Laura Oswald

Laura directs the Marketing Semiotics research and consulting boutique in Chicago where she delivers cultural insights into the emotional connections consumers form with their brands. Her results-oriented approach has made tangible impact on global brand strategy, advertising, new product development, and design strategy for blue chip brands worldwide. For example, Marketing Semiotics has provided strategic direction for all the brands in the Ford line-up and developed the strategic positioning platform for the launch of the Ford Escape, the Ford Focus when they were still in the prototype stage. She has made tangible impact on new product development and design strategy for the American Express Plum Card, Coffee Mate Natural Bliss, and Domino’s service site renovation.

Over the course of her career she has conducted hundreds of focus groups, depth interviews, ethnographic encounters, and design studies on three continents and across multiple categories, including CPG, automotive, healthcare, financial services, luxury goods, and fast food. Additionally, Marketing Semiotics offers custom semiotic research that distills findings from a blend of primary consumer research, cultural artifacts, packaging and retail design, and industry data.

As a thought leader in semiotics, a hybrid of linguistics and cultural anthropology, Oswald investigates the ways that consumers shop for meanings to complete their worlds, fulfill their fantasies, and form brand relationships. Semiotics brings a degree of objectivity and reliability to qualitative research because findings are grounded in the underlying cultural codes that structure meaning in a category or market. Semiotics-based research also exposes the effects of consumer agency, cultural change, globalization, and creativity on these codes. These forces account for the inherent ambiguities and tensions at play within a market and suggest opportunities for innovation and market growth.

In addition to consulting, Laura writes and speaks on current issues in advertising, consumer research and strategy at meetings of the Association for Consumer Research, the American Marketing Association, the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, and the American Sociological Association.  Her book, Marketing Semiotics: Signs, Strategies, and Brand Value (Oxford 2012) has been translated into Korean and has contributed to a recent surge in interest in marketing semiotics research . Her new book, Creating Value; the Theory and Practice of Marketing Semiotics Research (2014), investigates in more detail the theoretical foundations of marketing semiotics and takes into account current issues in marketing, including the integrated marketing hypertext and issues in social media management.


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