For homework at Uni this week we’ve been asked to study some socio/psycholinguistic theory.
I won’t lie I’ve always been fascinated by this area of study, anthropology, semantics and structuralism. Its partly why I went into Marketing, the passion I have for studying people meant I was always going to enter a field that meant I put the wants/needs and behaviour of others at the forefront of my mind.
Psycholinguistics = the study of the relationship between language and the cognitive or behavioral characteristics of those who use it.
I imagine you’re wondering what this has to do with my little marketing blog…well, actually, everything.
You see, a lot of marketers forget that every word they use impacts each consumer as an individual as well as socially. This is why segmenting your market is so important for all comms based endeavours. If you are unaware of the local dialect/nuances then you will not be able to effectively reach out to that entire market. Same goes for generation differences and socio demographics.
Every individual consumer will interpret your message in their own way (according to Schramm’s model of communication) incorporating their own experiences, knowledge and a host of other PESTLE factors, though, interestingly, consumers are proven to change behaviour within social groups, changing into a different ‘self’ with different category needs that will fit in with the group.
I must admit that the easiest way I can think of to describe psycho linguistics within marketing comms is to compare it to the alethiometer from Philip Pullmans - His Dark Materials trilogy.
The main character Lyra Belacqua is given the “truth teller” at the beginning of the book and shows a remarkable talent in reading the different meanings.
Lyra must first turn the smaller three hands on to the pictures she feels indicate a question she needs an answer to. The larger hand will then dance around to the pictures that reveal an answer. As with anything involving interpretation each of the symbols has more than one meaning depending on the situation and relation to the other symbols it has been paired with.
In short, the alethiometer supplies the semantic content of a message, and the mind of the inquirer supplies the grammatical connections between the individual elements. Only when the two work together does the full meaning become apparent.
In Psycholinguistics, Chomsky’s theory is that as humans we are born with an innate knowledge of language and as such are hardwired to not only learn language but syntax as well. This stems from what has been identified as a poverty of stimulus that would make it hard for a child to havebeen taught things such as grammar and dialect without some natural understanding.
This is intersting for marketers as we can begin to see where good marketing and branding has affected how people use language (for example when requesting a cola flavoured beverage we ask for a “coke”, or when writing about Apple’s iPod we forget the rules of capitalisation at the beginning of a sentance.)
In conclusion, be aware of what you’re saying and the implications to the wider audience.
Till next time,