At its essence, marketing is a form of persuasion used to convince the audience to “buy” something, whether they’re buying a product, or a service, or an idea, or ideology. Selling anything requires persuasion, and persuasion is both science and art.
The ancient Greeks developed persuasion and argument into a science and an art, beginning with Socrates and Aristotle. These ancient thinkers and their students created an entire school of thought around methods of persuasion, focusing on three concepts, all of which are necessary for effective persuasion (i.e., marketing).
Pathos represents appeals to the audience’s emotions, their sympathies, their imagination, their wants and needs. The use of pathos is the emotional hook that draws the audience in. A good marketing writer knows how to capture and lead the audience’s imagination to make them want something.
Logos is the root of the word “logic,” representing reason and rationality. Persuasion by the use of logos comes from the use of data and statistics, hard facts, logic and reason. Such things are effective because refuting them is difficult. Using logos not only makes a more persuasive pitch, but also enhances the writer’s credibility, his ethos (see below), because it makes him look as if he knows what he is talking about. This is where an effective writer will help the audience rationalize their desire, to make it easy (and okay) for them to go ahead and commit to buy, to call, to click.
Ethos is the root of the word “ethics,” and on one hand means “moral character.” However, the meaning was broadened to encompass credibility, competence, and knowledge. As any good marketer knows, establishing one’s credibility with the audience is absolutely essential. It is the bridge built by which the writer allows the audience to cross over to her side.
Combining all three of these audience appeals makes for some powerful persuasion. If any are missing, the argument, the editorial, the sales letter, the ad, will fall flat like a two-legged stool. The fact that these concepts were developed more than 2,000 years ago just goes to show that there’s nothing new under the sun, just ways to repackage old truths.