Aristotle was an influencer. In fact, this ancient thinker’s echoes can still be heard in his important contributions to logic, criticism, rhetoric, physics, biology, psychology, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Oh, and brand marketing. 

His modes of persuasion have been studied and applied by the best and brightest for centuries. And it’s no secret that these modes of persuasion have significantly influenced modern marketing practices, which use these proven techniques to appeal to their target audience. 

A deep understanding of Aristotle’s modes of persuasion can help marketers create more compelling campaigns that resonate with their audience.

So, according to Aristotle, there are three modes of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos is all about logic and reason, ethos is about credibility and trust, and pathos is all about emotions and feelings. 

But let’s be real, sometimes we rely on other modes of persuasion that Aristotle didn’t cover: 

  • Memes: Because sometimes the best way to persuade someone is with a well-timed meme. Just make sure it’s not too dank, or you might lose them.
  • Jedi Mind Tricks: “These aren’t the opinions you’re looking for…” Hey, if it worked for Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s worth a shot.
  • Reverse Psychology: “Oh, don’t even bother listening to me. I’m just a genius who knows everything.” Sometimes, telling someone not to do something is the best way to get them to do it.
  • Bribery: “I’ll give you $5 if you agree with me.” Hey, it worked for my parents when they wanted me to eat my vegetables.
  • Guilt-Tripping: “Oh, I guess you just don’t care about the planet and future generations.” Sure, it might be a bit manipulative, but it gets the job done.

So, while Aristotle’s modes of persuasion are all well and good, sometimes you’ve just gotta get a little creative. After all, laughter is the best medicine, right? But I digress. Back to the point: What makes Aristotle’s modes of persuasion so powerful?

Ethos: Establishing credibility

Ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker or organization making the argument. In ancient Greece, the speaker’s reputation or status in society often established ethos. In modern marketing, ethos is established through branding, testimonials, and endorsements.

Branding is a powerful tool for establishing ethos. Companies spend millions of dollars on building their brands and creating an image of trust and reliability. As a result, consumers are more likely to trust a product or service from a well-established and reputable brand. 

So then, how in the world did a farm-raised accounting major with an affinity for electronics become a trusted icon of rock ’n roll?

Leo Fender, inventor and founder of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, was not even a guitarist. Still, he would go on to create some of the greatest guitars the world has ever witnessed. Why would any guitarist give credence to a non-musician? 

Leo recalls that about 25 percent of his working days were spent listening to the needs of the musicians that would frequent his radio shop. Feel that with me: twenty-five percent

And then he delivered.

Leo, a humble man with a farm boy work ethic became a trusted innovator with a powerhouse ethos by listening to his customers needs, and then delivering a product that wouldn’t just satisfy them, but elate them. He earned his ethos. 

Logos: The power of logic

Logos refers to the logical and rational appeal of an argument. In ancient Greece, logos was often established through deductive reasoning and syllogisms. In modern marketing, logos is established through data, statistics, and rational arguments.

Data and statistics are powerful tools for establishing logos. This is the modern marketers world, isn’t it? We use data to make decisions, discover needs, and predict the future. And we use data to prove our worth. 

For sure, at the HQ of modern-day Fender, data and statistics are at the center of the business. And they have conducted revelatory research that has benefitted the whole of the industry.

But Leo used logos differently. 

His fledgling radio shop used to rent out PA systems, and Leo would tinker with pickups for acoustic guitars so that local musicians could plug their guitars into the PA. Through those formative years, he deducted that there was a greater need than the one he was currently filling.

Sure, his mind was a logos farm. He was a self-taught electrical engineer, for Pete’s sake. But even beyond his ability to think logically and clearly, was his ability to create it. 

The instrument that we now know as the Telecaster is the logos of Leo Fender.

The design of the Telecaster is characterized by its simplicity and practicality. The guitar’s body is made of solid wood, with a bolt-on neck and a straightforward, no-frills design that emphasizes function over form. This simplicity reflects the guitar’s utilitarian design, which was meant to be reliable, easy to play, and capable of producing a wide range of tones. 

Fender amplifiers, such as the iconic Bassman and Twin Reverb, also showcased the power of logos. These amplifiers were designed to provide musicians with clear, powerful sound, and their robust construction continues to ensure reliability on stage and in the studio. 

The effectiveness and practicality of Fender’s products helped solidify the brand’s reputation for quality and performance, appealing to the logical side of musicians and music enthusiasts alike.

Perfectly logical. 

Pathos: Connecting with emotion

Pathos refers to the emotional appeal of a message. In ancient Greece, pathos was established through storytelling and vivid descriptions. Likewise, in modern marketing, pathos is established through storytelling, imagery, and appeals to emotion.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for establishing pathos. When a marketer tells a compelling story, they can create an emotional connection with their audience.

Have you ever listened to “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix? Pathos on a guitar. But not just any guitar – a Leo Fender creation known as the Stratocaster.

The emotional appeal of the David Gilmour guitar solo on “Wish You Were Here”?

“Gravity” by John Mayer.
That live performance of “Purple Rain” by H.E.R?
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny”?
All of these emotional songs were played on a Fender Stratocaster.

Emotional appeals are the most direct way to establish pathos. And those pathos based connections are exactly the stuff that drive marketing beyond bounds.

Leo couldn’t play the guitar, but when he put one in the right hands, pathos.

This connection further fueled the emotional appeal of Fender’s products, allowing the brand to establish deep and lasting relationships with its customers.

“I found out the Strat has a steel rod in the neck and it was a solid piece of wood, so if you drop it you might scratch it, but you couldn’t hurt it. [Logos] That’s what made me fall in love with it [Pathos]. Plus, Leo Fender had that tone and that sound on it, man [Ethos]. So I got hooked with that experience.” – Buddy Guy

Leo Fender’s remarkable success in the music industry can be attributed to his masterful use of Aristotle’s modes of persuasion. By establishing credibility through ethos, connecting with musicians on an emotional level through pathos, and providing logical, practical advantages with logos, Fender revolutionized the electric guitar and amplifier market, and – one might argue – the world of music itself. Today, Fender’s instruments continue to be revered by musicians worldwide, proving the enduring power of Aristotle’s persuasive modes.

Cover image source: Brian