We explored how this manifested through engagement on Instagram. Through this analysis we identified a cultural orbit. A brand with a strong cultural role had engagement from people beyond the product itself but had actively brought the brand into their world to play a part in in their lives.

The ‘lifestyle’ equity of the Starbucks brand and the cups identity as a cultural icon means that it orbits in the cultural space of ‘modern minimal lifestyle’, a popular ‘code’ on Instagram. The cup is a lifestyle accessory often pictured next to technology and design (Macs, modern interiors and contemporary minimalist design)



Social buzz gives us a snapshot of how well a brand is connecting with people. Those that have higher engagement beyond the product play a cultural role in the community in which the brand exists and create cultural experiences that are distinct and powerful by being rich in cultural meaning and adding value to the people who encounter them.


Draws from the language of ‘hippy’ culture and psychedelia. The strong visual appeal of the Lush Bathbomb experience drives its share appeal.


The importance of human contact and the idea of being ‘neighbours’ is important to Starbucks and more so than any other coffee shop brand we see it inhabiting the cultural orbit of friendship and romance.

Lush campaigns against animal testing and on other issues. The visual language of protest that the brand uses takes it out of the realms of a conventional beauty brand and embeds it more deeply in culture.

The names on cups and the smart use of illustration and cup art to mark the seasons take the cup into a cultural orbit beyond coffee and centred around art, design and creativity.

Lush’s retail design is more farmer’s market than beauty bar and as a result it taps into the millennial interest in sharing anything ‘fresh and foody’ on social media. Again it inhabits a cultural orbit well outside of its category.




By marking shared cultural milestones (e.g. Christmas / the seasons) with iconic cups and products (e.g. the red cup / pumpkin spice latte) Starbucks moves into a much wider cultural orbit acting as a marker for the seasons we all share.


Lush has a very active and exciting cultural experience universe. Lush's cultural highlights how culturally connected the brand is and how it is connecting in colorful and diverse worlds that create community and push a change agenda.

In comparison The body shop is small, its instagram presence remains orbiting the product world and is yet to exist in the cultural universe.

Starbucks have an exciting cultural experience universe. Starbucks' cultural role on the community powerfully shows up in people's cultural experience of the brand. The Instagram semiotic analysis highlights an active community bringing the Starbucks brand into their worlds through friendship and togetherness, creative expression, and Starbucks as an extension of the self and their cultural environment. The iconic Starbucks cup plays a vital element of people bringing the brand into their lives.

In comparison, Costa's Engagement is mostly powered by product.