Semiotic Analysis of Burger King and Courvoisier Adverts

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“Every choice you make in the products you buy, from clothing to furniture to cars to electronics and beyond, is a sign, a signal you are sending to the world about yourself. Those aren’t just a pair of shoes you’re wearing: they’re a statement about your identity and the culture that forms it.” 

In her book, Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, Jean Kilbourne goes so far as to say that advertising has become a substitute for spirituality. She writes: “advertising and religion share a belief in transformation and transcendence, but most religions believe that this requires work and sacrifice. In the world of advertising, enlightenment is achieved instantly by purchasing material goods”

The use of semiotics in advertising is a process. Just because an advertiser chooses a lizard to represent its business by serving as its logo and mascot does not mean that every time consumers see a lizard they will think of that company. Instead, semiotics employs the use of repeated symbols that eventually come to signify the product. The message's effectiveness can still be instantaneous, but the branding that takes place by introducing such a symbol will generally take months, if not years, to establish. Advertisers do this, not only through repetition, but also through the combining of symbols, bringing words, images and music together into one meaningful and coherent composition. (Leiss et al.1990)

Two adverts were chosen from the given options and the visual and semiotic analysis is presented below.

Advert 1: Burger King (Now Open)

This is a basic advert, simply informing the general public that a new Burger King branch is open in Karachi. It is straight forward – clear and to the point – without compromising on the product visuals and company branding and there is not much text because the image says it all. In addition to this, the advert also informs the public that their products are “halal” which is important in Karachi, Pakistan.

What is immediately evident from this advert is that Burger King is promoting the new branch and aiming to grow their customer base in the area. This is reflected in the way the visuals focus on the image of the burger and the location, so basically the customer has all the information they need first hand to push consideration and later head to the trial stage of the product life cycle. The image is a full color image in order to capture the imagination of the consumer.

The tagline, “Taste is King”, is looking to identify with the public, specifically those who have had prior knowledge of Burger King and its products. It’s saying to them that although this is a product produced in another country and/or outlet, the values and offerings are still the same. “Taste is King” lets the consumer know that from whichever branch they choose to get their burgers, the superior taste that they have come to know and love will still be there.

The background features what could possibly be the Burger King counter top. This transports the consumer to the actual location in their mind. Wood taps into comfort, homeliness and warmth around which the consumer can partake of their favorite assorted fast foods.

A highly important aspect is the “Halal” illustration incorporated into the ad. Karachi is a city located in Pakistan, where the main religion practiced is Islam. Islam states that its practitioners must partake of “halal” meats only.

“Halal”, in this context, is basically “food made according to Islamic Law”. The word “Halal” comes from Arabic language meaning:  allowable, acceptable, permitted, and/or permissible. The  concept of “Halal”

is not  only  related  to  food  or  food  products  (as  most people think), but it goes beyond food to cover all  the aspects of  a Muslim person’s life. (Khan MI et al. 2016)

For a food company to engage in business in areas of the Middle East, all products used must be confirmed as “Halal”. Burger King knows this and goes to extra lengths to make sure the target audience knows that they support their beliefs.

Speaking of target audience, the market for this product is the urban middle class masses looking for a quick, tasty, uncomplicated meal.

Advert 2: Courvoisier (Earn it)

From the first glance, it is obvious that a high-end/luxury product is being advertised. The name, image and wording all point to something fancy that exudes confidence and power. The image of the expensive bottle is exaggerated and made to look like it is on a pedestal, to give the viewer the idea that the product is larger than life. The image background is tailored with fancy designs that further establish the status of the brand.

To further reinforce the brand position, the tagline, “I expect people to serve me” speaks to arrogance and entitlement. This drink is obviously not for the wall flowers of the world. The text goes on to express the brand’s achievements (two centuries of history and Napoleon’s favorite tipple…) in an attempt to justify the projected image of arrogance.

Courvoisier is a brand of Cognac that was served and celebrated at the spectacular opening of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 (  The advert tells the consumer to “drink responsibly”, which although it projects caring and concern is a required communication in the sale of alcohol as is common knowledge.

This advert is peddling a number of subliminal messages which are meant to influence the potential consumer into believing they must have the product.

“Earn it” – trying to get the consumer to see this product as a reward for a job well done.

“I expect people to serve me”

– Appealing to the consumer’s sense of self-worth and ego. It has been proven that human nature leans towards things that fan the ego.

“Some people think me a little arrogant…” – justifying the need of the consumer to have what they believe to be the best products no matter what the cost may be (both financial and social)

Lastly, the bottle is the only part of the ad that has a burst of color, to make it more attractive and appealing to the consumer. Red is the color of blood associated with energy, danger and strength. Here, it represents courage, willpower and brand leadership.

This advert is targeting the average high-end consumer of luxury products. Those who believe they deserve the best and most expensively made products and can afford it. These consumers are arrogant, entitled and often rich.

While the two adverts are obviously targeting very different markets, the execution for both of them is spot on and key messages effectively delivered. Both adverts use the image placement to give the product a unique personality and pique the interest of the potential consumer. The two ads are very different however. Leiss and colleagues argue that “For advertising to create meaning, the reader or viewer must do some “work” because the meaning is not lying there on the page, one has to make an effort to grasp it.” (Leiss et al. 1990). In the first ad, the target is the simple consumer who can immediately relate to the message conveyed which is the availability of the product in a new location. This advert only seeks to address a physical need (hunger). The second advert is more sophisticated and appeals more to the inner nature of the consumer. It fans the ego of the potential consumer and seeks to make them believe that they can become part of an elite group by purchasing and partaking of the product.


Khan & Haleem. (2016) Understanding “Halal” and “Halal Certification & Accreditation System”

retrieved from

Kilbourne. (1999) Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel

Leiss, William, Stephen Kline & Sut Jhally. (1990), Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Market place visited 11.20.2018 02:27pm

August 21, 2023



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