A Semiotic Approach Through Print Advertisements: The Changing Indian Urban Male

A Semiotic Approach Through Print Advertisements: The Changing Indian Urban Male

Neha Chirag Patel (Gujarat Technological University, India) and Supriya Rahul Bhutiani (Gujarat Technological University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2727-5.ch010
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The advent of globalization has brought about innumerable changes in the Indian society. Advertisements reflect the changing society. In the said context, the authors have studied the print advertisements related to male grooming products in India over a twenty-five-year period by using the Multimodal Discourse Analysis and the framework of Roland Barthes semiotics study. The current study encompassed two prime purposes – the first being that of identifying and understanding the important codes of visual image in the male grooming sector; and the second being to discern the changes (if any) hitherto in the Indian culture. The findings from the present study reinforced the view that advertisements do mirror the changes in the society and hence the emergence of the Indian metrosexual men.
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In 1991, forty four years after Independence, India was reborn. Economic liberalization triggered a period of transition allowing India to be a part of the global economy. Liberalisation, a global phenomenon, is closely entwined with the process of Globalisation. In fact, in its existing version, liberalisation is the enabling condition for the intensive penetration of globalisation into any society (Egyankosh, 2008). The fruits of liberalization reached their peak in 2007, when India recorded its highest GDP growth rate of 9% (Economic Survey 2010-11). With this, India became the second fastest growing major economy in the world, next only to China. Liberalization brought in the era of globalization in India. Globalization is a common term for processes of international integration arising from increasing human connectivity and interchange of worldviews, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture (Albrow, Martin and King, 1990). Hill (2009) has referred to Globalization as a shift towards a more integrated and interdependent world economy. Further, he states that the globalization of the markets refers to the merging of historically distinct and separate national markets into one huge global marketplace. According to Kongar (1997), Globalization affects the country at economic, political, business, socioeconomic and cultural levels. Cultural Globalization refers to the transmission of ideas, meanings and values across national borders. This process is marked by the spread of commodities and ideologies, which become standardized around the world. This has facilitated the process of an actual borderless world where people and markets have become homogeneous clusters. As numerous cultures come in contact, cultural imperialism, cultural acculturation, and cultural assimilation are words that make their presence felt and are widely used. Essentially the biggest fear is the loss of cultural identity. Urban India has enjoyed stupendous economic growth enabling its people to increase their disposable spending. Pre-Liberalization, the destitute middle class man had led a sedentary life. He had accepted the social class system and did not expect any major changes in life. He was a God fearing, contented, simple man with limited needs and ambition. With liberalization, global brands made a beeline towards India. An astonishing number of global brands forayed into India, wanting a share of its burgeoning economy. They created their presence in all the possible allowed sectors and segments – luxury, economy and bottom of the pyramid. Global brands have a universal appeal with the same positioning across borders communicating the same brand ethos, identity and imagery. The brand elements, the integrated marketing communication, the marketing mix differ based on the political, economic, business as well as cultural issues but the brand identity is the same. Clusters bearing similarities in selection of brands, lifestyle, music as well as life ideologies exist across the world due to global brands. This homogeneity across borders is perceived as a loss of age old traditional cultural identity of a country. This view, the constituency for which extends from (some) academics to anti-globalization activists (Shepard and Hayduk 2002), tends to interpret globalization as a seamless extension of western cultural imperialism.

The economic globalization gave birth to cultural globalization. S Varma (2011, p.2) vividly describes the image of the urban middle class youth who works in Tier I and Tier II cities and have a global character and mindset. These people spend their workday in tall-glass enclosed buildings which could belong anywhere - New York or Singapore. Dressed in Adidas shoes and Reebok T-shirts, tuned into MTV and BBC, and munching on a McDonald burger, these workers are a contrast to their counterparts of the 1970s and 1980s. Living then meant setting limits on everything. Then, almost all shoes were from liberty, TV viewing was a community or neighbourhood pastime during regulated hours, and eating out was a luxury restricted to the elite (Varma, 2011, p.2). The economic globalization has seen a slow cultural metamorphosis in the Indian consumer.

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