Rhetorical Triangle: How to Create a Convincing Ad

One of the best ways to earn the trust of your target audience and win them over is by using three important components: your company’s authority, logical arguments, and emotions. In Ancient Greece, these elements were known under the term “rhetorical triangle”. How can these strategies be useful to a business these days? How are major brands using these three methods to appeal to an audience? Read on to find that out!

  1. What is a rhetorical triangle?
  2. Ethos
  3. Pathos
  4. Logos
  5. Final words

What is a rhetorical triangle?

It turns out that the techniques of effective advertising were developed as early as in the times of Aristotle. The great thinker outlined three rhetorical appeals: 

  • ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker;
  • pathos refers to the emotions of the audience;
  • logos refers to facts and statistics. 

The combination of these techniques is called the “rhetorical triangle”. For more than 2,000 years now, this set of strategies has been used to influence an audience, change a person’s views, and sometimes even manipulate people’s minds. 

Ethos, pathos, and logos are being actively used in political speeches, cinematography, literature, and, of course, advertising. For example, when giving a speech in front of an audience, a politician can talk about their previous accomplishments (ethos), recall a touching story from their childhood (pathos), and list the fundamentals of their election manifesto (logos). 

For the best result, you should be using not one, not two, but all three strategies at once. However, it’s not uncommon that marketers focus on just one of these components, while the other two remain in the background. We’re going to look at the examples further into the article.  


The goal of ethos (a Greek word meaning “character”) is to convince an audience that you have the credibility and expertise to speak on a specific subject. To win people over and find common ground with your potential customers, you need to showcase your authority by telling your target audience:

  • who you are;
  • what knowledge and skills you have;
  • what you’ve achieved;
  • what your values and beliefs are.

How brands use the ethos strategy

  • Use the power of celebrities. Celebrities enjoy the trust, love, and respect of many people. This is why major brands love to team up with famous actors, singers, and athletes. The main thing here is to make sure that the celebrity image fits the brand personality. The most successful collaborations include Benicio del Toro and Heineken, Elle Fanning and Tiffany, Matthew McConaughey and Lincoln, Michael Jordan and Nike, and many more.  
  • Demonstration. Showcasing your advantages is better than simply talking about them. A great example is Brazil’s biggest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo, that printed one of their issues using the money printing technique. This is how the newspaper team emphasized the importance of true journalism in the times of fake news and low-quality content. 
  • Social mission. Caring about nature, helping children and older people, and other good deeds are a great way to gain the trust of your audience and raise their social awareness. For example, Patagonia, a major clothing retailer, gives away 1% of its profits to environmental organizations. The jewelry brand Tiffany supported a global campaign for protecting elephants, lions, and rhinos. The company donated all of its proceeds from selling a limited collection of jewelry to the Elephant Crisis Fund.

Practical tips

  • Talk about your experience, expertise, and brand mission. Outline 1-2 factors that determined your brand growth. Stick with the crucial facts, without veering off to minor details. If, for example, you’re selling craft cakes, be sure to mention how you got a grant for the training program at Le Cordon Bleu, not how you used to bake as a kid. 
  • Remember about your audience. What are the arguments and facts that will make people believe what you’re saying? What makes you convincing?  
  • Use social proof. Collect positive customer reviews and publish them on your website and social media.  


In Greek, the word “pathos” means “suffering”, “passion”, and “excitement”. Considering its meaning, it’s not surprising that this strategy has to do with affecting the feelings of an audience. The thing is that the human brain reacts to emotions first and logical arguments second. That’s why pathos can be a powerful tool when it comes to attracting the attention of potential customers. To achieve the desired effect, you need to have a clear understanding of: 

  • what emotions you want your brand to evoke;
  • how these emotions are connected with your brand;
  • what you expect your audience to do.

How brands use pathos

  • Hero’s journey. A happy-end story about overcoming challenges is a surefire way to trigger emotions. This is exactly what Coca-Cola did in 2021 with its Letter ad video. In the ad, the protagonist faces the task of delivering his daughter’s letter to Santa Clause. Despite numerous obstacles, he achieves his goal (not without the help of the iconic Coca-Cola truck).
  • Self-irony. Hans Brinker, a budget-friendly hotel in Amsterdam, positions itself as the worst hotel in the world. Self-deprecating slogans, such as “Sorry for being wonderful at not welcoming you”, “Sorry for being excellent at losing your luggage”, and “Pay for a bed you’re not going to sleep in” never fail to impress customers! 
  • Provocation. Burger King decided to debunk a popular myth that fast food doesn’t go bad. The brand made a video showing how a whopper (BK’s most famous burger) is decomposing over the course of 34 days. It’s not surprising that the unappetizing ad has caused a wave of discussions!
  • Empathy. A smart brand must understand what their customers are feeling and know how to show them that they’re not alone. One great example of such strategy is Nike. In almost every ad, the sportswear brand is sending to its advocates a clear message: “We know that you’re overcome by fear, laziness, and doubt. We’re here to help”. During the 2000 lockdown, the company came up with an inspirational video ad “There is no stopping us”.  The ad was showing athletes continuing to train at home, despite the pandemic.   

Practical tips

  • Tell your company’s story. To cause emotions, your story must tell about the obstacles and problems that you’ve successfully overcome.
  • Know the measure. Alternate the emotions strategy with other techniques. Otherwise, people will get used to your storytelling style and stop reacting to it. 
  • Choose the right tools. Vibrant adjectives, deep analogies, humor, trolling… Choose the techniques that fit your brand personality and resonate with your target audience.
  • Develop a brand identity that will help you transcend your message in a more effective way. Give preference to graphics, colors, and fonts because these elements are easier to perceive than text. Need help? With the ZenBusiness online service, you can create a unique brand identity in just a couple of clicks!


From Greek, the term “logos” can be translated as “word, meaning”. In rhetorics, “logos” stands for proof, facts, statistics, and numbers. Companies rarely use the logos strategy on its own. Most of the time, they prefer to combine it with the emotions technique. To make the most of the logos method, you need to understand:

  • what message you want to send to your audience;
  • what arguments can persuade your audience;
  • what counterarguments you might have to face.

How brands use the logos strategy

  • Respond to backlash. In the early 2000s, at the peak of the healthy food trend, McDonald’s started to lose customers and therefore money. The fast food giant was accused of causing obesity and nicknamed “hamburger hell”. To rehabilitate its name, McDonald’s decided to openly discuss the problem. The company launched a website that described each position on their menu, including the ingredients and caloric values. Plus, the fast food brand was communicating with users across social media platforms, reacting to their critique. 
  • Allegories. When promoting their Diet Coke, Pepsi decided not to tell the audience that it contained no sugar (no one would’ve believed that anyway). Instead, the brand came up with a smart video ad. In it, a cat, after drinking a Diet Coke, has easily managed to get into the mouse hole. Instead of words, the company used visuals to help customers make the right conclusion.

Practical tips

  • Use a simple language. Avoid confusing people with overly complicated terms and heavy statistics. Use simple and clear arguments so that even a child could get the gist of what you’re talking about.
  • Don’t be obtrusive. Your arguments must be structured and coherent so that people could make the right conclusion on their own. This is a surefire way to gain trust.
  • Rely on well-known facts. Rely on what your audience already knows and believes in. This way, you’ll spare yourself the time convincing your customers and changing their minds.

Final words

The elements of the rhetorical triangle are the three building bricks in creating an effective advertising, presentation or speech. Once your content is ready, be sure to do this checklist:  

  • Does my content showcase my authority?
  • Does my content evoke emotions?
  • Does my content rely on logical argumentation?

If you answered positively to all three questions, you can rest assured that your audience won’t remain indifferent to your promotion campaign or speech.

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