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Consumatore, Semiotica

The Zoorhetorics of Sales

Pubblicato da , Odense, Denmark | 5 set 2012

In most of the animal world the primary form of communication is olfaction. Indeed if we look at the eusocial insects like bees and ants we see that their “world” is almost exclusively a world of scent. Their tasks are directed by a programme of emissions from the queens and they react to each other’s arrays of pheromones such as alarm or navigational scents. Pollination involves a complex system of olfaction that includes both the bees and flowers – the result of a beautiful co-evolution. Humans are less bound by scent, but nevertheless we are exposed daily to numerous forms of scents, many manufactured to elicit a certain behavioural response. Our food has artificial aromas. Think of all those chemicals that go into the so-called grilled burger at a fast-food restaurant.  Scent is a powerful tool in manufacturing, marketing and consumption. Now what about sales? In Denmark the Danes are bombarded daily by signs that declare that a sale is going on. Often the sales windows are in yellow – yellow connoting for Danes discount.  Due to the financial crisis there has been recently more and more price cutting, until one sees entire shopping streets emblazoned with sales signs and all in yellow. They no longer wait for the traditional sales periods like Summer Sales or New Year Sales,  instead every occasion is used to discount, here again they take advantage of the Danish love of birthdays and anniversaries (the feeling of the hyggeligt/cosiness) .  Now it is not unusual to see supermarkets celebrating their six months anniversary, their seven year anniversary and so forth. Here they festoon the sales media with images of Danish flags (traditionally used for celebrations and not a sign of nationalism!). So as we walk down the street, shop windows look very similar. This is true of their television advertisements and those on the internet. Of course they must compete and here the businesses frequently use more and more yellow, sales cards, and flags. The slogans are typically the same. Since the “volume” of sales is turned up so loud and blared out all days, the words like Udsalg/bargain become after a while completely meaningless, and consumers become habituated. It is like Peter crying “Wolf!”.  At this juncture one can look at the channels of communication and wonder if those in charge of selling and marketing could differentiate themselves from the others.  Well they could, but they would need to be strategic about this. We all know how in the past supermarkets pumped out freshly baked bread or coffee aromas in order to give the consumer a feeling of home and put them in the frame of mind to buy their products – here we can see a potential for strategic use of scents to accompany the usual sales paraphernalia. These natural scents should not be toxic or contain allergens, and should serve to help bridge the season with the sale. I use bridging in the sense of operant conditioning, whereby animals are trained by a click sound – here the scent serves as a bridge – adding another dimension to the yellow and the sales/price semiotic system in general.  The above is based on my experience of shopping in Denmark, however I have seen throughout the world similar sales/price semiotics that are based on strong and loud broadcasting which leads to habituation.


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