It is very easy to look for the latest trends in digital marketing to find something that could work for a new project. In this article, we will do the exact opposite. Instead of looking at new trends, we will apply an old Greek model to the modern challenge of creating a convincing online argument.
Living between 384 and 322 BC, Aristotle is regarded by many as one of the key philosophical thinkers in Ancient Greece. He is even regarded by some as the first real scientist. He had a wide range of interests covering topics as diverse as physics, politics and music. His contribution to the art of persuasion can be found in his treatise “Rhetoric”.
This treatise can be used as a model for creating a convincing online argument.
The meaning of pathos might be summed up as the psychology and emotions of the audience. If you are working on writing copy for your website, this principle might be used to actively identify what the underlying needs and drivers for your audience are. If you manage to communicate that you understand them, rather than focusing on your own agenda first, you can develop a better connection to your audience earlier on.
In order to apply this to a website, you might ask the following key questions:
- How do we connect to the needs of the readers?
- How do we speak to them?
- What can we do to more directly speak their language so we create a lasting connection?
In some copywriting circles, this might be simplified by focusing on the benefits instead of on the features. By using pathos to focus on the person you are talking to, you might get a wider perspective on their wants and needs.
When you understand the underlying drivers your audience has, the next step is to use what you have learned to create a logical argument. This can include the words you choose, the sentence structure, and how you organize your thoughts.
In copywriting, logic might primarily be used to drive home the reasons why visitors should take a particular action.
It might be relevant to point out that logic, according to Aristotle, cannot make a convincing argument by itself. This might be compared to business owners who insist on making a sale by focusing on what the product and service does without considering what it might be able to do for the customer.
Finally ethos can be understood as credibility, or moral character. In an online world where you have just a few seconds to convince visitors to take a particular action, ethos can be very valuable. You can use ethos to backup your logic and to help the visitor justify their emotions.
However, it might also have a more important secondary meaning. If you look at your copy and design, you might use ethos to ask yourself whether your website is communicating the values which matter to you in a truthful and credible way. It can help determine if you are consistent and genuine in building trust. For instance, if you want to come across as an expert in your field, does your website support that perception? If not, why?
It might be unfair to sum up Aristotle`s rhetoric in a short article, but it can still be useful. In a modern context, it might be possible to suggest that pathos can be used to understand the customers and their needs, logos can be used to create a convincing argument, and ethos can be used to build credibility around the argument.
Once your message is clear in your mind, it might be time to gradually translate it into a digital environment. You can start with creating wireframes in balsamiq, Later, you can build on this with the help of copywriters, editors, designers and programmers. Or, if you feel like following Aristotle`s lead; pick up some, or all, of the skills yourself!
About the author: Bjarne Viken
Bjarne is a conversion optimisation strategist, who works with marketing managers and business owners to scale up their businesses by analysing how they can improve their online conversion rates.
He has worked extensively with many growing companies, helping them drive customer acquisition, push conversions and increase sales.”
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