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Aristotle's rhetoric and Marketing

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is as applicable today as it was over 2,000 years ago.

In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote about the art of persuasion. He also studied what makes speakers effective and what kind of speeches audiences find persuasive. For over two millennia, Aristotle's Rhetoric has been a classic guide to the art of persuasion.

It has also been a lightning rod for controversy, a magnet for misinterpretation. That's because Rhetoric is not really a "theory" or an "art" at all. It is best described as an "approach" to human communication - an approach that asks:

What are the elements of effective communication in a given situation?

What rhetorical tools can help us decide how to put those elements to work?

What common barriers do people face when they try to put those tools to use?

In other words, Rhetoric is not a theory of communication. It is a set of questions.

Great ads strike a balance between information, storytelling and emotional appeal Traditional ads tend to be informational, but Aristotle says the best ads strike a balance between information, storytelling and emotional appeal. In other words, the best ads use logos, pathos and ethos.

So, let's look at each of these. Logos is the part of the ad that puts forth information: the data or facts that support a claim. Without facts, an ad may lack credibility. A slogan like "You deserve a break today" doesn't have a lot of information behind it. On the other hand, the information behind "92% of people surveyed agreed that the taste of Coca-Cola is a break from the rest of their day" tells us a lot.

Any good marketing strategy should include an understanding of audience types like antagonists, auditors and partners; an analysis of logos, pathos and ethos If they choose to follow Aristotle approach, marketers should also understand two other types of audiences: antagonists and auditors. Antagonists are people who oppose the idea you're putting forth. Antagonist are people who are actively trying to prevent you from achieving your goals. Auditors are people who want to verify that you've presented your case honestly and accurately. Thus, marketers should analyse the logos, pathos and ethos of their logos: the factual claims that underlie their marketing strategy.

They should also analyse the logos, pathos and ethos of their brand logo.

Marketing as a discipline needs persuasion and rhetoric Marketing is a discipline that needs to use persuasion and rhetoric to be effective. We need to understand our audiences and know how to speak to them. We need to understand the elements of communication and know how to use them.

Marketers now have to apply these insights to new media. They have to make sure their campaigns are designed to fit the channels they'll use to distribute them.

Aristotle's Rhetoric is still applicable to marketing strategy today. It's been a timeless guide to effective communication.

Alan Macdonald


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