Since before the time of Aristotle, humans have been trying to convince other humans to take action. But it was Aristotle who really defined the three major ways those arguments could be characterized. Were they arguments of “Ethos,” appealing to the advocate’s credentials and authority? Were they arguments of “Pathos” appealing to the patron’s empathy or sympathy? Or were they “logos,” appealing to the prospect’s reason and logic?
CPG brand builders are forever promoting their products. Like the classic Aristotelian rhetorical arguments, they use credibility, emotion, or reason to convince their market to buy and advocate their products. Let’s examine how you can use each of these approaches effectively in the marketplace.
If the Merriam-Webster Ethos Definition is “The distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person group or institution,” then the practical commercial definition might be, “medals, awards, accolades, and third-party endorsements.” It’s not you saying how great your branded product is. It’s someone else. It’s someone or some organization who already earned the respect of your customer or potential customer.
Entering your CPG brand in contests, and winning them, is a great way to prove credibility. To have your product chosen from a group of independent judges is a powerful way to build credibility. But to be practical in getting this message across in the marketplace, you must take into consideration the harsh realities of the retail environment. You are trying to communicate graphically, in a tight space, and only have a split second to get your prospect’s attention in the first place.
One effective way to get your contest win across in the marketplace is with a gold medallion affixed right to your package somewhere in close association with your label. Centered, above your label, or slightly higher than your label off to the right or left are the most effective places.
Ideally, these medallions are applied during the packaging process, so they will always make it to the retail shelf and be in every image of your product. Your label and package are the only form of advertising material that consistently makes it to the retail shelf, and that’s the only place where your customer, your product, their money and their decision all come together.
Another way to use Ethos in your marketing is with celebrity endorsements. These are very powerful but may be too expensive to secure for new underfinanced consumer brand builders. But there are some inexpensive alternatives. For instance, you can get some of your own customers to endorse your brand. Sure, they are unknown, but their quote on your behalf implies that your products are appreciated by people just like your prospects.
The difficulty with endorsements is that they have to be very short, like one or two words. Once they get to full sentences, you simply run out of room to convey them on your label or package. You can use these quotes in signage and on your website, but that assumes your prospect will have seen your sign or been on your website. The majority of customers who see your brand will most probably be in a physical retail store and just stumble upon it in a mass of other brands likewise vying for their attention.
Trade dress is still another way to communicate credibility. Choosing authoritative fonts, borders or color combinations can provide subtle quality queues that make your customer feel like your consumer product is worthy of their purchase. Words like, “authentic”, “genuine”, or “original” convey some degree of credibility. Time on the market can also be effective at building credibility such as “Since 1933,” “now in its 10Th year,” or “a family tradition.” Touting a rating like “#1,” “Top,” “Undisputed,” “Unmatched,” Or “Winner!” all have an effect in implying credibility.
Word of mouth is still the best method of conveying credibility. When our family, friend, or associate recommends a brand, we tend to believe them. After all, their reputation with us is on the line and we both know it. This is why the most effective way to build credibility is to turn your customers into advocates. If they will put their endorsement on their social media, that would help your brand.
If the definition of Pathos according to Merriam-Webster “is an element in experience or in an artistic representation evoking pity or compassion, or an emotion of sympathetic pity,” then the practical commercial definition might be, “support for worthy causes, or the feeling your customer gets from the use of your branded product.” It’s not about your product so much as it is the feeling that buying and using your product evokes. Users feel justified making the purchase when they experience a positive emotion.
Encouraging that positive emotion by doing something that helps humanity in one way or another is a great start. Your company must stand for something more important that the goods or services it produces. Maybe it’s feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or cleaning the water. Maybe its education, the fine arts, or research to fight a dreaded disease. Or maybe it’s saving the environment. All of these causes strike an emotional note with your prospects and your customers because they already have sympathy for the folks who need them most.
There are several ways to communicate the action you are taking with worthy causes in the marketplace. One is with small signs affixed to your package or on the retail shelf that list the goals of the particular nonprofits you are supporting and what you are doing to support them. It might go on to say how the reader can help. This method of marketing is extremely effective for many reasons.
First, the members of the nonprofit can buy any brand, but they choose to buy yours because you have demonstrated your support for their organization. This is a real boon to cash-strapped early stage brand builders. It may not be many customers at first, but they are advocates and spread the word without all that costly commercial advertising which may have questionable results.
Second, the goals of the nonprofit may resonate with the local market area in which your branded products are for sale. The more local the appeal, the easier it is for your customer to relate and identify the nonprofit or community fundraiser with your brand. You are appealing to a community who already supports that nonprofit’s goals.
Third, your support for nonprofits may take the form of marketing assistance, getting their word out, goods and services donated for their fundraisers, or actual labor to help them set up and tear down for their events. All of these are less expensive than commercial advertising and can be more effective. As an added bonus, your own people will be more loyal to your company because you have provided an avenue for them to “make a difference.”
Another way to convey emotion may be in your catchphrase or slogan. You communicate a particular feeling that your customer will enjoy when using your brand. It might be relief from pain or stress. It might be pride of ownership. It might be a relief from insecurity. Or it might be the confidence that they are making the right purchase for the health and welfare of your family. All of these are emotional arguments designed to get your prospect to take action.
In the marketplace, once again, you are trying to satisfy the rigid demands of the retail environment. Needless to say, you don’t have a lot of time or space to communicate these emotional values. This is why a short, less than 10-word catchphrase or slogan must do the job. At Barefoot Wines, we said, “Get Barefoot and have a great time!” The message was a double meaning. Buy Barefoot and take off your shoes and enjoy yourself! It addressed the emotion of fun and recreation.
Other ways to communicate emotion is through color, where yellow says “fun,” red says, “excitement,” and blue says, “clean and free”. In the marketplace, color can be used on signage, packaging, shipping cartons, and trade dress to evoke the desired emotion.
Many brand builders like to communicate a negative emotion that their product relieves. Some even work that relief into the brand name.
You can create Ethos Pathos logos (symbolic images for your brand, not to be confused with “Logos,” the classic method of persuasion, discussed below) that use credentials and emotion such as award-like logos, or logos that indicate an emotion that your customer will enjoy when using your branded product, like Kleenex implying “clean” or “Original Bob’s” indicating quality.
If the Merriam-Webster Logos Definition is “The divine wisdom manifest in the creation, government, and redemption of the world and the controlling principle in the universe,” then the practical commercial definition might be, “logic, comparison, reason, and value.” You are appealing to your prospect’s respect for values such as natural law and self-preservation, into which your branded product fits. In other words, it makes “sense” for them to make the purchase.
One set of logical arguments might imply that your prospects can discover the truth on their own. This might be done through pricing, where they can compare, or it may be done through statements of ingredients or parts when they already know the value of those ingredients. Or it may be done through a logical construction where you build on principles to which they already subscribe such as health, taste, welfare, or security and allow them to conclude that they are making the right choice when they purchase your brand.
Reasoning with your prospect in the marketplace is severely limited. They don’t have the time or the attention span to sit there and read a logical appeal. So, because this approach requires so much physical space, it is usually relegated to the back label or the side panel of the package. In this case, you hope they will take the time to read it. Even so, it must be very brief and to the point, like one or two sentences. You can go on and on in your marketing materials, but again, will those materials make it to the point of sale on the retail shelf or display, and will they read it?
Short arguments appealing to logic work best when talking about price comparison, price for quantity, or value for price. They are quick, easy to understand and make an impact. Many logical commercial arguments also have to do with convenience. Whether it’s ease of preparation, ease of use, or the perfect size, convenience sells.
Probably the best logical argument is the guarantee. It’s short and effective. You’re telling your prospect they have no, or very little, risk in making the purchase. You stand behind your product and you apparently are doing this (they reason) because you believe your product is worthy of such a guarantee.
Where logic really plays well in the marketplace is in the pitch to the gate-keeping buyer. They want to know why they should carry your brand. They want to see the comparisons, sales histories, and all the price breaks. They want to know your return policy, see your promotional materials and know you will support the risk they are taking on you and your brand by putting it in their stores. They want to know if you will be performing instore demos, advertising, and if you have a local representative. All this appeals to their logic because it is what must logically be done on the part of the producer for them to feel secure in their decision to carry your brand.
Logic also works with the various middlemen that you may have to work with to even have the luxury of getting to the retail shelf. What’s in it for them? What’s their cut? Do their retail buyers want it? And so on. All logical arguments you should be prepared to address with charts, reports, and figures.
But when it comes to the consumer your options are pretty much limited to what you can get on the package. So, keep it short and compelling. Then add a sense of urgency, also commercially known as a “sale” or “limited time price reduction.” Your prospects know that they must act now to get the advertised price. Otherwise, they will pay more later. This increases the value proposition in their minds. So again, you are appealing to their logic.
All of these methods of persuasion, whether Ethos (credential), Pathos (emotion), or Logos (logic) can be used separately or combined to make the sale. What they all have in common is their appeal to something the prospect already recognizes and identifies with. They are effective because you are reinforcing those principles with statements about your branded products that resonate with them. Aristotle knew how to make them say, “I want it!”
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at www.thebarefootspirit.com.
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