When my daughter was 10 years old, she came home from school one day with a sad, skinny puppy in her arms. All I could think of was how expensive, dirty, and difficult it would be to have a pet. Logically, adopting this stray made little sense. Plus, we’d never had a pet before. How could we possibly know how to care for it? But one look at my daughter’s face and I knew we would keep the dog.
The Art of Persuasion
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived more than 2000 years ago. Among the wealth of wisdom he gave to the world was the art of persuasion. He reasoned that every good argument includes three essential components: ethos, logos, and pathos—that is, credibility, logic, and emotion. These are often referred to as the Aristotelian appeals, and they still matter today.
When you launch a marketing campaign, you’re basically making an argument in favor of your organization, event, or product. If you present the right amounts of credibility, logic, and emotion, your audience will not be able to resist your offer.
What is ethos?
Ethos refers to the credibility and trustworthiness of your campaign. It goes beyond the message itself and includes the ethics and character of the sender as well as the “packaging” in which it’s delivered.
Your audience asks, perhaps subconsciously, if the message is coming from a reputable source, such as a well-known company or an influential individual. They might also care about the way you do business, for example with integrity, social responsibility, or eco-friendliness. Choosing a well-known keynote speaker for your annual conference is an example of the ethos of your event and your organization. Donating a portion of your profits to charity is another.
The message itself
Communicating accurate, verifiable information is a great start to building trust with your audience. Go one step further and deliver valuable, useful content that can make people’s lives easier. Testimonials, citations from experts, and helpful information all contribute to your message’s ethos.
Have you ever bought a certain type of wine simply because it came in an attractive bottle? Similarly, your audience is influenced by the way your campaigns look and feel. They will notice if your images are professional, your content is error-free, your printing is high quality, and your branding is consistent across channels.
What is logos?
Logos refers to the logical aspects of a campaign. It includes facts, figures, information, and product features. If I’m shopping for a car, for example, the miles per gallon and the maintenance record can help me make a sound decision. If I’m considering joining an organization, I might want to know about continuing education credits and networking opportunities. Costs, terms and conditions, and how-to information are all examples of logical appeals.
What is pathos?
Pathos refers to the emotional appeal of your campaign. Your goal should be to excite people, tug at their heart strings, or fire them up to take action. You must prove that your organization understands audience pain points and is ready with solutions. Storytelling is perhaps the best way to reach your audience emotionally. It’s proven by neuroscience to engage the brain better than logic.
If you think your organization isn’t emotional, consider how you connect people, improve their careers, save them time, and make their lives better. Interview members and event participants to mine for emotionally engaging details about your association.
How to use all three appeals
Any effective marketing campaign will use all three Aristotelian appeals in varying proportions. Your audience and the product or service you are promoting will determine exactly what those proportions are. Prospects, for example, might require more ethos in your messages than current members. New product launches might need more logos to help people understand their value.
A good amount of pathos is mandatory in any campaign. Often, organizations get stuck on the logical side of their membership and products. They focus on the “what,” like features, facts, and figures. In reality, logos is often not as important as pathos. If all decisions were made purely based on logic, no one would own a sports car—and I wouldn’t have adopted a puppy.
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