Real World Example of Aristotle’s Persuasive Appeals

Contemporary persuasion is largely based on Aristotle’s proofs, also known as persuasive appeals. As marketers, every aspect of the content we produce, whether we realize it, will appeal to one of the three proofs: ethos, logos, and pathos. Though consumers of our content won’t necessarily realize which appeals we’re aiming for, the message will resonate with them. It is our job to be acutely aware of the persuasive methods we use.

Each of these persuasive appeals travels through one of two paths of the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion, or the ELM. Motivation and ability determine which path a message travels through to the audience.

First there’s the central route in which receivers process a message with a great deal of thought. A message that travels through this route stays with the receiver longer than a message sent through the other route – the peripheral route. Though receivers have to do more work to process a message along the central route, their conclusion of the message will be favorable.

Conversely, messages that travel along the peripheral route do not require intense cognitive processing. Messages that travel along this route are usually trying to evoke a quick reaction of agreement or dissent, often employing fallacious arguments.

All three of Aristotle’s persuasive appeals travel along one of the two ELM routes. Let’s break them down.

Ethos

Definition:

A message appealing to ethos relies on the receiver to identify with the ethics or the character of the sender.

ELM Route:

Messages appealing to ethos travel along the central route because the audience has to be motivated to understand the character of the sender.

Example:

In this ad, Penguin Audiobooks is using Mark Twain’s character and reliability as an author to sell their product.

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See it in Your Writing:

Reading often is important. As the famous author, Mark Twain, said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

Pathos

Definition:

A message appealing to pathos relies on the emotional response of the receiver.

ELM Route:

A receiver processes a message appealing to pathos through the peripheral route. Emotional responses are generally quick reactions, not relying on extensive cognitive processes.

Example:

This ad intends to evoke an emotional response. What emotion do you feel when you view this? The text reads:  “Liking isn’t helping. Be a volunteer. Change a Life. Crisisrelief.org.”

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See it in Your Writing:

Families and children in Singapore perish every day because they don’t have the resources to survive after a natural disaster.

Logos

Definition:

A message appealing to logos relies on a logical argument.

ELM Route:

A receiver processes a message appealing to logos through the central route. Not only does the receiver have to be motivated to follow a logical process to a valid conclusion, but that receiver also has to have the cognitive ability to do so.

Example:

The ad questions the common belief that donating aid to Africa for food and water is too expensive. It uses the logic that the price of one beer is three times the price of 50 liters of water. The text reads: Pint of Beer: € 4.50, 50 Liters of Fresh Water: € 1.50.

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See it in Your Writing:

“The cost of a beer is € 4.50, the cost of helping people in need is € 1.50. Do you still think it’s too expensive?”

Aristotle’s persuasive appeals create a connection between the sender and the receiver of the message. Advertisers and marketers alike need that connection to create a lasting relationship with their audience.

The next time you see an ad or read an article, don’t take it at face value, look into the tactics and word choice to see how they’re trying to persuade you – and decide if it’s working.

About the author

Caroline Campbell