Winning friends and influencing people

Are you familiar with the three basic persuasive categories of pathos, logos and ethos?

How persuasive are you in your advertising and marketing strategies? Are you familiar with the three basic persuasive categories of pathos, logos and ethos?

Terms that may seem like they belong in a psych 101 course but in the world of advertising they are crucial to how you compose your communications messages to reach specific audiences.

I subscribe to the KISS principle so with that in mind pathos appeals to emotions, logos is focused on logic and reason while ethos has to deal with ethics, character or credibility.

How these relate to your specific circumstance depends on who you are trying to persuade, what kind of product or service you provide and what medium you are using to reach your target group.

The objectives of messages using pathos are developed with the idea of evoking emotional responses from consumers. Use our product and you will feel better, work smarter, live longer or be seen as the life of the party.

Many of these types of campaigns highlight positive emotions such as use our product and you will have more time for enjoying the good things in life. On the other hand they can use negative emotions such as pain, fear or guilt. Suffering from back pain, use our pill; trouble sleeping, buy our mattress; look at this child with no shoes, give a donation to help out.

You may have a product or service that requires taking a more logical approach to conveying a message. In this case your messages will use logos providing evidence in the form of statistics, hard facts or, in some cases, if you are using such tools as social media, videos of your product in use.

Examples of this kind of messaging can be seen in car or truck commercials. More miles per gallon, better towing power and lots of action shots showing the vehicle in use. In other instances companies highlight research stats that indicate their superiority over others.

This brings us to the third category, ethos. We see these kinds of ad messages on a regular basis. Think in terms of those commercials that use reliable experts to help promote the product … four out of five doctors, more mechanics use these tools or big name celebrity uses product ‘x’.

Taking this concept in another direction there are cases when it is necessary to take the opportunity to convince customers that your company is more honest, credible or experienced than others in your field

The art of persuasion involves a lot more than just understanding the three basic categories. They are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However, the number one driving force behind the use of any communication or advertising technique is to know who you want to reach and how they will react to what you have to say.

You will also need to know and understand how to use a variety of more specific strategies that fall within each of the basic groupings. Strategies such as the use of transfer, snob appeal, bribery, getting people to jump on the bandwagon or the use of patriotism to get your message across can all play a role in your overall plan. (I’ll elaborate on these in a future column.)

The most important strategy in all of this is to have a plan. You need to know what techniques you want to use, when they will make the most impact and how you are going to convey your messages so that they will reach your best prospects.

The art of persuasion, or in our case selling, is all about winning friends and influencing people. Not exactly a new concept for it was in 1936 that Dale Carnegie first published, How to Win Friends & Influence People, a book based on his course that is still in print and has sold more than 15 million copies.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached at

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