When I got my first manual camera, all my pictures came out blurry or dark. It took me a while to learn the balance between the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These three elements come together in different ratios to create a nice picture. Now when I shoot, I change the ratios depending on how I want to portray my subject. Similarly, Aristotle tells us we need three components for a successful campaign: ethos, logos, and pathos. Much like in my photographs, you can use these three elements in different ratios to achieve a desired outcome.
When to use more ethos
Ethos speaks to the character and credibility of your message. Prospecting, for example, often requires a heavy dose of ethos to build trust with people who are unfamiliar with your organization. Prospects want to know how long you’ve been in business, how many members you have, and the breadth of your offerings.
When to use more logos
Logos includes facts and information to help your audience make a decision. Launching a new product or promoting a high-priced event often requires a lot of logos. For example, your event participants want to know ROI of attending vs the cost of registration and travel. People purchasing your products want to know features, costs, and benefits.
When to use more pathos
Pathos is the emotional appeal of your campaign. It gives people a reason to care. No matter what you’re promoting, your campaign must have pathos. An emotional appeal is an obvious choice for fundraising campaigns, but it’s also important for things like member acquisition. Consider that you’re giving people a place to belong, to collaborate, and to improve their businesses and their lives.
Case Study: National Alliance on Mental Illness
The National Alliance on Mental Illness asked us to help promote a new website for their Cure Stigma program. They wanted to raise awareness about their cause by generating 10,000 unique webpage views. We created Facebook ads using single images and PSA videos featuring NAMI ambassadors.
Ethos: NAMI is a nationally known organization with a long history and a good reputation. The NAMI name established the campaign’s ethos. We aligned the look and feel of the ads with the rest of the NAMI brand.
Logos: The PSA videos contained hard facts, such as that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness. The call to action was to take a quiz to determine whether users have stigma about mental illness.
Pathos: The images and videos provided a human touch to engage prospects emotionally. The dialogue was lighthearted and humorous.
This campaign is a great example of how to use a mix of ethos, logos, and pathos to raise awareness, engage prospects, and incite action. If even one element was missing, the campaign would not have been as successful. The result: We surpassed NAMI’s goal by attracting 13,600 unique webpage views in just one month.
Marketing Essentials Self-checklist
Use the checklist below to gauge whether your campaigns contain sufficient amounts of ethos, logos, and pathos to reach your audience and compel them to take action. You should be able to answer “yes” to at least one question in each section, more depending on your campaign and goals.
- Is the campaign’s look and feel aligned with the rest of your branding?
- Is the information in your message reasonable, true, and accurate?
- Does it contain verifiable information or testimonials?
- Do you mention a keynote speaker or other expert affiliated with your organization?
- If prospecting to an unknown audience, do you provide enough details to start building trust? (ex: years in business, number of members, breadth of your offerings)
- Can you deliver on your promises?
- Does your campaign include important dates, costs, facts, and figures?
- Do you provide details on your event’s schedule or your product’s features?
- Do you explain how to use your product or service?
- Do you show return on investment for your events or products?
- Is it clear how your audience can take action to claim your offer?
- Is your message written in an approachable, human tone with words a lay person would understand?
- Does your message contain emotional words? (ex: vivid descriptions, sounds, or colors)
- Does your message prove you understand and empathize with your audience pain points?
- Does it include a story?
- Does it excite your audience or tug at the heart strings?
- Does it inspire possibilities?
- Does it get people fired up so they want to take action?
Did you answer “yes” to at least one question in each section? If not, consider how you can fill in any gaps to build trust with your audience, appeal to their logical side, and engage them emotionally. You’ll need all three elements to create a compelling picture of your organization, product, or cause.