Advertising requires the marketer to target a section of a community or the entire community by providing convincing information to create some “sense of need.” The “need” can only be satisfied by a product or service being marketed. The message in this context is the most important aspect of advertising. It is offered in different forms- signs, linguistics or sounds. In cultural marketing, semiotics, or the use of applied linguistics, has been applied in advertising various products.
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The sign is the most fundamental concept of semiotic advertising. According to semiotic theorists, human beings are animals with a high capacity to make and interpret signs. Thus, sign making and sign interpretation are an important aspect of advertising, which is worth discussion when analyzing cultural and semiotic advertising. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the cultural and semiotic aspects of a current TV advertisement in the UK. For discussion, I choose the TV advert “Thank you Mom” used by Procter and Gamble (P&G).
Identification of the P&G TV ad “Thank You, Mom.”
The P&G commercial advert “Thank you Mom” was first developed for the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. In the context, the ad illustrates how athletes’ mothers struggle to bring up their children. It is a sign of love and dedication to the children.
Each mother wakes up repeatedly early in the morning, makes breakfast and brings her children to the training camp before returning home to wash their clothing and prepare their food. This routine is repeated for years until the children make their way to the Olympic Games. However, as the children grow up, their mothers grow older.
Nevertheless, the mothers’ daily routines agitate their hearts. At the end of the advertisement, a clear text “Thank you Mom” is displayed, which is a clear indication of the gratitude the athletes have for their caring mothers. The message shows the value added by P&G to the lives of the growing athletes. For example, the mothers use the company’s housekeeping products in bringing up their kids until they make it to the Olympics.
Use of USP, Semiotics and appeals to the unconscious/conscious
By definition, Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a concept used in marketing and advertisement under the theory “advertising campaigns that made unique propositions to the target customers always successful in convincing them to switch brands” (Solis 2011). It defines a company’s “personal product” in the marketplace, which is described by the degree of uniqueness of the product and is achieved by differentiation.
In the case of Procter and Gamble’s household products, the TV advert “Thank you Mom” is used to target mothers who are in their childbearing and childrearing ages. It attempts to convince the mothers that using P&G household products is one of the most significant indications that a mother has love and dedication to her child. It appears to make young families believe that using P&G products will not only help them satisfy their current needs but also achieve their children’s life dreams.
Obvious, every mother is determined to bring up a successful child in the best way possible. It is the dream of every mother to see her child become an important person in society. By saying “Thank you, Mom,” the athletes appreciate their mothers’ efforts in bringing them up until they become important people. Therefore, the advert makes a unique proposition to the mothers by convincing them that P&G household products provide them with the best way to achieve their lifetime dreams.
According to Trenholm (2006), semiotics provides a focused perspective on the identification and recognition of signs on critical literal abilities. According to Wilmshurst (1985), semiotic approach to communication with visual aspects seeks to stress the idea that images are a collection or a system of signs that the viewers have connected or linked together in some systematic manner.
When analyzing the logical process by which humans create inferences and make sense out of the observed things, one can understand how the interpretation of signs works. In semiotics, a sign can be a word, a visual image or even a sound. The sign is an object that represents another object or subject.
According to Lechte (2004), Saussure’s theory divided sign into two main components- a signifier and the signified. In this concept, a signifier is the sound, word or the image, whereas the signified is the meaning or concept that is represented by the signifier.
On the other hand, Pierce’s theory divides a sign into three main components- the iconic, indexical and symbolic. In this concept, the iconic sign is the same as the object. On its part, a symbol is the conventional sign used in speaking or writing while the index is the sign that is physically linked to the object.
In the case of P&G ad “Thank You Mom,” the company attempts to use signs as a way of communicating the message to the target customers. As the athletes grow up, the audience is introduced to the idea that mothers are using P&G household products to care for their families. The ad uses signs, sounds, and words to express the intended meaning to the targeted customers.
For instance, images of the mothers taking their children to some training camps every day and returning to wash the children’s clothes with P&G products attempt to make the viewers connect these events in their minds. The viewers link the images to conclude that the mothers were dedicated to seeing their children achieve their lifetime goals.
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Since the images portrayed in the advert represent multiple mothers, the viewer can link the events to come up with a conclusion that multiple families are set to achieve if they use the products. The idea is the concept (signified) that the images and words represent in the ad. The words “Thank you Mom” that appears towards the end of the advert are also signifies- the viewer can read and speak out the words.
The advert also appeals to the conscious and unconscious mind. According to Solis (2011), human minds perceive all information that is transmitted through the five senses instantaneously. The function of the conscious mind is to filter out the information that it is unable to deal with due to psychological or limitation in the volume of the sensory experience (MacDonald 2005). It also constructs a meaningful and acceptable image from the information it has retained.
However, the remaining inputs are not thrown away but are stored in the unconscious mind, at least for some time. They normally affect conscious behavior in some way. Therefore, advertisers have used these aspects of the human mind to motivate and influence behavior patterns, especially when buying items.
In the case of P&G, the “Thank You Mom” advert is used to appeal to the two types of the human mind. The advert appeals to the conscious mind using two senses- hearing and sight. Once the public has viewed the ad, they are likely to retain the information that P&G household products are available within their reach and are effective in maintaining their homes. However, a lot of information in the ad is filtered by the conscious mind and stored in the unconscious mind.
Once a mother or a parent goes shopping, she is likely to come across the P&G products at the market or store. The information stored in her unconscious mind will influence the decision she makes. For instance, she thinks “by buying P&G baby diapers (or soap), I will be a loving mother” or “by not buying the P&G product, I will not be helping my kid become like the athlete on the TV.” The mother will have remembered the scene she watches daily on her TV set, which will compel her to try the products.
How the advert targets audiences and how it contributes to discourses
To target a general or specific audience, the marketer must appeal to some of the most crucial aspects of life affecting them. It is necessary for the marketer to trigger a sense of dialogue either within the mind of a person or between persons, which will most likely convince the target to try the product and experience the taste being advertised.
Also, the marketer must create a sense of need or “feed off false self-esteem” among the targets to convince them that the only way to satisfy the need is to try the product. The marketer ought to choose a simple but influential topic on which to base the advert message. However, the message must elicit discourses among the viewers, especially the targeted group.
In the case of P&G’s advert “Thank You Mom,” it is worth noting that the main target is the mothers or housekeepers who are assigned the tasks of caring for the children. As aforementioned, it is the dream of every caring mother or parent to see the child become an important person in society.
Athletes are sportspeople who attract a lot of public attention. They are held with high dignity in the UK. Also, they are role models for most people. In this context, it is obvious that the advert took advantage of the event (2012 London Olympics) to attract the attention of the viewers. By using the example of caring mothers in the ad, P&G has attempted to reach out to the consciousness of the mothers who happen to dream of the best things for their children.
Also, the advert creates discourses within the minds of the viewers. For instance, a person who sees the ad experiences some mental argument within his or her mind “hey, how caring is the mother?” Alternatively, “does the product help children become such famous?” Whether developed within the minds of individuals or between two or more people, the debate is likely to engage the public in a silent debate. The debate can be solved when an individual tries the product.
However, it is worth noting that a mother’s dream of her child becoming as famous as the athletes in the TV ad is not achieved today or shortly. This means that the mothers will use the products every day until the child grows up. The mothers are aware of this nature but are still compelled to try the products. Thus, the ad creates discourses that play a significant role in promoting the product.
The potential audience responses to the advert
According to Solis (2011), consumers tend to respond differently to the experience they have with a product or product advertisement. However, response patterns are normally observed when a large group of people is targeted in a marketing campaign. It has been shown that consumer response patterns display some significant similarities and differences based on several factors, including the topic of advertisement, consumer characteristics and the nature of the product (Solis 2011).
In the case of P&G advert “Thank You, Mom,” an analysis of the possible audience responses can be developed from a wide view of the advert itself and the target groups. First, the advert itself is based on a series of events that take place in peoples’ daily lives. Secondly, it displays an emotional and moving topic that most people tend to admire- the dedication and love the mothers show to their children and the feeling of appreciation the athletes have after a long period under the care of their mothers.
Thirdly, the advert and its topic are interesting to watch- people would like to know how the children came to achieve the status and what they feel about their mothers. On the other hand, the advert specifically targets the young mothers and other persons bearing the responsibilities of bringing up children in the society.
Therefore, the possible responses are based on the above facts. First, the target audience will admire the mothers, their roles and caring for their children. They will then try to figure out how the mothers on the ad came to realize their dreams. The viewers will also admire the appreciation the children have for their mothers.
Obvious, the ending of the ad, which is displayed by the words “Thank You, Mum,” the athletes competing in the Olympic Games and the P&G symbols, will create a feeling in the minds of the viewers that P&G products helped the mothers realize their dreams. Thus, the response will be an appreciation of the products alongside the appreciation of the motherly care the children have in simple words “thank you, mom.”
How the advert works within a wider marketing mix-, other means used to reinforce the adverts’ message
According to Needham (2006), marketing mix comprises of the four Ps- product, price, place and promotion. In theory, the product is the item or commodity that is set to satisfy the needs of a consumer. The product has a life cycle characterized by three phases- growth, maturity, and decline. To make use of this nature, marketers attempt to focus on the growth and maturity phases of the product before it declines in sales and appreciation.
The P&G advert discussed here is an example of a product that was developed with this nature in the minds of the marketers. For instance, it was released some few months before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games. This period was signified by a countrywide euphoria as the public waited for the great event. TV stations were overwhelmed with news about the event, which attracted many viewers.
Therefore, when the advert was released, marketers expected it to trigger an exponential rate of growth in the product awareness, appreciation and sales. The mature state of the ad’s effectiveness was expected to last throughout the event. It was also expected to trigger the highest volume of sales. Finally, the decline in sales was expected to begin a few weeks after the end of the event. However, the ad has remained in UK screens, which shows its ability to use a historical event to remain relevant.
Price refers to the amount of money the consumer pays for a product. According to Williamson (1978), price determines the profit levels and the survival of an organization. Price setting and adjustments are crucial factors in determining the rate and volume of sales. Therefore, the marketer must make sound decisions in setting prices that take into consideration the customer perceived value and complementary products.
In the case of P&G, the advert “Thank You Mom” was supposed to increase sales during and after the Olympics. However, the company did not adjust its product prices or indicate any effort to alter its prices on the advertisement. The aim was to increase profitability by increasing the volume of sales rather than product prices.
According to Needham (2006), promotion refers to all methods and channels of communication that the marketer uses to provide information on the product to the target market segments. According to Vestergaard and Schroder (2005), promotion is comprised of several elements, including the advertisement, sales promotion, public relations, and others. It is evident that Procter and Gamble used the entire efforts in the advert to promote the product.
The ad created the elements of advertising, public relations, and sales promotion. For example, the ad was placed on national and international televisions during the event. The aim was to reach out for as large audience as possible. More important, the advert was based on an event that was popular in the UK and the world.
The company uses the advert to display its support to mothers’ love and dedication to their children. Therefore, the advert attempts to indicate that P&G products create responsible families and a responsible society that minds the future of its people. This is an element of public relations, a factor that seeks to connect the products (or the company) and the public (audience).
How the advert reflects a post-modern style and society
Post-modernism societies and styles are displayed by the freedom of using color, style, timeline, shape, themes, philosophy, language and other elements of art and design. In adverting, postmodernism shows the freedom to use a combination of these aspects to create meaning. In the case of P&G advertising discussed in this case, postmodernism style is evident. For instance, the advert does not limit itself to time- it is timeless.
The events portrayed in the advertisement show the lifetime of children from their childhood to adulthood, but within a matter of a few minutes. The mothers are shown supporting their children from their early childhood to adulthood by taking care of their training and clothes. Throughout the advert, mothers use P&G products. Also, the mothers are old when the children make it to the Olympics. Thus, there is no time limit.
Representation of groups in the advert
First, it is worth noting that P&G’s advert “Thank you Mom” targets mothers because it uses the word “mom.” Secondly, the parents shown in the advert are all females, and the viewers are made to think that all of them are the biological parents or relatives to the children.
Therefore, this defines the scope of the advert. However, it is worth noting that focus on the Olympic Games is a wide idea that suggests the company’s intention to reach out for a worldwide audience. By associating the product with the event, P&G attempts to show that the product reaches out for people from all over the world, regardless of race, ethnicity or economic status of their backgrounds.
As described above, marketers attempt to appeal to the emotions of the audience using several tactics. For instance, they create or elicit emotions among the viewers by touching some of the most pertinent topics or issues affecting individuals, families or group of people. The marketers sympathize with individuals and seek to create a “sense of need” among the target groups. It convinces them that the need can be satisfied by trying the product.
In P&G’s advert “Thank you Mom,” the company has elicited some emotions within the viewers. For instance, it touches the critical issue of mother-to-child relations. It shows the love and dedication that mothers have towards their children, the long period they struggle to bring up the children and the effect of their labor.
Similarly, it shows how the mothers contribute to the development of society and events such as the 2012 Olympic Games. At the end of the TV advert, the appreciating Olympians cannot hide their joy and appreciation to their mothers’ love by saying “Thank you, mom.” The events elicit emotions among the viewers, which creates some feeling or need to buy the products.
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