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Employing Rhetoric in a Successful Marketing Voice—Pathos

Last week we introduced the idea of using Rhetoric in your marketing and advertising with Ethos, your authority and personal appeal in the tone and content of your materials. But Ethos is only the first of the three major components of rhetoric—and today we’re going to be examining the use of the second.

Part II: Leveraging Pathos

Pathos, which you can tell from its etymological similarity to the words “sympathy” and “empathy,” is a term used for your emotional appeal in a given message. Usually implemented when trying to instill some kind of motivation in one’s target audience, these emotions can range from very positive (associating pleasure with or inciting enthusiasm for a given idea) to very negative (associating guilt with inaction or anger and displeasure with an opponent).

Let’s take the recent trend in “going green” as an example. Many companies and organizations have tried to deliver a message that either generates interest to save energy and preserve our environment or preserve the sentiment that’s already there by specifically utilizing the power of Pathos. Many advertisements, slogans, and campaigns have targeted people’s emotions on the subject—either making them feel good about making eco-friendly choices, or making them afraid of what might happen if they don’t.

Your approach to utilizing pathos in your marketing campaign could be explicit or subtle, depending on your goals and target audience. But you need to keep it consistent, so you don’t alienate your customers with frequently shifting perceptions and emotions. Consider how you want people to feel about your brand (or, more specifically, your products, services, etc.), and stimulate it with the words and images you present. Use charged words that evoke strong responses, in whichever direction you want them to go, and use your imagery as contours that will guide your customers and potential customers to a mental destination you desire.

Once you’ve mastered the art of Pathos in conjunction with your company’s projection of Ethos, you’ll have won over countless new customers and solidified the authority and emotional appeal of your brand. We’ll take a look at the final piece of successful Rhetoric next week, when we examine “Logos” (no, not the plural of logo!) and the logical appeal of your messages.

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