<trp-post-container data-trp-post-id='27645'>Jakobson and the brand

Roman Jakobson has never been directly involved with the brand, but its Essays in general linguistics provides us with an interesting framework for analysing brand names and their communication, and in particular the chapter entitled : Linguistics and poetics.

As a good functionalist, "language must be studied in all its functions". and to distinguish six of them, each centred on one of the "factors constituting [...] any act of verbal communication". :

  • The function expressivecentred on the speaker;
  • The function conativewhich is inversely centred on the receiver ;
  • The function phaticto establish communication;
  • The function metalinguisticscentred on the code;
  • The function referential, referring to the outside world;
  • The function poetic where the message focuses on itself, which is what artistic works are all about.

These functions are not exclusive, but "they often overlap and can be managed over time; on the other hand, focusing your message too much on just one of these elements can lead to a definite imbalance ... and a failure to communicate.

The brand, like advertising, can focus - either deliberately and voluntarily, by including it in its platform, or naturally - on the sender, its spokesperson: thus Tesla over the years become an essentially expressive brand, notably through the tweets and speeches ofElon Musk. The same goes for Apple in the days of Steve Jobs and Afflelou.

In this way, storytelling can make a significant contribution to enhancing the profile of a speaker/creator: Yves Saint-Laurent or Jean-Paul Gaultier in fashion, Jacques-Antoine Granjon or Michel-Édouard Leclerc in distribution, Xavier Niel in telecoms, etc.

The transmitter "created" does not necessarily match the personality "real the Steve Jobs of the Apple legend is a far cry from the brittle manager, capable of the worst tantrums and the father of the "stingy, egocentric, absentee and control freak". as described by his daughter Lisa.

Conversely, a brand can be conative by focusing on its target audience - its customers, its consumers: this is the hallmark of identity brands, perfume brands for example. Black opium, Wild water, Life is beautiful, Joy, etc.

A brand can become poetic when its communication focuses essentially on itself: Flowers by Kenzo is a good example, with the risk of losing the referrer along the way.

The referential function appears key, since it refers to the product or service named by the brand: brands such as Samsung, LG focus on the product; just like Volkswagen with its slogan Das auto "even though the latter also referred to an anonymous German sender.

The metalinguistic and phatic functions appear above all with the new tools: Wanadoo is in line with the Internet 'codes' of the turn of the century, with Yahoo! and Google like phatic marks, such as Blablacar which has succeeded in intrinsically combining connection and reference. It's certainly one for the future!

A balanced brand will call on several functions - and avoid forgetting the referential function too quickly: for example Dyson does it combine referential and expressive functions, with its founding engineer never far away from its products.

Conversely, a brand that is merely expressive or overly conative - or even overly poetic - runs the risk of losing its referent along the way ... which would be the last straw for a brand!

Then there are the expressive brands, such as Renault, Peugeot and Darty, for which the founder has disappeared from communications, and which must skilfully manage their frame of reference.

At Adwise, we recommend using this analysis grid for image assessments and communication tests. Combining it with the semiological analysis technique further enhances the emergence of key insights.

They we have fact confidence. Discover our achievements