Ancient Wisdom on Branding

Aristotle thinks you need to invest in your brand. The ancient Greek philosopher’s writings covered a broad range of the big issues that humankind has grappled with for millennia. His wisdom has provided even modern humans with a framework for understanding the physical, moral, and natural world around us. No, branding was not one of those big subjects that he wrote about. (Although, we wrote about it, and other marketing strategies, for Trusted Advisors and Partners in our ebook – click here to download).

He did, however, leave us sage advice about how to persuade others to agree with our perspective or see our vision. Aristotle’s modes of persuasion were: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. Each correlate to tactics and techniques that can be leveraged in your brand that can help you make a strong case to the market that you are not just the best choice, but the only choice.

Let’s get a crash course.


The Meaning

Logos means creating a logical and rational argument. The Nobel Prize-winning work by psychologists Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky explained how humans have two modalities of thinking; intuitive thought and rational thought. We generally walk around making intuitive decisions, for example, you don’t usually think consciously about navigating the complex act of driving once we’ve had enough experience. It comes naturally to make micro-movements of the steering wheel while manipulating the accelerator and brake and checking our mirrors.

But when it comes to significant decisions – like choosing the right SD-WAN provider and solution for our 300-location enterprise-wide area network – we tend to think analytically. And, according to Aristotle, appealing to that logical thinking is one component of persuasion. It satisfies a deep-seated need that humans have to understand the world around us, explain things about it, and have order and organization. It’s been part of our cultural evolution from the beginning.

The Tip

Developing your brand strategy and messaging is largely an exercise of alignment. First, you need an objective look at the needs and demands of your addressable market. Then you have to discover empirically what it is that you do best in the eyes of your customers. Finally, you need to have an understanding of where your competition falls short of delivering value or meeting the needs of the market.

Once you have these three elements, you can construct your messaging – an argument for why you can meet the needs of customers better than your competition because of something that makes you unique as a business. This is your logos – your logical, rational argument to your prospects for why they should choose you.

If your brand or your sales pitch isn’t making a strong rational argument to your market and prospects, you are leaving the door open for competition to persuade them instead.


The Meaning

Pathos “refers to persuasion by means of emotional appeal, putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind”. It’s knowing which emotional levers to pull in order to influence someone’s thinking. While Logos is a key aspect of persuasion, many modern academics and philosophers believe we are more emotional beings than logical beings. For example, neuroscientist Antonio Damassio’s work, Descartes’ Error, makes a strong case that “reason requires guidance from emotion”.

The reason the predictions that economists make are famously inaccurate is that the basis for economic theory is that rational actors will act rationally. But we are not always rational actors, we do not always act rationally. This is why the field of behavioral economics as a method for understanding human behavior has exploded in recent years. It studies intuitive thinking, cognitive biases, and how human psychology and emotions impact our decisions and behavior.

The Tip

The delivery method of Pathos is storytelling. In B2B marketing, the tendency is to practice more Logos than Pathos. Typically the copy on the website or marketing materials comes off as robotic and emotionless as if it’s being read by the entity we are trying to sell to that is simply doing a cold calculation. But, if you think about it for just a second, it’s obviously a human being on the other end.

That human being has their emotions tied up in their decision, whether they realize it or not. They have hopes and goals, and insecurities; what if I choose wrong, what if it doesn’t achieve the intended goal, how will that impact my job, or my career? By using Pathos to appeal to their emotions, we can assuage their fears and make them excited to be the hero of the story. That’s a powerful means of persuasion.

If you’re not using empathy and emotion in your brand story, messaging, or copy on your website, collateral, and content, you are missing an opportunity to stand out from the white noise in the industry and leaving a powerful lever unpulled.


The Meaning

Ethos is about the credibility of the person doing the persuading. It appeals to a logical fallacy that humans tend to fall into, which is the appeal to authority. We evolved to look at those in our society that have achieved high levels of success as someone to pattern our behavior after in order to achieve similar results. In ancient hunter-gatherer cultures, the hunters in a tribe would pattern their adornments, their dress, and their techniques after the most successful hunter in the group, as a way to recreate their success and signal to potential mates that they were capable providers and ultimately to create more mating opportunities.

So, we are primed to look at the most successful in our society and blindly follow their lead. Ethos is the idea that your character and credibility, or the appearance of character and credibility itself, plays a significant role in persuasion.

The Tip

To use Ethos to your advantage, you need to demonstrate your credibility and expertise in every interaction with your audience. This includes your online presence, your in-person pitch, and the sales and marketing assets that you use throughout the buyer’s journey.

When a potential buyer lands on your website, does it look professional and modern? Is your logo dated? Do you use case studies, testimonials, and other social proof? Do you have and promote blog content that demonstrates your thought leadership or subject matter expertise?

If not, you are at best not creating credibility but at worst making yourself look less credible. This will lead to lost opportunities and more difficult sales processes. And, ultimately, lost revenue.

All of these elements of Aristotle’s modes of persuasion can and should manifest in your brand. From the brand strategy (who you are) to your messaging (your value proposition) to your brand experience (the sales and marketing assets your market comes in contact with), following this ancient blueprint will help you better persuade the market and your prospects, hopefully reducing the sales cycle and increasing your close rate in the process.

Easy for me to say, hard for you to execute. If you need help, talk to Root23 Agency today for help.