This week we will focus less on rhetoric (the use of language to persuade) and more on the use of ethos. Ethos is the third part of Aristotle’s “three appeals” of argumentation–ethos, pathos, and logos (or, credibility, emotion, and logic). Ethos is an essential part of any argument–it is the use of trust and credibility. It builds a relationship between the argument and the audience. Branding is about ethos–when a company creates a perception of themselves, what they are about, what their mission is, what their goals are, they are saying “Trust us, and use our products because our values are aligned with yours.” Companies that advertise “made in the USA,” for instance, appeal to people with patriotic values. Made in the USA doesn’t say anything about the quality of the product, but it suggests to the audience that buying the product is more ethical.
First, read through the“Vintage Ads Show the Hidden Legacy of the Marlboro Man.”Links to an external site.There you will read about how Marlboro cigarettes branded and rebranded their product to appeal to consumers, before finally hitting on the mega-successful “Marlboro Man” campaign. Next, watch the two commercials also linked in this week’s module.
For this week’s initial post, I want you to discuss the role of “ethos” in branding. Primarily, I want you to look at examples of appeals to ethos that completely ignore or obscure the product itself. A photograph of a cowboy roping a steer says nothing about the quality of a cigarette, for instance. Use examples of misleading or confusing product branding that relate to this discussion.