Logos & Trademarked Imagery

Denotative Meanings

A logo is a trademarked graphic commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations, and even individuals, to aid and promote instant public recognition. 1 Some images/patterns/shapes that are used on cigarette packs are not formally used as a logo but are still trademarked and associated with a particular brand descriptor or brand family.

Like all signs, a logo/image can consist of an icon, a symbol, and/or an index, each of which has its own way of conveying another thing or idea. In semiotic terms, an icon refers to something directly (e.g. a portrait of a person represents that person by looking like that person). 2 A symbol represents something indirectly (e.g. a red cross represents medical aid). 3 And an index does not represent or resemble its referent at all, but rather indicates where it is (e.g. a pointed finger indicates what it points to). 4

In addition to being printed on the pack’s primary surface, logos and other trademarked images are often printed on the inner foil and/or the filter tips. colour, hot foil stamping, and embossing/debossing can influence the connotations of a logo. Some logos take the form of a monogram or a coat of arms. Some logos also contain text and, therefore, typography.


“A logo promotes brand identification, and builds emotional involvement. A logo could be used effectively in advertising and promotional items to heighten brand awareness and strengthen brand identity. A logo could create visual excitement. It adds some mystique to the brand.” 5
“A logo also provides an opportunity to offer a graphic representation of superior taste. It could ‘Define’ and concretize good taste.” 6


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle  Glamour / Luxury Trademarked imagery can connote luxury/glamour. For example:

  • Cameo Frost:
    Cameo –> Jewelry; a trend revived in Britain by Queen Victoria 7 –> Wealth, fashion, glamour, luxury


Lifestyle  Gender  Logos can imply that which is stereotypically associated with one gender or another. For example:

  • Canadian Classics:
    Bull moose –> Strong male animal –> Strength and dominance, masculinty


  • Parliament:

    Parliament (1)

    Chevron –> Military –> Conservative values and tradition) –> Stereotypically masculine domain

    Chevron –> Military badge –> Recognition within a masculine institution –>Bravery and success

    Chevron pointing downward –> Realm of unconscious desire –> Sex 8

Connotations of a logo can reinforce the connotations of other branded imagery found on the pack. Consider the Parliament pack above:

  • Gash / slit / cut –> Mark made by a sword –> Combat –> Heroism

    Gash / slit / cut –> Female sex organ; reinforced by surrounding halo that suggests lips

  • Chevron pointing toward gash –> Emphasis of combat

    Chevron pointing toward gash –> Movement towards the opening / suggestion of entering –> Sexual intercourse

  • “Smooth Taste” –> Light tobacco taste

    “Smooth Taste” –> Sensations involved in oral sex

  • In this case, when juxtaposed, the connotations reinforce one another to produce a cigarette package that is sexually suggestive.

Trademarked patterns can offer overlapping connotations of gender:

Vogue Lilas:


  • Debossed lilac waves in background:
    • Waves — Nature, fluidity
    • Soft breeze –> Freshness
    • Feminine curves –> Female body, softness, sensuality
  • Pattern on metallic purple foil:
    • Droplet shape –> Water droplets, Leaves, Flower petals –> Nature –> Life
    • Droplet shape and arrangement –> Swimming sperm –> Fertility
  • Circle (in context of two surrounding lines):
    • Circle –> Eye –> Clarity, intelligence
    • Circle –> Planet, moon –> NatureCircle –> Egg/Ovum –> Fertility
  • V-shape
    • V-shape –> Fissure, female genitalia 9
    • V-shape of foil pointing to circle –> Sperm swimming towards the ovum –> Fertilization
  • Indeed, BAT confirms Vogue branding has “sensual, ambiguous imagery. . .[and] birth, life, natural, organic, tactile symbols.” 10



  1. Wikipedia. Logo. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logo. Accessed February 22, 2012.
  2. Danesi, M. Understanding media Semiotics. Oxford University Press Inc. New York. 2002.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. RJ Reynolds. Vantage Personality Positioning Exploratory Focus Groups. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/qin56a00. Accessed March 22, 2012.
  6. R.J.Reynolds. Vantage Personality Positioning Exploratory Focus Groups, July 1992. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/qin56a00. Accessed December 8, 2011.
  7. Wikipedia. Cameo Carving. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameo_%28carving%29. Accessed March 22, 2012.
  8. Beasley, R, Danesi, M, and Perron, P. Signs for Sale: An Outline of Semiotic Analysis for Advertisers & Marketers. Toronto: Toronto, 2000.
  9. Ibid.
  10. BAT. Vogue Brand Workshop: Key Learnings. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/bej45a99/pdf Accessed December 15, 2011.