Over 2,000 years ago, Greek philosopher, Aristotle came up with his Rhetorical Triangle that was made up of the 3 pillars of persuasion. These pillars (I call them techniques) of selling still work! Ideally, an advertisement or sales pitch would use all three of these techniques to make their point and compel their audience into making a purchase. I truly believe that which method that gets used will depend on what you sell and what audience you are trying to appeal to with your advertisement.

Technique 1: Ethos (Credibility and Ethics)

Ethos is when you appeal to a consumer’s ethics by showing people that we feel are credible sources of information. Credibility can be determined by profession, but also is assigned by culture and is usually someone with a great deal of public recognition. For example, weight loss products. We’ve seen ads that show a doctor talking about how effective a product can be to use, but we’ve also seen celebrities selling the exact same product. The reason this works is that we’ve given these people implicit trust. We know the celebrity’s name and probably quite a bit about them as a person so we feel connected to them and trust they are telling us the truth. The same reason a friend telling you about a restaurant to try or product to use works, you know them and trust them so feel their recommendation holds merit and go to the restaurant or buy the product they mentioned. For the doctor in my example, we trust them because they have the expertise and often the experience to provide a recommendation and we assign value to that recommendation.

Technique 2: Pathos (Emotion)

Pathos (which is the root of words like empathy and pathetic) pulls on the heartstrings of the audience. Making someone feel something in relation to your product allows them to “talk themselves” into the purchase. Any emotion can work for this – joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear, guilt. A really good example of this is the non-profit commercials that ask you to donate so the subject of the commercial (usually children or animals) is rescued from pain and suffering. This technique tends to work really well to sell a product.

Technique 3: Logos (Logic)

This is the most “Vulcan” like technique of selling. Logos refers to logic. It has nothing to do with the icon type of logo. This technique of selling revolves around talking about all of the facts, benefits, and statistics of the product. The entire point of it all is to prove the product does it says it will do. Aristotle considered this one as the most important as he believed people were rational and appeal to their sense of facts will convince them the most. Telecommunications companies are really good at this one by showing ads with facts, figures, and maps proving their coverage is better than their competition.

As I said earlier the best ads use a mix of these techniques to persuade their customer to shop with them. These techniques influence your text, which also influences your design. Understanding what they are and how they work will help you craft better text, allow your designer (like me) to create better images, and ultimately help you sell more.