Ethos, Pathos and Logos – Your tools for a successful campaign

Advertising and marketing rely heavily on Aristotle’s three techniques of rhetoric – ethos, pathos and logos. You have experienced one or all of them while watching, reading or listening to an advertisement. According to Yankelovich, a marketing firm, the average person has exposure to about 5000 ads every day.

In the first 60 words of this blog post, the first sentence speaks to you with ethos – establishing credibility by referring to a respected and trusted figure, the second sentence employs pathos by speaking directly to you and reminds you of your purchases and establishes relatability, and the third sentence makes use of logos by wrapping it up with a fact. By now you already believe in the power of ethos, pathos and logos, and have been successfully influenced.

But, with great power of influence comes great responsibility to be responsible with it. These three marketeers, very much like the Musketeers in the French king’s regiment, are at your disposal to do your bidding and act as the bridge between you and the audience.   

You could either use them for propaganda, as politicians or corporations who would wish to bury criticism with a public relations stunt that focuses on changing the narrative, or you could use them for unethical influence by marketing untrue facts and exploiting pressure points and triggers that are beneficial to you but not to your audience. Or you could use them to correctly emphasise the strengths of your personality or that of your product or service.  

With ethos, we often see celebrities endorsing a brand to give it credibility, or celebrities appearing to be one of the common people in the plain folk technique of persuasion. While effective, and certainly influential short-term, it is increasingly more obvious to the audience that it is, in fact, a marketing ploy, and you can see the impact diminish over time.

But, subverting this approach to appeal to the audience by telling a story of someone who is truly one of them gives more credibility than using a celebrity. Marketers and advertisers have noticed this shift in perspective, and you see more and more advertisements from a street perspective.

This works brilliantly because it is a two-pronged technique. While using the one of us approach and establishing ethical credibility, it also intertwines pathos into the fabric of its narrative as it gets difficult to not appeal to the emotions of the audience while speaking through the voice of the audience.

This documentary style marketing approach often neatly ties a bow to its advertisements by peppering facts throughout or using them as footnotes at the end of the ads. After all, it is important to understand that while ethos, pathos and logos work perfectly well in isolation, they are intricately interdependent and complement each other to give your campaign the extra boost.

It is also imperative to acknowledge that what works for others might not work for you. Ethos, pathos and logos are mere tools, established nodes that help create a framework. But, just like the difference between a house and a home, the key is to realise how these tools speak to your brand, and how the reflection of your brand appears to your specific audience.

You might find a wonderful world within the wonton as you sip this soup.

Words have a persuasive power by default. When you string them together, give them rhythm, rhyme and variation, they tend to entice you and hold your attention, even if they sound whimsical or lack the rational structure, case in point the sentence above.

Crafting a persuasive ad copy or ad script that employs a narrative flow and tells a seamless story that simultaneously appeals to the ethical, emotional and logical parts of your audience will more or less guarantee that you have superficially and subliminally established relevance and relatability, thereby increasing the likelihood of your audience interacting with your brand or responding to the prompts. 

An unorthodox yet ideal example of positive persuasion is the documentary work of David Attenborough. His goal is to educate people about the effects of human interference and negligence on the planet, and to make them empathise with the cause to engage proactively with climate action and biodiversity preservation. In order to achieve this, he uses his celebrity appeal to establish credibility, while at the same time acting as a proxy for the audience observing the effects of climate change, thus using both celebrity and plain folk techniques in the ethos part of his campaign.

By showing the devastating impact of human actions, on not only species other than our own, but also on everyday human life, he wrestles with emotional resistance and breaks through the barrier. Finally, by casually presenting facts and figures and putting it into logical perspective, he drives home the point that we are responsible for the current state of the planet and only we can turn it around, as evidenced by his recent statement that he is a man over 90 and will soon be gone, entrusting people with the responsibility to enact change and also hinting that his old age and imminent passing is synonymous with that of the planet.

The biggest problem climate action has faced over the years is exactly this. How to successfully persuade the audience, and David Attenborough has been a singular exception.

Brands face similar obstacles in every market.

At Jester, we specialise in assessing these for you and devising the right creative output in order to make your campaign a success beyond the life cycle of your advertisements.  

We believe that your marketing solutions lie in the unison of ethos, pathos and logos, when it’s all for one, and one for all.