Using rhetorical appeals to convince or argue with an audience dates all the way back to the life of Aristotle. The ancient Greek philosopher described three main modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Whether you realize it or not, you probably use at least one of these appeals every time you argue with someone! As modes of persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos are also heavily featured in marketing.
Using ethos involves appealing to audiences by referencing the authority, credibility, or popularity of the speaker. People are more likely to believe a source that holds some form of credit, whether that be due to power or expertise in a certain field. Makes sense, right? When it comes to choosing the best allergy medication, you’d probably be more willing to buy the brand supported by a local doctor rather than by your next door neighbor. This is also why some companies use celebrity endorsements for their products– just take a look at all the sports brands backed by professional athletes. They may not be experts in the product’s field, but the public is more likely to believe a figure they recognize and admire.
- “In my thirty years of working as a family dentist, ___ has always been the toothpaste brand that maintains the best protection for my clients’ teeth.”
- “Writing my doctoral thesis on the correlation between regular exercise and lifetime satisfaction rate has taught me that encouraging your children to join a sports team can hold many benefits.”
Whenever you appeal to your audience’s emotions or sense of empathy, you’re using pathos. This involves trying to spark a specific emotional reaction– such as fear, anger, excitement, sadness, or sympathy– that will further your argument. Think of all those commercials asking for donations to animal shelters featuring adorable puppies and kittens gazing sadly at the camera. The emotional reaction should support your call to action, persuading consumers that if they do– or fail to do– something, they’ll be doomed to a negative emotion. In contrast, you could persuade them that a certain action will bring joy, like adopting a puppy featured in the aforementioned commercial.
- “Every year, thousands of Americans struggle to put food on the table.”
- “This community center has housed countless birthday parties and weddings throughout four generations; to destroy it would be to destroy a piece of our history.”
Logos is a rhetorical appeal to the audience’s sense of reasoning using facts, statistics, and logic. It’s difficult to ignore solid numbers! This can also be used to bring up evidence from historical situations or past experiences. Logos is about more than listing the facts, though; a logical argument is needed to pull the information together into a convincing statement. This is also a good way to refute counterpoints. Convince consumers of the need for your product and state why your business is able to fill that need better than competitors.
- “Our company has a 99% customer satisfaction rate for on-site visits.”
- “Over the years, nearly two thousand families have come to rely on ___ for all their home-repair needs and have rehired our team for multiple projects.”
Understanding the concrete definitions behind these strategies helps you use them consciously and therefore more successfully in your life. Whether you’re promoting a new product, haggling at the flea market, or persuading your kids to go to sleep when they’re told, rhetorical appeals help you get the job done!
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