THE SPACE OF SIGN VALUES

Modern advertising thus teaches us to consume, not the product, but its sign. What the product stands for is more important than what it is. A commodity-sign is complete when we take the sign for what it signifies. For example, "diamonds may be marketed by a likening of them to eternal love, creating a symbolism where the mineral means something not in its own terms, as a rock, but in human terms, as a sign" (Williamson, 12). The diamond is no longer a means of securing eternal love, it has become eternal love. Conversely, eternal love assumes diamond-like qualities.

The act of consuming images becomes as important as the thing consumed. We begin to derive pleasure from using up the symbolic properties of goods so that we might be allowed to consume again. We draw pleasure from the image-making process itself, the glorification of the product by associating it with important social qualities, or fascinating media images becoming our satisfaction too. One index of this is the interest in name brand products (rather than brand name products), the reversal of words revealing the reversal of priorities. A more general indicator of a heightened emphasis on sign values may be seen in the growing volume of imitations of designer products and the "pirating" and counterfeiting of designer labels. In recent years, the struggle to capture the most valuable brand image has led to what we call "sign wars" and particularly to parody as a way of one-upping a competitor's image.