Rhetorical triangle – Going back to basics.

We’ve been going back to basics lately. We as consumers, we as companies and we as communications industry. I wrote a little about it here in my earlier post. So I wanted to dedicate another post to this idea of going back to basics on theory of art of persuasion.

Most of us is familiar with the Greek philosopher Aristotle and his theory on rhetoric. The theory is used to say your ideas are more valid, or that you ideas are more valid than others. The three terms that this theory uses is Ethos, Pathos and Logos. It however seems to be regarded as outdated, but I beg to differ. I wanted to talk about this with a little more updated examples to how we still go by this simple theory to communications. Rhetoric is now mostly used in communications and english literature, whereas in its history it was used in more variety.

In the above theory (the triangle), persuasion is divided into 3 categories. It is known that it works best when they are all combined together. But in today’s theory it isn’t really necessarily to use all three (in communications industry). However speeches, another version of persuasiveness, is different (this includes sales people).

Ethos is your personal credibility, what we call today charisma. Another explanation is that your knowledge is stronger than others on the matter. For example, if you are a sportsman, when people listen to you they are going to have the respect for you to know about sports more than themselves and therefore your ethos is strong from the start. Most brands have used this theory in many of their communications including Sainsbury’s (Jamie Oliver), Nike, Adidas, Alli, charities (using celebrity endorsement – charisma)…

This theory was first seen on the TV Commercial in the 60s for a cough syrup brand that had the slogan “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”. You can get away with a lot using ethos.

Pathos is the emotional appeal. Basically what we have currently been using, especially during recession. Pathos is the art of making people ‘feel’ by going into the details of storytelling. Pathos is known to be the last resort out of the three terms, if everything else fails you take a shot in trying to make the audience feel something. With recession, it has been this! There was nothing else left to do, as people were no longer logical in what they were buying, but practical. Hovis, Virgin, M&S are only a few of the many examples to be using this theory in the last 12 months. If we take recession out of the argument, Charities are the single biggest example of pathos being used to persuade/engage people.

This brings me to the last theory of Logos. This is the art of logic and evidence; ‘thought + action”. This was used widely in the 60s and earlier years of when advertising started. Now it is mostly used in FMCG products; beauty, cleaning, as well as technological ones. We don’t see many communications using only Logos anymore, it is mixed with pathos most of the time. Dove campaign is a great example of that.

We also see these theories a lot in everyday speeches, from our doctors, politicians and even sales assistants. They combine all three to be successful salesman.

It felt good to be going back to basics to put a theory behind it all. Hope you enjoyed it.


~ by nessahinkaya on June 24, 2009.

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