Brand Hate pp 105-128 | Cite as

Semiotics of Brand Hate



This chapter discusses semiotics of many anti-branding images created by brand haters. Anti-branding semiotics are strong reflections of consumer brand hate. In this chapter, I have revealed the tacit semiotic rules used by brand haters. The chapter provides a broad theoretical discussion about the semiotic characteristics of branding and consumer-generated anti-branding as well as digital anti-branding discourse. The chapter then investigates consumer anti-branding semiotics by examining a sample of anti-branding images targeted at valuable corporate brands. It seems brand haters usually prefer red and black colors (“fire and brimstone” a color codification of Hell according to religious references), rebranding corporate brand names and slogans by embedding negative words and signs, thus creating a negative representation of those brands. I discussed my interviews with consumers and their way of decoding such brand hate semiotics. The chapter discussions indicated that anti-branding semiotic representations with dark-humor and clear messages can create the most impact on consumers, while an aggressive but intriguing message have some potential to influence consumers.


Brand semiotics Digital semiotics Anti-branding semiotics Meaning creation Brand hate semiotics Consumer-generated branding 


  1. Ceccarelli, L. (1998). Polysemy: Multiple meanings in rhetorical criticism. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 84(4), 395–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chandler, D. (2002). Semiotics: The basics (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cimbalo, R. S., Beck, K. L., & Sendziak, D. S. (1978). Emotionally toned pictures and color selection for children and college students. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 33(2), 303–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. de Saussure, F. (1916/1983). Course in general linguistics (R. Harris, Trans.). London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  5. Eco, U. (1976). A theory of semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Floch, J. M. (2000). Visual identities. London and New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  7. Frank, M. G., & Gilovich, T. (1988). The dark side of self- and social perception: Black uniforms and aggression in professional sports. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 74–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gaines, E. (2008). Media literacy and semiotics: Toward a future taxonomy of meaning. Semiotica, 171(1–4), 239–249.Google Scholar
  9. Hall, S. (2001). Encoding/decoding in culture, media, language. In M. G. Durham & D. M. Kellner (Eds.), reprinted in Media and Cultural Studies 166.Google Scholar
  10. Heilbrunn, B. (1997). Representation and legitimacy: A semiotic approach to the logo. In W. Nöth (Ed.), Semiotics of the media: State of the art, projects and perspectives (pp. 175–189). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  11. Heilbrunn, B. (1998). My brand the hero? A semiotic analysis of the consumer-brand relationship. In M. Lambkin, G. Foxall, F. VanRaaij, & B. Heilbruun (Eds.), European perspectives on consumer behaviour (pp. 1–43). Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Kates, S. M. (2002). The Protean quality of subcultural consumption: An ethnographic account of gay consumers. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(3), 383–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Katyal, K. S. (2006). Semiotic disobedience. Washington University Law Review, 84(2), 489–571.Google Scholar
  14. Katyal, K. S. (2010). Stealth marketing and antibranding: The love that dare not speak its name. Buffalo Law Review, 58, 795–849.Google Scholar
  15. Kay, J. M. (2006). Strong brands and corporate brands. European Journal of Marketing, 40(7/8), 742–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Klein, N. (2009). No logo. Canada: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  17. Krishnamurthy, S., & Kucuk, S. U. (2009). Anti-branding on the internet. Journal of Business Research, 62(11), 1119–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kucuk, S. U. (2008). Negative double jeopardy: The role of anti-brand sites on the internet. Journal of Brand Management, 15(3), 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kucuk, S. U. (2010). Negative double jeopardy revisited: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Brand Management, 18(2), 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kucuk, S. U. (2015). A semiotic analysis of consumer-generated anti-branding. Marketing Theory, 15(2), 243–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Manning, P. (2010). The semiotics of brand. Annual Review of Anthropology, 39, 33–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mella, D. L. (1988). The language of color. New York: Warner Books Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Merz, A. M., He, Y., & Vargo, S. L. (2009). The evolving brand logic: A service-dominant logic perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 37(3), 328–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mick, D. G. (1986). Consumer research and semiotics: Exploring the morphology of signs, symbols, and significance. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(2), 196–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mick, D. G., & Buhl, C. (1992). A meaning-based model of advertising experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 19(3), 317–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mick, D. G., Burroughs, J. E., Hetzel, P., & Brannen, M. Y. (2004). Pursuing the meaning of meaning in the commercial world: An international review of marketing and consumer research founded on semiotics. Semiotica, 152(1/4), 1–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Müniz, M. A., Jr., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), 412–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Oswald, L. R. (2012). Marketing semiotics. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Puntoni, S., Schroeder, J. E., & Ritson, M. (2010). Meaning matters. Journal of Advertising, 39(2), 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schroeder, J. E. (2002). Visual consumption. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schroeder, J. E., & Salzer-Morling, M. (2006). Cultural codes of branding. In J. E. Schroeder & M. Salzer-Morling (Ed.), Brand culture (pp. 1–11). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Singh, S. (2006). Impact of color on marketing. Management Decision, 44(6), 783–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spinello, R. A. (2006). Online brands and trademark conflicts: A Hegelian perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 6(3), 343–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thellefsen, T., Sorensen, B., Danesi, M., & Andersen, C. (2007). A semiotics note on branding. Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 14(4), 59–69.Google Scholar
  35. Thompson, C. J., & Arsel, Z. (2004). The Starbucks brandscape and consumers’ (anticorporate) experiences of glocalization. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(3), 631–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thompson, C. J., Rindfleisch, A., & Arsel, Z. (2006). Emotional branding and the strategic value of the doppelgänger brand image. Journal of Marketing, 70(1), 50–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wang, J. (2013, April). Picture perfect. Entrepreneur, 30–36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WashingtonTacomaUSA

Personalised recommendations