Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10397/78072
Title: Social media is the new black : a social semiotic analysis of luxury branding discourse
Authors: Nervino, Esterina
Advisors: Cheng, Winnie (ITC)
Veloso, Francisco (ENGL)
Keywords: Fashion merchandising
Branding (Marketing)
Luxury goods industry
Social media
Semiotics -- Social aspects
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Abstract: Luxury has always been defined by its properties of exclusivity, uniqueness, scarcity, high quality, and limited access (Kapferer & Bastien, 2009, 2012). Semantically, these properties are bound together as a privilege for the very few that could afford it. However, in the 21st century the aura of rarity of luxury appears eroded and its goods originally destined for an elitist market popularized. The aim of this study is to understand what is conceived as luxury in the 21st century based on an investigation into its semiotic construction as a product of its time. The study examines how luxury branding discourse, as discursive representation of brand identity and values, is constructed in the social media, and how the hosting platform enables and constrains its production and distribution (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001). The dataset was a multimodal corpus of 597 corporate Facebook posts with still images and text retrieved from the timeline of the official corporate Facebook pages of three European brands namely Burberry, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton during the year 2015. The study adopts an empirical approach based on social semiotics to investigate the semiotic choices made by the three luxury fashion brands to construct their branding discourse. The multimodal analysis focuses on the medium-specific features that construe corporate Facebook posts as hypertextual advertisements, photographs into their representational and interactional meanings (Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996, 2006), textual captions (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014) and their interplay with visual elements (Martinec & Salway, 2005), and the multisemiotic construction of socio-semiotic processes (Matthiessen, 2015) and intertextuality.
Findings show that the branding discourse in the social media dilutes the exclusive features of luxury by promoting a wider access to information and goods and create a clash of abundance and rarity in which exclusivity is artificial. Corporate Facebook posts become visual merchandising displays of luxury goods disposed as if they were part of an art exhibition. Photographs semiotically construct the products as affordable based on the reduction of social distance between the brand and the potential consumer. Captions boost the integration across media, introduce the seasonal products, and engage the readership with an invitation for either a virtual or physical consumption of information and products. Overall, the semiotic construction of luxury branding discourse was construed as the product of adaptation to the social media ecosystem. It has generated hybrid discursive practices and the evolution of the definition and stratification of luxury. The three brands, embracing digital transformation, are repositioned in the market as connected brands framing aspirational luxury pushed by the commodification of discourse and goods. Concisely, this further stratification within luxury goods market entails an ephemeral egalitarian access. The study is significant as it has met the need for a social semiotic approach to branding discourse and re-defined luxury as a product of the 21st century. It contributes to the methodological development of frameworks for the analysis of digital multimodal artefacts. It has important managerial implications for corporate communication practitioners in the luxury goods market because it provides insights into their semiotic choices and consequences, and pedagogical implications because of the wealth of analyzed authentic multimodal texts that can be included in the teaching material for corporate communication.
Description: xxv, 636 pages : color illustrations
PolyU Library Call No.: [THS] LG51 .H577P ENGL 2018 Nervino
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10397/78072
Rights: All rights reserved.
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