In layman's terms, it means that certain things remind us of other things. Whether we like the certain thing is dependent upon whether we like the thing it reminds us of. More importantly, this varies from person to person and tribe to tribe.
After defining your software brand's personality, look, and feel, you can begin the hunt.
The hunt? Yes! The hunt.
The hunt for things that resemble those traits. They can be anywhere, you just have to find them. If possible, your ideal user will already have quite a few that you can reference. They're found in the things they eat, the clothes they wear, the gadgets they use, the movies they watch, the people they admire, and the beliefs they adhere to.
If you can find these things, apply their look, their language, and their attitude, then you are using semiotics to your advantage.
When it comes to design and startups, a common misconception is if everyone in your industry looks terrible and has unpleasant experiences, it's ok for follow suit.
This has been disproven time and time again by the companies we all love. Design-driven companies yield a greater emotional connection with their customers and are an all around better company to work with. Even something as simple as having an easier website to navigate makes a big difference.
The difference? A customer being stuck with you instead of sticking with you. If given the chance, they will leave and pay a premium to someone who can treat them better. You have to design an experience that makes you irreplaceable.
Don't use the excuse, "everyone does it that way," when surrounded by mediocrity. Take it as an opportunity to be a diamond in the rough.
Most of the startup world is focused on getting bigger, expanding, scaling, and a long list of adjectives all pointing to gaining more.
Unfortunately, this mentality leaks into startup branding efforts as well.
Have more colors, have a bigger logo, more subbrands, more typefaces, more messages. More, more, more, more, more.
The issue with this mindset is that it is the complete opposite of scalable because you are reinventing the wheel every time you embark on a new branding effort.
Ask yourself, what is in the way of us getting our point across and connecting with our tribe? Then get rid of it and cut straight to their hearts.