Aristotle, a long time ago, laid down the principles for a convincing argument. Even today, as we formulate our marketing approach, we can follow his approach. His classical appeals are to Ethos, Pathos and Logos.
Ethos is the Greek word for character; the word ethics is derived from ethos.
An appeal to Ethos involves establishing your credibility. The Sanford Web Credibility Project established ten guidelines for Web credibility, that I summarized in an earlier post.
On the Internet, your prospects can research your claims, and it turns out that more than half of them do so. So it’s necessary to be honest just because there’s so much checking going on. But beyond that, building trust is one of the major challenges we face when marketing over the Internet. Remember, we’re offering something at a distance, to people who have never met us, never seen our offices, never talked to our support people, who have no knowledge of our character. We want them to give us their money and trust that we’ll deliver what we promise, or, if worse comes to worse, we’ll live up to the terms of our guarantees. That takes trust!
Be careful of self-evaluation in what you write. Don’t praise your own products or services, don’t say “this is really excellent”. Describe what it does and how fast or whatever, and let the prospect make their own judgment about whether that’s really good or not. It’s OK to describe something in detail, but bad to make your own judgments about it.
You can use the judgments of others, but here, too, be careful. Testimonials and customer reviews are powerful persuaders, but Internet shoppers today are good at detecting fakes, so stick to real testimonials and genuine third-party reviews.
Pathos, emotional appeal, and it’s also a part of persuasion. It’s the Greek word for both suffering and experience.
Emotional appeal can be overdone, but we’re all persuaded b emotional appeals. In fact, branding itself is simply an emotional appeal, the feeling that a brand evokes. So emotions lie at the heart of marketing. We’re told that fifty percent of every buying decision is made by emotion.
A favorite charity of mine, that successfully works my emotions with every newsletter they send, is Best Friends Animal Society, a wonderful animal shelter. They use great photos of pets, and the hard-hitting news about how many are killed in shelters every day, to soften the hardest heart. Here’s an example from the home page of their Web site.
Go ahead, click on a link and look at their site. And if you want to make a donation, your money will join years of my own donations there to help the animals. And you can get their great newsletter, that any animal lover will treasure.
These people understand emotion and how to use it in their marketing communications!
One route to emotional appeal is to cite the problems we all have in dealing with support organizations. If you’re offering support that’s really better, than doesn’t run me around for a half hour chasing phone menus and then transfers me to two different people to solve a simple problem, I can relate to that emotionally. In fact, that’s the story of my call yesterday to Verizon just to find out what was my userid so that I could log on to their Web site. But before you represent your company as better than Verizon (as low as that bar may be), be aware that your prospects are doing their research!
The Greek word logos refers to a universal divine reason that transcends all imperfections in the cosmos and humanity. It’s an eternal, unchanging truth present from the time of creation, and available to every person who seeks it.
In rhetoric, Logos is an appeal to reason. Logical appeals often involve syllogisms, which are composed of two permises and a conclusion.
An example of a syllogism would be “All dogs are furry creatures with four legs. Jada (my dog) is a dog. Therefore, Jada is a furry creature with four legs.” Premise one plus premise two leads to a logical conclusion. Another syllogism is “Engaging Dave to advise me in Web marketing can increase my sales and profits. I would like to increase my sales and profits. Therefore I will engage Dave.”
In order to build your logos-based argument, you’ll need to provide reasons for your audience to believe each of your two premises, before they will accept your jump to the conclusion. You can cite outside studies, testimonials and other evidence to buttress your arguments.
Here’s an appeal to Logos that I believe fails. It’s for hyaluronic acid, whatever that is. These are the claims made for it, backed by no citations of outside evidence at all:
Familiar symbols have been used to give credibility. First, the bottle does look like a typical pill bottle, gaining some credibility. Then there’s a seal that quality is assured–by whom?–GMP. GMP ensures that you are getting real hyaluronic acid. Then we see that it has–good grief!–3 likes on Facebook! Then there’s a statement of the role of hyaluronic acid in the body, with a little asterisk at the end. The astute reader who looks at the bottom of the listing sees what the asterisk is for:
Are you ready to rush out and order your supply of hyaluronic acid tablets? Neither am I. This is not a successful appeal to Logos.
The Bottom Line
Employ Ethos, Pathos and Logos to persuade your prospects.