• Aivars Helde RISEBA University, Riga
Keywords: Social discourse analysis, stereotypes, brand, customer behavior, print advertisement, Fairclough-3D, Kress and van Leeuwen’s grammar, Gestalt psychology.


This study examines the nature of the social discourse of advertising used as a brand positioning technique. The focus is on consumer advertising that is directed at the promotion of selected products or services to the general public. The study is neither meant to exhaust all aspects of this particular discourse, nor present the answers to all the problems posed. The aims of this paper include analyzing varying commercial advertisements (both product/non-product ads) to investigate the intentions and techniques of consumer product companies for reaching more consumers and selling more products. Norman Fairclough’s ‘3-D model’ and Kress and van Leeuwen’s ‘grammar of visual design’ present methods for use by professionals in this respect, but we focus on the use of stereotypes in our study.

Traditionally, stereotypes are defined as patterns or schemes by which people organize their behaviors and activities. Psychologists have been extremely interested in the persuasion techniques used by advertisers. The implicit question that most of these studies have entertained is whether advertising has become a force that molds cultural mores and individual behaviors, or whether it constitutes no more than a ‘mirror’ of deeper cultural tendencies within urbanized contemporary society.

The one thing which everyone agrees upon, is that advertising has become one of the most recognizable and appealing forms of social communication to which everyone in society is exposed.

However, it could be said from the results of this study that the producers of ads generally use power and ideology to change people’s behavior and thoughts. In cases where ‘old’ stereotypes were effective, there was no attempt to change the consumer’s habits, but rather the power of the ad was in preserving their customary behaviors. This is achieved through reinforcing behaviors known to be similar to the traditional values identified by customers. When we considered gender stereotypes we looked at notions about the supposedly traditional behaviors of men and women, and the characteristics and standards of these behaviors, which are grounded in our culture and society. Producers use these ideas to make customers feel they belong in the society, and become psychologically involved, in the story presented by the advertisement. Culture involves human values, actions, patterns, ideas, and material and artificial surroundings that enable interaction among people. The content of culture determines the particular qualities of certain groups of people, which potentially governs their consumer characteristics. This indicates the importance of understanding the way in which culture affects individuals. In today’s information area, the media are the primary means of transmitting and reproducing cultural information. Today’s media shape the image of culture in people’s consciousness.

Finally, this study provides an analysis of varying ads, using different means of interpretation. All materials are taken from Latvian media.


Carroll, A. B. (1991). The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons, 34(4), 39-48. doi: 10.1016/0007-6813(91)90005-G

Cook, G. (1992). The discourse of advertising London and New York: Routledge.

De Bono, E. (1985). Six Thinking Hats. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. New York: Longman.

Ferrell, O. C., & Hartline, M. (2012). Marketing Strategy, Text and Cases. South Western: Cengage Learning.

Gee, J. P. (2005). An Introduction to critical discourse analysis. Theory and method (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and decoding in the television discourse. Paper presented at the the council of Europe Colloquy on “Training in the critical reading of television language”, Organized by the Council & The Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester.

Hatim, B., & Mason, I. (1990). Discourse and the Translator London and New York: Longman.

Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2004). The history of mental models. In K. Manktelow & M. C. Chung (Eds.), Psychology of reasoning: Theoretical and historical perspectives (pp. 179212). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Kelly, A., Lawlor, K., & O'Donohoe, S. (2009). Chapter 8 - Encoding Advertisements: The Creative Perspective. In J. Turow & M. P. McAllister (Eds.), The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader (pp. 133–149). New York: Routledge.

Kress, G. R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading images. The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.

Maignan, I., Gonzalez-Padron, T. L., Tomas, G., Hult, M., & Ferrell, O. C. (2011). Stakeholder orientation: Development and testing of a framework for socially responsible marketing. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 19(4), 313-338.

Mothersbaugh, D., Huhmann, B., & Franke, G. (2002). Combinatory and separative effects of rhetorical figures on consumers’ effort and focus in ad processing. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(March), 589–602.

Nooyi, I. (2007). The responsible company. Retrieved from

Rayport, J. F. (2013). Advertising's New Medium: Human Experience. Harvard Business Review 91(3), 76–84.

Rayport, J. F., & Jaworski, B. J. (2005). Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve Their Service Interfaces With Customers. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Ries, A., & Trout, J. (2001). Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind: The Battle for Your Mind. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

van Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse and manipulation. Discourse & Society, 17(3), 359-383. doi: 10.1177/0957926506060250

Wodak, R. (Ed.). (1997). Gender and Discourse. Gender and Discourse. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.