hello@irrationalagency.com | +44 (0)20 7064 6555
Back to All Posts
cultural insights

Using semiotics to uncover the hidden stories in culture influencing behaviour

At Irrational Agency our focus on behavioural science helps brands and organisations pull the right levers to influence behaviour positively. To do this we draw on a range of methodologies and proven behavioural science models to close the ‘say do gap’. Qualitatively, this means we using a narrative qual technique that gets people ‘out of their heads’ and their rational brains, and into a more imaginative and emotive space. We use tools and activities designed to elicit the hidden individual stories, emotions and motivations that lie on the fringes of consciousness.

Individual stories, behavioural biases and heuristics form one side of the behaviour change coin. The other side of that coin is understanding the impact of deeply embedded cultural narratives on peoples’ behaviour. It’s important for many of our client challenges to uncover how this cultural context interplays with individual biases to impact behaviour. To help our clients with these type of challenges, we use semiotics. This approach allows us to unpick the hidden cultural narratives and shared stories that, along with individual biases, play a role in influencing behaviour.

Semiotics enables us to disentangle aspects of culture that we don’t ordinarily pay attention to. It helps us make the invisible, visible. It’s the perfect complement to our range of tools designed to uncover the hidden individual and social drivers of behaviour. Semiotics allows a forensic examination of a range of signs and symbols in the broader cultural and environmental context. Through this we illuminate the cultural influences on behaviour that are buried too deeply for people to tell us. Semiotics isn’t static, it’s a dynamic approach that ensures we uncover the cultural codes that influence how behaviour evolves over time. The identification of residual, dominant and emergent codes is essential in designing behavioural interventions that keep up with the speed of culture.

In branding, for example, semiotics can help ensure your visual identity is culturally relevant and able to forge deeper emotional connections. It can also combine with narrative research to support accurate future predications. By identifying emerging societal shifts and codes of 'arts' can help ensure outputs are culturally centred for future behaviours. 

Semiotics gives us a tool to tease out the hidden narratives that are contained in visual objects, physical environments, media and comms. It also goes beyond the visual to understand the hidden narratives in language, design, colour, sounds and even the meaning behind fragrance (an obvious example are the stories contained in the scent of bread backing in a mainstream supermarket). It ensures that we can help brands design experiences, communications and messaging that better target desired behaviours and are also culturally relevant.

If you want to find out more about how we use semiotics from a behavioural perspective please contact Andie Lowings at andie@irrationalagency.com

Related Posts