The Difference between analyzing “text” and analyzing “language”: The Confidence of Linguistic Analysis

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a colleague about truly enjoying what we do. Mainly our conversation focused on understanding what makes people tick, examining the nuances in their language, uncovering their reality. The ability to do this effectively is because of our linguistic training … countless hours of training in linguistics, years of experience conducting linguistic analysis in the field of marketing research.

We believe that the way Quester approaches analysis is very different than some other approaches. Sure we are identifying key ideas. But we are also taking the thought process a step further and really evaluating “how” people are talking about those key ideas. It is the difference between analyzing “text” and analyzing “language”. For example, this gives us a sense of issues like how connected someone is to an idea … are they using distancing language or conditional language that indicates they are not that into an idea, etc. It is this type of analysis that gives our clients confidence in what we are delivering.

I, as well as my colleagues, truly believe in the value of linguistics. Other people may be familiar with the term, but do not exactly understand the full value linguistics holds in marketing research.

So, I thought I would blog about this exact topic … Linguistics in Marketing Research. Here are two key pieces to help set context:

Linguistics is the study of language.

Semiotics is a sub-field of linguistics and in part, is the study of how meaning is constructed and understood. I will spare you the full details surrounding semiotics this time around.

Quester utilizes linguistic and semiotic analysis that focuses on the language people use to talk about issues operating in decision making. Understanding an individual’s personal point of view is necessary to understand and use to affect people’s behavior.

Each of us, when we get an idea, uses a word(s) that represent that idea in our minds. However, that word may not mean the same thing or the same idea to someone else.

I will give you an example … an interesting one … Jury Selection. When the lawyer said to the jury, “I represent the XYZ Corporation and we began marketing that product to the public in 1992,” the lawyer knew what she intended to communicate.

But, analyzing the words used by the lawyer against language usage by potential jurors yielded a different meaning for those words.

To that audience, “corporation” meant a “large, cold, inhuman, unfeeling, uncaring entity.” And “marketing” meant “to manipulate or position.”

What the jurors would hear was, “I represent a large, cold, inhuman, unfeeling, uncaring entity that began manipulating the public in 1972.”

Semiotic analysis of the audience’s usage of language gives you a precise understanding of what message the audience is “walking away with” before your message is delivered. With this information, you can decide to use different words; hopefully, words that will convey the message in the audience’s words.

At the end of the day, linguistic analysis is not only a description of what was said (reactions), but also an understanding of the meaning and the motivational capabilities of information (whether it has personal relevance and drives behavior or only has intellectual appeal) along with an understanding of respondents’ meaning, motivation, and decision-making criteria … isn’t this the core of marketing research? It is at Quester.

As I said earlier, I really enjoy what I do! I could clearly go on and on. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much I enjoyed writing!


  • Nichole Clinkinbeard

    As the resident psychology nerd, Nichole has to know the meaning behind everything … every statement, every decision, even every facial expression – which drives her husband nuts! Nichole leads a team of brilliant minds with mad language skills to help clients become psychology and language nerds through understanding their consumers. She wants to help clients make their products shine. She loves it when clients are shocked by our work and our brilliance!She also loves the people she works with - all brilliant, all different from one another. A melting pot of brilliant minds, who also happen to be super cool and fun!Nichole loves to be creative both in work and her personal life. Interior Design is a passion and she always has a project she is working on in her home or a friend’s (it is much more fun to spend someone else’s money!). She loves DIY projects, sky-diving and tattoos (is a secret bad-ass wannabe), and she adores the Iowa Hawkeyes, even though she lives in the heart of Husker territory! But… nothing compares to her family. She has three beautiful daughters (no, she will not be trying for a boy) and is married to a wonderful man, who cooks (which is great, because she prefers power tools over kitchen utensils)!

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