Ethos, pathos and logos are techniques of persuasion that form the rhetorical triangle. A compelling argument, sales pitch, speech, or commercial ideally uses elements of all three strategies. We’ll show you how to employ each of the techniques and present some awesome examples along the way.
Ethos, Pathos and Logos: How to Create Persuasive Ads
Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Definition
Persuasion in advertising
What are persuasive advertising techniques? They're how you convince a buyer of your product through visuals.
You can thank Aristotle for inventing persuasive advertising techniques. More than 2,000 years ago, he categorized how rhetoric is used in arguments into three groups: ethos, pathos and logos.
This is also known as the the rhetorical triangle.
And we still depend on it today.
Each category invokes a different appeal between speaker and audience.
Ethos calls upon the ethics, or what we'd call the values, of the speaker. Pathos elicits emotions in the audience. Finally, logos puts logic into play by using evidence and facts.
Good persuasive advertising technique is when you balance all three.
But using ethos, pathos and logos in commercials sometimes means featuring one advertising technique prominently.
What is ethos?
Ethos is the persuasive technique that appeals to an audience by highlighting credibility. Ethos advertisement techniques invoke the superior “character” of a speaker, presenter, writer, or brand.
Ethos examples aim to convince the audience that the advertiser is reliable and ethical. It’s easier to make a decision when someone you respect signs off on it, right?
This is broadly the function of ethos in commercials.
When an esteemed public figure endorses a product, it validates it to the end consumer.
An ethos advertisement plays off the consumer’s respect for a given spokesperson.
Through that respect, the spokesperson appears convincing, authoritative and trustworthy enough to listen to. Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, ethos is best used to unlock trust.
USE OF ETHOS IN ADVERTISING
How is ethos used in advertising?
So what does ethos mean?
It’s all about credibility. Famous people enjoy a high status in our society. So they’re the ones selling products to us -- whether or not they have product-specific expertise.
For example, a recent Infiniti commercial featured Steph Curry. Even though he’s not known for his taste in vehicles, his stature validates the product.
This is ethos in commercials at work.
Ethos rhetoric is also invoked to tie a brand to fundamental rights.
Brands build trust with their audience when they stand with an important cause. Anheuser-Busch illustrated this in their recent “Born the Hard Way” spot.
This spot focuses on the origin story of Anheuser-Busch’s founders.
It shows Busch’s turbulent immigration from Germany to St. Louis, and speaks to the importance of immigration and multiculturalism.
This is how ethos rhetoric is used in advertising.
Of the many types of persuasive advertising techniques in advertising, ethos is best for playing up the strength of a brand or spokesperson’s character.
ETHOS EXAMPLE IN COMMERCIALS
Ethos Advert Case Study
If you want a really strong example of Ethos that also has a pretty funny meta quality to it, check out the shot list for this Heineken spot. See how many times they use foreground elements and OTS shots in this spot:
This Heineken commercial shows famous actor Benicio Del Toro at the bar enjoying a Heineken. Benicio chats about how both he, and Heineken, are world famous and instantly recognizable.
Then, a pair of goofy tourists spot him in the bar, and they call out for him to pose for a photo, but... they actually think he's Antonio Banderas.
This commercial not only uses ethos as a way to tie the celebrity of Benicio to the celebrity of Heineken, but it uses humor and the bold faced usage of ethos to make fun of the brand, people, and fame.
THE "PLAIN FOLKS" PERSUASIVE ADVERTISING TECHNIQUE
How is "Plain Folks" used in ads?
Ethos rhetoric often employs imagery of everyday, ordinary people.
Known as the Plain Folks persuasive advertising technique, in this approach a spokesperson or brand appears as an Average Joe to feel common and sensible. In doing so, they appear concerned and cut from the same cloth as you.
This approach is very common in political ads. Consider the “Family Strong” ad from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Despite her status and wealth, Clinton draws on imagery of her family and upbringing to make her feel more relatable. In this way, “Plain” folks is propaganda and also a logical fallacy.
But it’s also an effective and persuasive advertising technique.
Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, Plain Folks aligns your brand with the values of the everyday consumer.
What is pathos?
Pathos is persuasive technique that try to convince an audience through emotions. Pathos advertisement techniques appeal to the senses, memory, nostalgia, or shared experience. Pathos examples pull at the heartstrings and make the audience feel.
A quick way to appeal to a viewer’s emotions? A cute animal. A devastated family. A love story. Overcoming great odds. An inspirational song and imagery. A good zinger.
Emotions create responses and, in our increasingly consumer-driven culture, the response is to buy something. Pathos appeals to an audience’s basic emotions like joy, fear, and envy. All are easily triggered in many ways.
So what is pathos?
Well, it's a model enjoying a refreshing Coke. Or a frustrated infomercial character desperate for a better remedy. And "tired" of the "same old blah-blah-blah."
The many different pathos advertisement examples not only evoke your feelings but anticipate your responses too. If you want to explore pathos in advertising, language is the best place to start.
Because the words we hear and read trigger specific feelings. Positive words conjure feelings of love, excitement and wonder.
Look at how General Mills and Cheerios achieved this in their “Good Goes Round” campaign.
We see sunshine, smiles and bright colors while we hear the words “good goes around.”
It invites positivity and encourages us to associate Cheerios accordingly.
On the other hand, pathos advertisements can also employ unpleasant emotions like fear and worry just as effectively.
This ad by the British Heart Foundation underscores the dangers of heart disease. As the spot unfolds, you start to realize that the narrator suddenly died at her sister’s wedding.
Her tragic story encourages you to not let it happen to you.
Pathos examples: BMW warns against drinking and driving in this pathos advertisement example.
PaTHOS EXAMPLE IN COMMERCIALS
Pathos advert case study
If you want a really strong example of pathos is an advertisement, check out this shot list from a particularly emotional Zillow spot. Notice how the shots on the son are often singles and medium close-ups:
This Zillow commercial shows a father and son who have just suffered the terrible loss of their wife/mother. The father tries to cheer his son up by finding a new home, one preferably near the boy's grandparents.
The son seems disinterested, but then the father finds his son and the family dog looking up at the stars, one of which is particularly bright. The son decides that the star is his mother, looking down on him.
That gives the father an idea:
The father searches on Zillow, finds a home, and buys it. We then learn that the home is not only close to the grandparents, but it also has a skylight in the son's room, allowing him to see his Mother's star at night.
This commercial uses the emotions of the father, the son, the grandparents, and of course the viewer to suggest that Zillow is the type of website that can balm grief through its functionality.
USE OF PATHOS IN ADVERTISING
The appeal of pathos in advertising
Sex appeal is of course also hugely successful among the pathos advertising techniques. Open any Cosmopolitan magazine and you’ll find scantily clad models, muscular men and sexual innuendo.
Although the common expression “sex sells” has been debated, sexually provocative ads do leave a lasting impression. Mr. Clean, for example, spiced up their eponymous mascot for comedic effect.
Their brawny Mr. Clean upgrade wears tight clothes and turns mopping the floor into something more... sensual?
Humor, patriotism and snob appeal are also all common in pathos advertisement examples. The pathos definition even extends to nostalgia and the strategic use of music in ads.
Pathos Examples: The pathos definition extends to evoking emotions with music ... even *NSYNC
THE BANDWAGON ADVERTISING TECHNIQUE
What is the "bandwagon advertising"?
“Bandwagon advertising” is commonly categorized under pathos advertisement examples. While it may sound unfamiliar, you're probably pretty familiar with it.
It creates that impression that using certain product will put you on the “winning team”. It adheres to the pathos definition because it plays off your fear... of being left out.
Old Spice used this in their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spot.
In its comical way, it puts pressure on men to smell as good as the Old Spice Guy. Like the “Plain Folks” technique, Bandwagon advertising is a very popular form of propaganda.
Of the persuasive advertising techniques, “Bandwagon” puts your brand on the right side of popular opinion. Remember the "Be like Mike" Ads?
Pathos example: Talk about putting the consumer on the "winning team"
What is logos?
Logos is the persuasive technique that aims to convince an audience by using logic and reason. Also called “the logical appeal,” logos examples in advertisement include the citation of statistics, facts, charts, and graphs.
Ever told someone to “listen to reason” during an argument? This is what logos does. The best logos advertisement examples are when a speaker appeals to logic.
Statistics, surveys, facts, and historical data can make a product seem like a more reasonable decision. Whether the data is sound or not is another story...
LOGOS EXAMPLE IN COMMERCIALS
Logos advert case study
If you want a really strong example of logos is an advertisement, check out this shot list from a recent Nissan Commercial. You'll notice how the angles and shot size change when the "ProPilot" system clicks on:
This Nissan commercial shows a daughter and father driving on a highway. The daughter is about to drive past some scary construction, but then the father uses his sage like wisdom to instruct her to turn on the "ProPilot" system that Nissan now features in their cars.
Once the daughter does this, we see a Star Wars battle scene playing out in front of out eyes, and she becomes so distracted that she begin to veer off the road... but guess what? The "ProPilot" system saves her by auto-correcting the trajectory of the car based on the sensor system.
So how is this logos? Well, the commercial places the daughter in a relatively common situation and uses the machine logic behind having a guided system in the car to keep your distracted children safe.
Now... is it logical that this Star Wars homage suggests the daughter reach out to use the force by using a guided machine? Of course not! That's the opposite of what Luke does in the movie. Is it logical for your kid to be scared of driving past construction at 40mph? Of course not!
Is there anything in this spot that is logical? The basic fact that young drivers get distracted, and the Nissan "ProPilot" system might just save their lives one day, well that is how you use logic to sell cars.
How is logos being used in advertising?
Technology advertisements use logos because their goal is to showcase cool new features. Consider the example of logos in Apple’s advertisement for the iPhone X:
In logos rhetoric, you have to the sell best reasons to buy your product.
How does Apple do that?
They have their new innovative features pop out at you. From durable glass to Face ID software. It effectively asks you why you would choose any phone but iPhone. Logos often use buzzwords to sell the product.
What's a great example of this?
Food companies capitalizing on the rising demand for healthy choices.
This I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter ad hinges on the two words “organic” and “vegan" to prove the point that they’re “made with the goodness of plants.” Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, logos will build your brand as the most logical, functional and helpful option.
Wrapping up ethos, pathos, logos
When browsing the many types of persuasive techniques in advertising, consider what your user needs from you. Then ideate on which technique can best fulfill that need.
As you’ve seen in these ethos, pathos and logos ads, the brand should guide how the persuasive advertising techniques are deployed. What is the company known for? What does it stand for?
Hopefully you’ve found a few striking examples to inspire you. If so, create a free moodboard to capture the look and feel you’re going for. And be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!