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 WHERE WE STARTED

Gill Ereaut founded Linguistic Landscapes in 2002, inspired by a degree of frustration and a growing curiosity.

First, the frustration: across two decades in consumer research, Gill observed that even large and sophisticated organisations create and re-create the same problems for themselves, trying to solve essentially the same issue every few years with new consumer research.

Then the curiosity: she also became intensely interested in the way those client organisations talked. In briefing meetings with marketers talking about, say, food and cooking she would marvel at the odd but interesting way they talked. Each company had a perfectly formed way of talking internally about the outside world, the sector and the ‘consumer’, with solid-sounding concepts, clear categories and apparently coherent logical connections. But the world that language conjured up hardly ever proved to be the same as the one inhabited by the company’s real consumers. Organisations appeared to carve the world up into quite different categories and to speak about it in a fundamentally different way from ‘lay’ people. And there was something concrete about this language – it had real effects, including stopping those organisations hearing what consumer research was regularly telling them.

Gill’s quest for answers led to a rich store of academic theory and method - discourse analysis and sociolinguistics. Well-researched ways of analysing language forensically and systematically, they offered a possible solution. So she set out to adapt and apply these academic approaches to real business and organisational problems – to explore how the material effects of language could be exposed, and organisations made more effective.