Have you ever cried during a Super Bowl commercial? Come on, I know there’s been at least one over the years that has tugged at your heartstrings. You might be “getting another serving of Doritos” but I know you’re going in the other room to secretly hide your weeping.
Okay, so maybe you haven’t outrightly wept during a commercial, but advertisements are literally designed to pull at your heartstrings. If the storyline surrounding a product makes you feel something, you’re a lot more likely to buy into the narrative and make a purchase.
The best narratives are not easily forgotten. The commercial that’s most cemented in my mind is the “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler ad from way back in 2011. Yes, the one featuring a gritty voiceover and Mr. Detroit himself: Eminem. You can almost feel the bitter cold of a Michigan winter as you’re given a tour of the city’s most famous landmarks and most familiar faces.
If you forgot about this commercial (maybe you were grabbing another beer when it aired), take a look.
Every story- whether the story happens to be a persuasive essay, a car commercial, or a political speech- has three very important rhetorical elements that contribute to its impact.
The building blocks of any good story are ethos, pathos, and logos. These are also the official components of the rhetorical triangle (I am sorry if the mention of “rhetoric” brings back negative English class memories!).
Ethos is establishing yourself and your brand as a credible source. You see ethos in action every day when someone presents you with their resume to prove their candidacy for a job. You also see it when a business claims that it’s been serving up quality bagels “since 1911.” Ethos is all about your reputation.
When Eminem declares that “this is the Motor City, and this is what we do,” he’s claiming Detroit’s longtime reputation as a hub for car manufacturing. Inadvertently, he’s also leveraging the belief that American cars are of superior craftsmanship and quality than international competitors.
Pathos is the part that might have made you cry. Pathos is when you create an emotional connection with your audience, or try to rouse emotion within them. I hate to do this to you, but the best example for pathos is those ASPCA commercials with musician Sarah MacLachlan holding abandoned puppies and asking you to please donate to their care. Pathos needs no further explanation. Pathos wants to make you cry and pay for puppy food.
This Chrysler ad wants you to feel two things: sympathy and pride. Most people watching this commercial during the Superbowl knew that Detroit has experienced economic misfortune for decades after being a historical industrial powerhouse. America (and sports fans) love an underdog story, so Detroit was the perfect centerpiece for making viewers feel sympathetic towards both Chrysler and its resident city.
Americans also like to be part of the underdog story. We love rags to riches tales, from Annie to Rocky Balboa and Arnold Schwarzenegger. By supporting Chrysler and its employees based in Detroit, we can feel like we’re part of the inevitable renaissance of both a city and American manufacturing. We feel pride towards these things, and it drives us to take action to become part of the story ourselves.
Logos is the logical corner of the rhetorical triangle. Logos is the one that isn’t super fun at parties, but it’s super important nonetheless (like your very nerdy, but loveable, friend). Every scientific paper ever written is mostly logos. But logos isn’t always cold, hard facts- it can be the illusion of factual information, or anything that speaks to the viewer’s ability to reason.
The logos in this emotional ad blends with the pathos: “You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hottest steel. Add hard work, and conviction, and the know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are.”
Based on this statement, it’s reasonable to believe that Chrysler would be a good choice of vehicle because it’s made by hard-working people who know their stuff. It’s reasonable to believe that Chrysler has a high level of experience making cars, and the company, like others in Detroit, has overcome plenty of obstacles. Isn’t that the kind of company you want to buy from?
How can you use the same kind of rhetoric to sway potential clients in your social media audience? The short video case studies that appear often in your content channels are a wonderful starting point. Your leads have done their research about your product, and now they need to be able to imagine your solutions fitting into their work environment. The best way to show this is through examples – how do others feel about your solution? How has your product helped make their jobs easier?
Share these videos to social media and your blog to establish your ethos as a reputable reseller. Use real-life stories about clients like yours to make your audience emotionally invest, and want to start writing their own success story with you.
They may not shed a tear when viewing your content, but I’d be willing to bet that finding a solution to their problem will bring a smile to their face and a sense of relief that someone can help them.