The 3 Greatest Words in the Language of Marketing (and how they help you sell)

persuasive marketing messagesWhen is comes to marketing and sales, the ancient Greeks had it all sown up.

Well, at least the most important function of marketing, persuasion. No matter how creative or memorable or rousing your marketing messages may be, if they fail to persuade consumers to take action, those messages fail. Persuasion is the key to successful marketing.

I had a college professor who used to say, “Sales is simply persuasion with the implication that the exchange of money is involved”, and if the ancient Greeks knew anything, they knew persuasion.

Aristotle literally wrote the book on the subject. In On Rhetoric (a classical word for persuasion), he describes in great (and sometimes painful) detail the art of convincing people that your arguments are the right ones. But what I would like to do in this article is define for you the three most important tools that Aristotle says are available to us for persuasion.

Know these three words, understand how they work, and you will be more likely to create persuasive marketing messages. I will define each word and then provide an example commercial that uses each technique so you can see them in action.

1) Pathos

This is the root of words like sympathy, empathy, and pathetic. This is an argument from emotion, and we’ve all seen them. Watch the commercial below to see how it works:

This spot tugs at your heartstrings. It is a classic emotion based ad. This type of advertising can be highly effective, especially for non-profit organizations. If you sell something that might not take the form of a tangible product or service (like helping abused animals), you might try an emotional appeal.

2) Logos

As the word implies, this is the logical appeal. Facts and figures. This type of argument engages your left brain in a sober and emotion-less conversation. If the facts line up and the numbers work, you should buy the product. Clean and simple. Below is one of my favorite ads ever, and a great example of, at least in my opinion, a persuasive logical message.

Devastating, from a logical point of view. This is a great example of how just lining up features and pricing can contrast competitors. Well played Microsoft. If you have a product or service that relies on performance features or is highly technical, logical arguments are a great tool to use.

3) Ethos

This is the root of the word “ethics”. However, in persuasion, ethos is an argument from credibility. You are supposed to believe my argument just because I said it, or because someone who is speaking for me said it. Watch the example below:

Now, I’m a huge Henry Winkler fan. But, honestly, what on earth does he know about reverse mortgages? Maybe a lot, but I doubt it. This is clearly an example of asking us to believe in a service simply because a beloved celebrity is pitching it. All celebrity endorsements work on the argument of ethos, from Michael Jordan to Donald Trump to the Fonz.

Ethos arguments can clearly be effective. However, it does help if the credible person you choose to speak for your product or service actually is an expert in the field s/he is endorsing. For instance, when Michael Jordan says Nike shoes are the best, I’m likely to believe him because he wore athletic shoes for a living. I am much more dubious when he sells McDonald’s french fries (of course, those things sell themselves).

Pathos, Logos, Ethos. The three most powerful words in the marketer’s toolbox, if used properly. Learning what these words mean and how to build persuasive arguments around them will make your marketing much more targeted and effective. Trust me, I’m an expert (ethos, in case you were wondering).

What do you think? Do these three types of arguments help? What are some examples you have seen?

Thanks for reading.



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