In the world of persuasion, from speeches to advertisements, credibility is key. How can you get your message across to the clients or general public, and how can you get them to believe you?

The answer lies somewhere in the mode of persuasion called Ethos.

Ethos, a fundamental concept of rhetoric, is the art of establishing trustworthiness and authority. Whether through showcasing expertise, highlighting values, or leveraging reputation, ethos convinces an audience that the speaker or brand is worth listening to.

We're going to dig into why this is important right now.

Let's dive in.

Ethos Definition

Ethos is the use of the philosophical definition of ethics to make a moral argument. It refers to stated credibility or an authoritative stance on a subject. It is also one of Aristotle's modes of persuasion.

You could use the words of an instructor, doctor, expert, or philosopher. The point is, ethos is achieved by citing someone knowledgable and producing facts. So come prepared to make your audience feel smarter for listening to you. Give them numbers and citations that make you seem trustworthy. 4 out of 5 readers love this definition.

Advertisers employ ethos to convince the audience that their brand, product, or service is reliable, coming from experts, and worthy of consideration.

Aristotle and Advertising

Most of the storytelling we deal with harkens back to Aristotle's "Poetics." It was the building block for drama and became a must-read for anyone interested in crafting their own plays, movies, televisions shows, and now advertisements.

As advertising leans more and more on storytelling, "Poetics" has become even more important today.

In "Poetics," Aristotle said:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

But what were the three modes of persuasion Aristotle found?

The Three Modes of Persuasion

  • Ethos (ἦθος—disposition or character)
  • Pathos (πάθος—emotion or passion)
  • Logos (λόγος—argument or discourse)

These modes are referred to as ethical strategies or rhetorical appeals.

They're based on the idea that persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character. By the speaker, I mean the author of the advertisement. You want to seem credible as an author. Whether that's the writer, director, or anyone working in that space.

Your persuasive ideas must stir something in the reader. An emotional reaction

This cannot just be through your written or spoken words. You have to exhibit an inherent or apparent truth. That way, you appear to have all the answers to the question you asked the reader.

All this manifests itself in each of the aforementioned modes.

What Makes Ethos Important to Advertisers? 

Ethos builds a sense of trust with the audience, making them more likely to listen to and believe the advertising message.It also enhances the believability of the claims made about the product or service.

When you're selling something, you're also trying to connect to the people listening. Ethos helps the audience identify with the brand on a personal level if they admire or relate to the figure used.

The more they identify with it, the more this can lead to customers becoming loyal to a brand over time.

Ethos Examples in Advertising

Any celebrity endorsement is the work of ethos.I like to focus on the Michael Jordan commercials here. Specifically, the one where he and Mia Hamm face off. This black and white commercial asserts them both as athletes at the top of their game.

They have command in their sport, and any other sport you can think about.The dueling here allows them both to endorse the one thing they agree on; Gatorade.

Other uses of ethos:

  • Celebrity Endorsements: Linking a product to a well-respected or popular figure known for certain qualities (athletes for sports gear, doctors for health products). This implies the endorsement is based on the celebrity's knowledge or experience.
  • Experts and Professionals: Featuring doctors, scientists, or specialists in their fields lends their expertise to the claims about a product.
  • Testimonials: Real people sharing positive experiences with a product builds a sense of trustworthiness and social proof.
  • Company Reputation: Highlighting a company's commitment to ethics, social responsibility, or a history of excellent products builds trust.
  • Plain Folks Appeal: Using relatable people and settings to show that the brand understands the everyday consumer.
  • Let me know what you think in the comments.