Reading food marketing: the semiotics of Marks & Spencer!?

Richard Tresidder (Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 7 September 2010



This paper aims to introduce a social semiotic methodology for the analysis of food marketing and to explore the complexity of reading representations of food within promotional texts.


The work develops a social semiotic reading of Marks & Spencer's promotional campaigns utilising images from television and web‐based campaigns. This reading is located within a conceptual framework that underpins and identifies the influences that direct the interpretation process and subsequent consumption patterns of the reader/consumer.


By analysing the relationship between food marketing and the consumer, it is possible to identify a language of food that has its meaning and significance embedded within both culture and society. It is argued that the individual hermeneutically interprets and negotiates this semiotic language of food to reach their individual understanding of food advertising.

Research limitations/implications

The conceptual model presented within this paper offers a subjective and interpretivistic approach to the analysis of food marketing. As such it is open to criticism that its implications are limited as it lacks a positivistic or empirical grounding. However, the implications for such an approach are that it highlights that marketing is about people and, if industry is to develop effective or efficient forms of marketing, it is important to understand how the meaning and significance of products such as food are embedded within both culture and society, and how this informs the individual's relationship with it.


Although the study of food has a significant and substantial archive, research within food marketing focuses primarily on management and strategy and fails to engage with the social discourses that define meaning. As such, this paper offers an original insight into food marketing.



Tresidder, R. (2010), "Reading food marketing: the semiotics of Marks & Spencer!?", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 30 No. 9/10, pp. 472-485.

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