Brand Descriptor

brand name

Denotative Meanings

The brand descriptor is the name given to the product; it can also be referred to as the brand name or line extension. It serves the following functions:

  • Denotative function: to help differentiate the product from others within the brand family
  • Connotative function: generates images beyond actual product

Typography, colour, finishes, and embossing and debossing, and other visual features can affect the interpretation of the brand descriptor. The brand descriptor can also interact with other textual elements on the pack, such as the brand family name, slogan, and monogram.


“Brand names, clearly, do much more than just identify a product….They are constructed to create connotative signification systems for the product. At a practical informational level, naming a product has, of course, a denotative function; i.e. it allows consumer to identify the product they desire to purchase (or not). But at a connotative level, the product’s name generates images that go well beyond this simple identifier function.” 1

“Brands are no longer to be things just for consumption; they are seen mainly as the means of… attained popularity and prestige, praise from others, increasing pleasure, advancing socially.” 2


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour Examples of brand descriptors connoting luxury:

  • du Maurier Prestige
  • JTI-Macdonald Select
  • Accord Select
  • du Maurier Avanti Elite
  • du Maurier Avanti Specia
  • Edge –> “Cutting Edge,” “Leading Edge” –> State of the art –> Affordable only to the rich, luxurious
  • Superslims –> Female form idealized by the fashion industry and exhibited by models –> Attractiveness, sophistication, desirability, glamour
Lifestyle Gender Examples of brand descriptors connoting gender:

  • Peter Jackson “Full Flavour” –> Stronger tobacco –> Boldness, 3 masculinity 4
  • Viscount Sky, Vogue Lilas –> Nature, flowers –> Femininity
  • Vogue Charactere Slims –> Slender body ideal –> Femininity
Healthfulness Strength Brand descriptors can imply relative strength:

  • “We have learnt that tar level isn’t the only determinant of strength. Other main contributors would be the qualifier (strong, medium, light), packaging and other elements that contribute to the trademark image.” 5
  • In many jurisdictions, lexical choices such as “light” and “mild” are prohibited.  Other brand descriptors have taken their place.  Examples of brand descriptors utilized include smooth, mellow, rich and full flavour.
    • Smooth –> Free from unevenness; not rough –> A cigarette that is not rough and that is free from impurities –> Purity –> Healthy
    • Mellow -> Made gentle by age or experience 6 –> A cigarette that is more gentle than others
    • Full Flavour –> Containing as much or as many as is possible or normal 7 –> A cigarette that contains as much flavour as possible –> A stronger cigarette
    • Rich –> Flavourful, full –> A stronger cigarette
  • Example of how brand descriptors can distinguish relative strength of each line extension:
    Export ‘A’ Full Flavour
    Export ‘A’ Medium
    Export ‘A’ Smooth
    Export ‘A’ Extra Smooth
    Export ‘A’ Ultra Smooth



  1. Danesi, M. Understanding Media Semiotics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc, 2002, pp 185-186.
  2. Danesi M. Why It Sells; Decoding the Meanings of Brand Names, Logos, Ads, and Other Marketing and Advertising Ploys.Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2008.
  3. Gilbert E. Performing femininity: Young women’s gendered practice of smoking. Journal of Gender Studies 2007;16 (2):121-137.
  4. Sylvestre Marketing. Belvedere Rock Research Report, prepared by Sylvestre Marketing, probably 1992-1993 (RBH- 2019). Accessed January 9, 2012.
  5. BATco., I.T.L. Treatment of Actual vs. Perceived Strength. Bates Number: 202200798-202200800. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2012.
  6. Merriam Webster. Mellow. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2012.
  7. Merriam Webster. Full. Available at: Accessed January 9, 2012.