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Chan(n)el nr°5 for Androids

In Sweden 54% object to a connected device monitoring their activities even if it makes their lives easier. That’s 11% higher than the global percentage*. It means the majority of people in Sweden prefer to get lost on the road than to let a navigation app monitor them. Growing news coverage of data misuse do not predict a decrease in those percentages soon.

Trust has become one of the major issue in life today. That’s why Martin Ljungdahl Eriksson – sonic strategist – and myself – semiotician – made it the underlying current of our talk at NextM, the largest ‘marketing and tech’ event in the Nordics where we were the guests of IAB Sweden (the Interactive Advertising Bureau). Both of us are part of Kantar Sifo Sensemiotics where we specialize in translating sensorial and semiotic insights into clear actionability for our clients.

We spoke about the relevance of (multi-)sensorial approaches and semiotics in branding today. Both in the physical and digital world, especially with distinctions now between Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality. Our approach, especially in terms of trust, looks at how communication is processed by the targeted listener. Since the receiver of our communication is (still) a sentient human being who judges authenticity in fractions of seconds based on the senses, it is fair to state that trust starts there: sensorial consistency in communication.

The above ad is a fake of course. The lovely blonde is a character from the Swedish TV-series Äkta Människor, or Real Humans as it aired internationally. She plays one of a group of androids that achieved free will and are looking to be accepted as “real humans”.

If you lack a ‘human’ body odor as an android, then Chanel nr°5 makes sense, does it not? How else are you going to hide something that is not there? The same way you hide something that is there – and, in this case making your smell consistent with how you look. Issues of authenticity, relevance and trust are very seldom issues inherent to technology, they are issues of perception and judgements.

Although highly relevant, it’s a really old insight: in 1632, some 386 years ago, long before we were faced with the “fake news”, “post-truth” or “alternate realities” era, Ponsiot wrote in his work on semiotics “It suffices to be a sign virtually in order to signify in act”, meaning something doesn’t have to be real, to have real consequences.

The way we react to - and in - digitally created realities depends on how our senses are targeted in a consistent manner, making the distinction between the tangible world and the virtual one disappear completely in terms of communication strategy. New technologies and new communication channels have no impact on ‘how’ communication works, but on its speed and form, on its availability and on the spaces they create. Figuring out how to communicate your brand in both the tangible and virtual world has consequently not changed either: understand your signs, narrative and values and remember that your audience will judge their authenticity, consistency and relevance the second they are picked up by the senses. Making sense has never been more sensorial (or less for that matter) than today.

*Numbers from “Connected Life 2017/18 Local Report: Sweden” – Kantar Sifo

Thierry Mortier



Jag är aktiv inom semiotik och modern konst sedan 17 år, och är specialiserad på att åskådliggöra komplexa strukturer. Som regelbunden talare på Semiofest, publicerad i Semiotica och är jag en aktiv utvecklare av semiotiska metoder.

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