Identity, lifestyle, and face-mask branding: A social semiotic multimodal discourse analysis

Yilei Wang, Dezheng (William) Feng (Corresponding Author), Wing Yee Jenifer Ho

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The massive introduction of face-masks across the world after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how they are designed and branded. Instead of merely focusing on functional qualities, face-mask producers have started to draw upon symbolic values in their branding discourse. Against this background, the present study investigates how face-masks are branded in Hong Kong by analyzing the design, packaging and websites for face-mask products, as well as the design of offline franchised stores using a social semiotic approach. Analysis of the multimodal data of four leading Hong Kong brands, with a focus on the use of verbal evaluation, iconography,
typography, color, and materiality, reveals three symbolic meanings that are used in face-mask branding: (1) professionalism, which refers to the representation of facemasks as a symbol of advanced technology, (2) Hong Kong identity, which includes evoking pride in the past economy and exploiting the cultural symbol of the Lion Rock, and (3) fashion lifestyle, in which face-masks are associated with the values of stylishness, individuality, and luxuriousness. The exploitation of symbolic values and multimodal design in face-mask branding reflects the influence of the neoliberal ideology in the highly marketized Hong Kong society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMultimodality and Society
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2021


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