Bacardi – a semiotic reading

Now that we’ve introduced the idea of semiotics, let’s see how well we can analyze an image ourselves. I’ve provided each of you with a link to an ad on the assignment page in Blackboard. I will be using this image from Bacardi for my example:


The denotation is the literal recognition of identifiable objects within an image. It is a description of what “is”. In this image we see a woman from the waist up and cropped just above the nose. She is fair with Caucasian-like complexion and has dark, shoulder length hair.  She is wearing a red, sleeveless top and has on dark red lipstick. In one hand she is holding a cigar and in the other hand holds a glass filled with a clear liquid and a lemon rind. She is in front of a background of dark wood.


Connotation is what is implied by the image. This is the result of the cultural meanings loaded onto the elements within the image.

In this image we see a young woman who seems to be having a good time at a bar and/or party while smoking a cigar and drinking (presumably Bacardi). Her low cut, sleeveless top and lipstick are both shades of red which reinforces the idea of “passion” in Western culture. Along with red, the other color tones of the image are in the yellow, orange and brown family – all colors that connote “warmth” giving the image an overall feeling of heat.

Her mouth is open in what is presumed to be laughing but it also connects with and invites the phallic shape of the cigar. The cigar also pairs with the glass in her other hand – one as the “blade” (phallic) and the other as the “chalice” (yonic).

Linguistic message

This message is derived from the words in the message and actually contains its own denoted and connoted message.

The text in the image states, “Politically Correct By Day / Bacardi By Night” and the tagline reads “Bacardi. The World’s Greatest Rum since 1862“. The denoted linguistic message states that during the day this woman tries to follow the cultural norms of appropriate and sensitive behavior described conventionally as being “politically correct” while at night she drinks Bacardi.

The connoted message is one of behavioral contrast. This message is reinforced further by the use of opposing white and black backgrounds behind the text. The connoted message is that political correctness as presented here is an artificial construct and represents a denial of traditional sexual urges. In contrast, the text implies that one who drinks Bacardi does not put on this pretense. and is therefore sexually available.

—– So there you have a very basic overview of the process. As you recall from our class exercise, it takes a lot of effort to slow our thinking process down and really spend the time to examine the image details and really understand what it is we are seeing and interpreting – sometimes without us even realizing we have picked up on it. So spend some time with your ad, really look at it and try to see everything that it is telling you before you begin your analysis. I look forward to seeing your posts!


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