Brands Defined as Semiotic Marketing Systems

Francisco Conejo and Ben Wooliscroft
Journal of Macromarketing, Volume 35 Issue 3, pp. 287-301

Brands are one of marketing’s main foci. But while the American Marketing Association’s official marketing definition continues to evolve, its brand definition has remained stagnant for nearly 80 years. This article argues that the AMA’s simplistic trademark conceptualization of brands is increasingly out of touch with marketing theory and practice. Integrating the consumer culture, marketing semiotics, and General Systems Theory literatures, we re-conceptualize brands as semiotic marketing systems. This follows marketing systems being core to macromarketing. It also obeys marketing systems needing to contemplate their meaning infrastructures given today’s progressively symbolic markets. The antecedents, operation and benefits of this new systems approach to brands are discussed. Brands are re-defined as complex multidimensional constructs with varying degrees of meaning, independence, co-creation and scope. Brands are semiotic marketing systems that generate value for direct and indirect participants, society, and the broader environment, through the exchange of co-created meaning.