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Charles Leech - ABM Research Ltd.. Toronto, Canada Area, ON, CA

Charles Leech

Partner & Executive Vice President (Qualitative) | ABM Research Ltd.

Toronto, Canada Area, ON, CANADA

Consumer Insights Philosopher-Guru slash Real World Semiotic Multidisciplinarian



Engaging, articulate, passionate, thought-provoking advocate for the role that culture and language (of all kinds) plays in the construction of our daily fabric.

Charles is currently a partner at ABM Research, a 'global boutique' qualitative research house specializing in brands and consumer insights. For the last 12+ years he has been a pioneering advocate for the use of semiotic analysis in market research, having spoken extensively on the subject at conferences, workshops, symposia, and off-sites around the world.

Semiotic analysis is a powerful qualitative tool used to mine insights about consumers, brands, and categories by examining all forms of communication as a sign system that requires 'encoding' and transmission before it can be 'decoded'. It is currently used by an impressive slew of global blue-chip CPG clients to provide a deeper layer of understanding than that offered by more cognitive, consumer-facing research.

Prior to joining ABM Research, Charles completed his PhD in Applied Semiotics and Media Studies at QUT in Australia, and a cum laude Master of Arts in Mass Communications Research from the University of Leicester's CMCR in the UK.

Now at ABM, he is responsible for designing, executing, project managing, and reporting on a wide range of qualitative research initiatives, including focus groups, IDIs, ethnographic observation, and in-home interviewing.

Industry Expertise (3)

Beverages - Alcoholic


Market Research

Areas of Expertise (3)



Culture and Semiotics

Accomplishments (1)

Professional Researcher Certification 'Expert' Level (MRA) (professional)


Professional Researcher Certification at the 'Expert' level, from the Marketing Research Association

Education (5)

Lisgar Collegiate Institute: 1985

University of Leicester: M.A. (summa cum laude), Mass Communications Research 1995

Glashan Public: 1979

University of Toronto - Victoria University: B.A. (Hons), English & Religious Studies 1991

Queensland University of Technology: Ph.D., Applied Semiotics & Media Studies 2000

Thesis was on the recontextualization of classical music as popular music, by way of combining Umberto Eco's theory of 'metasemiotic consumers' with film music theory, musical semiotics, film semiotics, intertextuality theory, postmodernism theory, and cultural studies (essentially, a rebuttal of the framing of 'postmodernism' as a 'problem').

Affiliations (4)

  • QRCA
  • MRA
  • MRIA

Testimonials (1)

Stan Caplan, Managing Director | Usability Associates, LLC / Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference, Las Vegas, Sept. 2011

I first heard Charles speak on Semiotics about 10 years ago and it was a memorable experience because of the eye-opening content and his engaging style of presentation. Since then I have invited him to speak on three different occasions and every time he has made me look like a genius as an event organizer. Audience engagement with Charles during his talk and feedback I got afterwards made it apparent they resonated with him. One reason for that is Charles’ preparation. He worked with me to understand my objectives and the nature of the audience and then tailored his talk accordingly. I highly recommend him to anyone else who wants to wow an audience interested in consumer insight, marketing, research, advertising and related topics.

Sample Talks (1)

Exploring The Subconscious Through Semiotic Analysis: What's really going on underneath the form and function of design?

Semiotic analysis is an academic literary theory co-opted by market research to illuminate the deep cultural codes that consumers use to make sense of everything from tech design elements to television advertising. Dr Leech will explain the principles and application of semiotic analysis and how thinking about ergonomics and human factors in a semiotic way will enrich design with a deeper layer of consumer behavioral insight.



  • Keynote
  • Moderator
  • Panelist
  • Workshop Leader
  • Host/MC
  • Corporate Training


0 to 8000 *Will consider certain engagements for no fee