The Power of Triangles: Customer Trust and Convincing Marketing Rhetoric

Ah, the triangle. Though it offers a bumpier ride than its younger and prettier cousin, the wheel, the triangle represents perfect stability and ideal equality of its three sides. It’s no wonder that people constantly use triangles to represent multi-lateral approaches to tackling a complex task. For example, two distinct triangles, separated by two thousand years of human trial and error, have been devised to represent successful marketing techniques. We had to learn Greek first (took us six years) but we thought we just absolutely had to tell you all about it.

Triangle, Old School Style

The Ancient Greek philosopher and first generation Little Jacker Aristotle used a triangle to represent his approach to rhetoric (for you brainiacs, the means being convincing). Aristotle said that ethos (expertise), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic) play equal parts in the persuasion process. Without any one, the other two would collapse onto themselves, like a triangle with one side removed.
Ethos, or competence, must be displayed from the start in order to convince the audience to even pay attention to what one is saying. In other words, if you don’t seem credible and knowledgeable, anything else coming out of your mouth might be dismissed outright.
All marketing is really about making an argument (why you should like this, why you should buy that), so Logos, or logic, is absolutely necessary. Logic, by presenting information in an orderly and compelling way, convinces people that your argument is well thought out and reasonable, and should therefore be accepted.
But, Aristotle argued, logic isn’t everything. Humans are emotional animals, and Pathos, or emotion, must always be used in some measure to convince them fully. Appeals to emotion can create incredibly appealing marketing. Why do you think the two most popular advertising strategies advertisers default to are humor and sexuality?

Back to the Future

In our modern day, the Trust Triangle, a tool used to maximize the impact of sales pitches, shares many similarities with Aristotle’s triangle. Its sides — character, competence, and common sense of purpose, shed light on the sales pitch process. This might not have as much to do with businessmen knowing their Greek philosophy as it does with the fact that persuasion has remained the same over the ages. Establishing credibility by displaying strength of character and competence in your field are crucial to making a sale. So is establishing a common sense of purpose through both reason and emotion.
So next time you’re writing a sales pitch, a project proposal, or a script for a commercial, remember your marketing triangles and try to incorporate each side in order to achieve maximum impact.
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