Qualitative and quantitative research can help elevate kids and teens voices, allowing their needs to be heard by the brands that serve them. As expert kids and youth researchers we are able to interpret and understand how kids communicate – gathering deep insights from focus groups, ethnographies, surveys and interviews.

But sometimes research requires going deeper – beyond what kids, teens and parents are able to communicate. This is when semiotics comes into play.


Semiotics is the analysis of ‘signs and symbols’ contained within culture. It is a technique of analysis developed by linguistic and anthropological social scientists to understand and ‘de-code’ the true meaning behind different cultural practices.

 Semiotics works by identifying the unconscious meaning contained within everything from products, to content, to design. It’s used in across multiple discipline but particularly in advertising to understand and leverage communicating the right codes to their target audiences.

But how does semiotics work within a research context and how can it help brands communicate the right messages to their audience?


At Giraffe, we are experts in applying semiotics to the kids, youth and family space – working with brands to help develop resonant branding, compelling content and standout marketing campaigns. We understand what it takes to tap into the right codes for audiences from early childhood to parenthood.

We work with clients across three key semiotic offerings:

  • Market mapping: we help brands understand where they sit within the broader kids, youth and family landscape and how their messaging compares to competitors. Identifying white spaces and opportunities.
  • Brand deep dives: exploring a breadth of content from brands unearthing the key codes they are communicating to audiences – providing granular advice on how to develop and grow their brand identity through messaging.
  • Trends & futures: diving into particular markets i.e. toys, natural food, kids publishing to help identify the dominant and the more emergent trends within those markets. Exploring how brands can harness new trends to their advantage.


Often, we find that semiotics, particularly in kids, youth and families, can be extremely effective when combined with quantitative and/or qualitative approaches.

Semiotic analysis can help add an extra level of depth and understanding to quant/qual projects – particularly around branding, content or creative development.

 In the past we’ve used semiotics to bolster and underpin our quantitative analysis– identifying not just what brands are popular amongst 2-9 year olds, but why they are popular. We also regularly pair qualitative research with semiotics to help identify the unconscious reasons behind audience perceptions.


Semiotics is a unique way of getting under the surface level of insight to understand the deeper meaning behind audience and consumer behaviour. Particularly in kids, youth and family research – where kids can sometimes find it difficult to articulate the reasons why they feel a certain way about a product, advert or TV show. Semiotics helps us not only understand the why behind these feelings but also how products, content or branding can be developed in order to appeal.

If you would like to understand how semiotics can help your brand communicate effectively with your target audience, get in touch with our semiotic specialist, Lucy [email protected]

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