Sense-making in financial communication: Semiotic vectors and iconographic strategies in banking advertising

Angela Bargenda


The paper analyzes the cognitive, affective and persuasive role of visual metaphors in financial advertising discourse. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, the restoration of trust-based relationships has become a prime marketing objective. In particular, the crisis-fraught retail banks have adapted their communication strategies to signal profound institutional transformations in response to trust depletion and public image impairment.The methodological approach is based on the semio-narrative analysis of encoding tools that correlate with specific communicational objectives. Special emphasis is placed on the transformative articulation from risk-prone to risk-averse institutional discourse by correlating risk factors with rhetorical strategies. Cultural inferences represent significant argumentative resources and are explored as strategic devices in discourse organization. The paper further examines the critical role of image/text inter-textuality as an enhancer of persuasive relevance. Empirically grounded in pre-crisis and post-crisis advertising campaigns at Société Générale, the in-depth visual discourse analysis shows how the strategic use of discursive resources, both visual and verbal, impacts identity construct and collective sense-making. The resulting paradigm of visual signs establishes a semiotic frame for subsequent survey studies to measure communicational effectiveness.


Visual metaphors; Financial communication; Advertising semiotics; Crisis communication; Risk management


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Studies in Communication Sciences | ISSN: 1424-4896