Maheswaran, 1990).
One-sided versus two-sided messages
Should marketers tell their audiences only the good points about their prod­ucts, or should they also tell them the bad (or the commonplace)? If the audi­ence is friendly (e.g. if a person uses the advertiser’s products), if a person ini­tially favors the communicators posi­tion, or if a person is not likely to hear an opposing argument, then a one-sided (supportive) communication that stresses only favorable information is most effective. However, if the audience is critical or unfriendly (e.g. if a person uses competitive products), if a person is well educated, or if a person is likely to hear opposing claims, then a two-sided (refutational) message is likely to be more effective.

Order effects
Is it best to present the commercial first or last? Should we give the bad news first or last? Communication re­searchers have found that the order in which a message is presented affects audience receptivity. For this reason, politicians and other professionals com­municators often jockey for position when they address an audience sequen­tially; they are aware that the first and the last speeches are more likely to be retained in the audience’s memory than those in between.
When just two competing messages are presented, one after the other, the evidence as to which position is more effective is somewhat conflicting. One study found that, in situations that foster high levels of cognitive processing, the initial message tends to be more influen­tial, while in situations of low message elaboration, the second message had a greater impact (Haugtvedt, 1994).
Order is also important in listing prod­uct benefits within an ad. If audience interest is low, the most important point should be made first to attract attention. However, if interest is high, it is not necessary to pique curiosity and product benefits can be arranged in ascending order, with the most important point mentioned last. When both favourable and unfavourable information is to be presented (e.g. in an annual stockhold-ers’s report), placing the favourable ma­terial first often produces greater toler­ance for the unfavourable news. It also produces greater acceptance and better understanding of the total message.
Repetition
Repetition is an important factor in learning. A study showed that, in low-involvement situations, individuals are more likely to regard message claims that are repeated frequently as more credible than those which are not; the effect increase when consumers were
required to engage in role rehearsal of the message (Hawkins, 1992). Research also found that multiple message expo­sure gave consumers more opportunity to internalize product attributes, to de­velop more or stronger cue associations, more positive attitudes, and increased willingness to resist competitive coun-terpersuasion efforts (Haugtvedt, 1994).
// can be seen that designing mes­sages is very important in creating per­suasive communication. Clearly, the study of semiotics along with semantics and syntax are very useful in designing the messages. These studies can work together with the study of marketing and consumer behaviour in creating the ap­propriate messages to send to the proper audience in reaching its commu­nication purpose.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bloom, Paul, 1990, Transmitting Signals to Consumers for Competitive Advantages, Business Horizons.
Eco, Umberto, 1984, Semiotics and the Phi­losophy of Language, London: The MacMillan Press Ltd.
Haugtvedt, Curtis, 1994, Message Order Effect in Persuassion: An Attitude Strength Perspective,. Journal of Con­sumer Research.
Hawkins, Scott, 1992, Low-involvement Learning: Memory Without Evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research.
Lowrey, Tina, 1992, The Relationship Be­tween Syntactic Complexity and Adver­tising Persuasiveness, Advanced in Consumer Research.
McQuarrie, Edward, 1992, Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Language, Jour­nal of Consumer Research.
Moth, Winfried, 1995, Handbook of Semiot­ics, Indiana University Press, the United States of America

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