The ability to connect with customers is one of the most important measures of a company’s success. Once you’ve established your company and developed your product, you need to reach out to the masses. Finding quantifiable ways to market your product is imperative if you want to become a formidable player in the industry. Knowing that goal and understanding how to achieve it, however, are often too very different things.
The heart of all marketing involves understanding the power of the Rhetorical Triangle. Developed by the Aristotle over 2000 years ago, the rhetorical strategies within the Greek philosopher’s theory are as prevalent today as ever. Based on the three tactics of ethos, pathos, and logos, the Rhetorical Triangle is a strategy that can be used to attract customers and persuade them to buy your product.
Although some marketing strategies utilize ethos, pathos, and logos in equal measure, most advertising will be heavily favored towards one or two sides of the triangle. The amount of each tactic used is not as important as using them effectively.
Related to the contemporary words “ethics” and “ethical,” ethos refers to the speaker’s character as it appears to the audience. If customers believe that a speaker has good sense, good moral character, and good will, they are more likely to buy your product and become loyal customers.
Ethos is often seen in advertising that utilizes celebrity or export endorsements or seals of approval. Using such strategies is very effective, which is why some companies pay millions of dollar to have their product endorsed. This is especially true when it comes to athletes or movie/television/recording stars. To illustrate this point, one only needs to think of Adidas’ recent contract with NBA star James Harden. In exchange for endorsing their products for the next 13 years, Adidas is paying Harden $200 million dollars. To the layman, that seems like a ridiculous amount of money. To the company, however, the value of having a celebrity of Harden’s level endorse their tennis shoes is immeasurable.
Although small start-ups aren’t in the position to sign $200 million dollar contracts with celebrities, they can focus on the customer’s desire to do business with companies that are morally and ethically sound.
Pathos is an appeal to the customer’s emotions. The common words “sympathy,” “pathetic,” and “empathy” are all derived from this concept. Using pathos in your marketing can involve anything from appealing to a customer’s sense of right/wrong to making them laugh uncontrollably.
Think back to the most recent Super Bowl. Companies spent millions of dollar for a 30-45 second spot, which means the commercials had to be effective from the start. Which ads stood out to you? Which commercials were so funny you had to look it up again the next day? The commercials that stand out are likely those that triggered a pathos-type reaction. Need another example? Think about the plethora of commercials whose only image is that of a sad and neglected puppy. Those are pathos gold.
Despite the prevalence of ethos and pathos in the marketing world, there is plenty of logos as well. Logos involves “logic” and rationality. Such commercials use facts and figures, statistics, charts, and polling numbers to appeal to the logical side of our brains. Food and drink commercials often rely on logos more than any other appeal. Think of commercials that focus on product specs or the composition statistics of food. Although many consumers make emotionally based decisions, there are also a large number that rely on their logics and reasoning to lead the way.
As you can see, many different factors go into advertising. Understanding how to appeal to customers in the most effective manner will help you create long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. Don’t waste your time flying blindly into your company’s marketing or you will see those advertising dollars dwindle with no results. Taking the time to really understand the market and how to best appeal to your customers will bring you the success and longevity your company deserves.