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Comms Savvy Research and Consultancy


Semiotic Analysis

  • Semiotics is the analysis of symbols and what they stand for within their cultural context. Semiotics can answer questions such as what do the visuals, colours and communication short-codes in your category / field of operation mean to your target audience, how are they changing over time and how you can best employ them to meet your objectives.
  • My kind of semiotics is simple, easy to understand, practical to use and helpful for teams working in all aspects of communications.
  • This sort of study is particularly helpful at the inception of a new communications campaign, new packaging or new image programme and may often be carried out in conjunction with an early stage qualitative study.

Qualitative Research

  • Qualitative research is an area where experience makes a critical difference. This adds value by understanding the context of the issues, the effect of different types of stimulus material, how to moderate effectively and how to communicate the findings with clarity and focus.
  • My experience in qualitative research over the last 20 years spans a wide range of categories and projects, with a focus on marcomms in the widest sense, from TV advertising, to digital activity, innovation and packaging.
  • For developmental projects, I have sets of matched examples of unfinished stimulus and the finished item which can be used to help explain what unfinished stimulus reepresents to participants.
  • I also have a range of visual individual response formats which can be used to elicit the emotional responses to communication that might otherwise not be voiced.
  • I am a great believer in the power of visuals and use a lot of video and photographic evidence in debriefs.

Quantitative Online Research

  • Where a marcomms question needs a quantified answer, I can provide a rapid answer amongst the target group via a bespoke online study. This may be near the end of a communications development programme, or it may be to fill in a gap in knowledge about the sector or the target at an early stage. Typical questions that can be answered include:
  • Which age group show the most potential for my brand / service?
  • How far behind the market leader are we on specific brand / service measures?
  • To what extent will an edgy and impactful new marcomms route seriously offend any of the target audience?
  • Which one of two potential communications routes should we develop to answer our objectives?

Online studies can give answers in 2 -3 days, ideal for the tight schedules of most marcomms development schedules.

Strategic Planning

  • Working with communications teams to provide strategic planning - developing creative strategies, briefing creative teams, creating creative / competitive reviews, working on pitches / new business initiatives

Other Services include:

  • Facilitation of workshops and idea generation
  • Evaluation and summarising of relevant points in existing research
  • Eye-tracking interviews - particularly useful for packaging, communications and retail
  • Training
  • Advice on insight plans and budgets
  • Training



  • Insight and research into all forms of marketing communications - from TV ads to digital campaigns, packaging and retail communications
  • Brand Strategy - from new brand definitions to communications and retail strategy
  • Semiotic Analysis - the interpretation of visual / other sensory stimulus - the powerful communication that consumers process automatically - used for understanding a category and all consumer interfaces, e.g. communications, retail environments, websites
  • Strategic Planning - for communications agencies


Sue Burden - Background

  • I have a passion for consumer insight that can be used to fuel brand success – built on my experience gained from over 20 years as a communications planner at DMB&B and Grey, client-side researcher at Mars, research agency director at Diagnostic Research TNS, Added Value and IFF and now as an independent semiotician, qualitative practitioner and marcomms insight provider.
  • My experience includes moderating qualitative research, conducting semiotic analysis to help clients understand the communication codes in their category, creating and implementing training programmes, running idea generation workshops, contributing to new product development projects, developing new research techniques and communicating research implications at the highest level.
  • The “critical difference” I offer is a proven track record in using my creativity, experience and team-working to provide imaginative and robust solutions, including inspirational reporting and presentations that move clients closer to their brand objectives.

I've worked in a wide vaeriety of categories, including:

Fmcg: Maltesers, M&Ms, Mars Ice Cream, Uncle Ben's, Iglo, Homepride, Batchelors, Campbell's, Dairy Crest, The Dairy Council, United Biscuits, Kraft Foods, Pantene, Always, VO5, Kimberley Clark

Retail: Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons, PC World, Specsavers, eBay

Automotive: GM, Toyota, Kia, Harley Davidson

Alcohol: Absolut, Benedictine, Drambuie, Pilsner Urquell, Moet Hennessy, William Grant & Sons

Financial: Allianz, Direct Line, Churchill, Nationwide, Premierline

Travel: Qantas, Tourism Australia, Expedia, Ibis, Hyatt

Technology: Sony, Motorola, Vodafone

Public Sector: HMRC, Intellectual Property Office, Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman, Department of Energy

Charitable: Scope

Services: Texaco, British Gas, EDF, Yellow Pages