The Retail Semiotics of Rejection


I’m back on-line after taking a hiatus from the blog to work on my new book. In the postings below I share more semiotic stories drawn from my observations on the street.

How to Send Customers Away.

It defies logic to observe retailers who set up structural and psychological barriers in their stores that discourage shopping, complicate the purchase process, and send customers away. These kinds of barriers define what I call the semiotics of consumer rejection, because they not only interfere with a smooth and happy transaction, but also actually drive customers to competing stores and brands. The examples that follow illustrate how misfires in retail design, customer service, the customer relationship, and technology management interfere with happy and satisfying customer experiences.

The retail mishaps reported in the next series of posts emerged from casual and professional encounters with the dysfunctional world of bricks and mortar shopping. The stories would be amusing if it they did not also betray fault lines in management’s service strategy – and the retail sector generally – that discourage sales, antagonize customers, tarnish the brand, and ultimately destroy business.

Culture-driven research can head off these kinds of problems before they threaten the brand and the consumer experience. Marketing Semiotics decodes the cultural environment and makes connections between cultural change, consumer behavior, and brand strategy. These connections enable businesses to move from blind conformity to tried and true strategies to a more dynamic adaptation to marketplace change.


In my book, , I cite numerous cases where companies declined and even went bankrupt because management failed to gauge the impact of technology on the product category and consumer culture.  In every case, it was not technological change that spelled the brand’s demise, but management’s failure to recognize and adapt to the changes in consumer behavior that the new technologies entailed. For example, mobile technology is not just a new platform for advertising products, but a means of anchoring consumers to community and markets in the midst of their increasingly rootless and mobile lifestyles.

© 2013 marketing semiotics


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