Three Modes of Rhetoric: Branding Through Content Marketing
Perhaps the greatest utility of content marketing lies in its branding capabilities. Being able to exploit content marketing’s ability to create demand on its face begins with crafting your own business voice through the content itself.
What better guide do we have to the art of persuasion than the study of rhetoric itself? From a marketing perspective, rhetoric is the art of convincing an audience to buy a product, without over marketing it.
Make your services/products feel beyond merely desirable, but necessary. Take a page from the infamous Edward Bernays on how to truly create demand out of seemingly thin air. We’re not advocating the use of fear mongering and shock topics to create consumer demand, but rather how your business can cultivate authority over its industry’s subject matter through content.
The practice of marketing content on your own website grants your business free reign to craft consumer focus and your own business narrative toward the conversion goal of your choice.
First, we’ll look through Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion and different pieces of content that can expand your brand’s exposure, authority and loyalty. Then, we’ll look to other principles of rhetoric to help you optimize each piece of content for SEO and your consumer base.
It’s important to appeal to all modes of persuasion when available and to strike the right balance between each for the most effective persuasive content possible.
Ethos: Building Brand Trust
Aristotle recognized that ethos was perhaps the hardest mode of persuasion to accomplish. In classical terms, ethos is an appeal to ethics and the embodiment of spirit and culture. Aristotle recognized the need of ethos as an appeal to credibility- is the audience able to relate to your business and its message?
Credibility augmented with an appeal to emotion and logic will inevitably lead to trust. Yet, speaker trust all begins with establishing the speaker’s credibility in the first place.
Consider the idea that Google traditionally ranks websites higher that it trusts more. This is typically referred to as the brand exception- poorer content may outrank better content simply based on the publisher’s trust.
Establishing trust for your website provides numerous SEO benefits, such as faster indexation and less friction to rank higher organically. A higher organic rank is typically accompanied with greater user signals.
To begin, it’s important to acquire all of the necessary citation links for your local business. The number one query that people search for locally (50% of local searches) is a business’s information, such as name, address and phone number (NAP).
Keyword research goes a long way in establishing credibility. Aside from your keyword research software, brick-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of talking to people directly, everyday. Leverage this information to optimize your content distribution strategy.
Consider scrapping ideas from influencers on other social media sites, such as Twitter and Reddit.
Building on this practice, brick-and-mortar stores have the unique ability to become involved in the local community and post local content that is equally important to user interests as industry related content. Consider some of these strategies for becoming a local business buzz:
- Post a calendar of local events on your website
- Get involved in local events
- Sponsor local events, organizations or scholarships
- Donate to local organizations
In terms of local search intent, it’s critical that your website is mobile optimized, either through a mobile friendly URL structure or including responsive design in your website’s structure.
It’s important to create industry content that revolves around a central theme and subsequent archetypes related to that theme. You will need to create detailed landing pages for each of these topics and include a call-to-action, as well as internal links to evergreen content related to that theme.
- (Could include a sentence about the LSEO landing pages for our services)
Your online blog will be the main vehicle to establishing your brand’s credibility through thoughtful, consistent content production. Aside from hyperlocal content, your blog should focus on two main subjects: your industry and your brand.
In terms of your industry, evergreen content that seeks to provide answers to common questions will establish your website as a credible source of information. Always include links to trusted sources of information, which invariably establishes trust with Google itself.
While online users consume nearly 100,000 digital words a day, 92% of those users desire to read about a story in the midst of that mindless consumption. Leverage brand storytelling to articulate what makes your company unique- how it got its start and its mission.
Establish consumer credibility through these content marketing tactics:
- Post consumer testimonials of successful projects/ customer service you’ve completed
- Publish case-studies you’ve performed of phenomena within the industry- builds awareness for your brand
- Interview local people or industry thought leaders and publish a piece about it
- Guest post on reputable websites relevant to your industry or local area- provides valuable backlinks
- Invite blog influencers and thought leaders to post on your blog- builds your audience
In terms of promoting your brand, contest, polls and even redeemable discounts on/offline are great ways to bring exposure to your band and to build credibility for your brand.
Your blog should show people that you care about their needs and it should be written for the benefit of your customers. Respond to comments and encourage user-generated content to display your brand’s character and find common ground with your customers.
When someone makes a complaint and you respond on a virtual chat, make the necessary adjustment in real-life. Beyond meager promises, provide fulfillment and prove that you are not a hypocrite or simply a marketed brand, but rather a conscious entity that can truly empathize and respond to the problems of your industry.
Describe solutions to common problems related to your industry. Provide authority for why consumers should turn to your business, as opposed to others.
Ideally, you won’t even mention your business or brand in your blog posts, but you’ll provide internal links to different subject matter that you have landing pages created for.
An audience is more likely to listen to a credible speaker, this is undisputed. But it’s key to remember that you cannot decide your own credibility as a speaker, only your audience can. That notion will help your brand acquire trust along the way, which could lead to brand loyalty by the end of the consumer life-cycle.
Pathos: Cultivating Brand Loyalty
Investopedia defines brand loyalty as “a pattern of consumer behavior where consumers become committed to brands and make repeat purchases from the same brands over time.” Individuals loyal to a brand will continually make purchasing decisions from the same brand regardless of “convenience or price.”
The whole concept of brand loyalty is based around the idea that brand loyalists make emotionally charged purchasing decisions. This leads us into our 2nd mode of persuasion: an appeal to emotion.
People are more likely to remember stories than facts, approximately 22x more. Leverage brand storytelling with bits of personal experience, utilizing a cast of characters to deliver a message.
Consider how effective the Budweiser Clydesdales are around the holiday season and how they are a recurring theme of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. The ASPCA frequently makes appeals to emotions in its commercials, displaying real animals with real names for a rather intense emotional appeal.
Visual content will be your greatest tool to appealing toward audience emotions. This may include:
- Videos: long or short-form
- Infographics that tell a story or display an alarming statistic
- Video endorsements of trusted industry or local leaders
- Interactive map or slideshare
According to one study, the emotional state that drives people to a purchasing decision the most is the need for validation. People don’t want to feel like they are making the wrong choice, which reinforces the need for user reviews and testimonials to appeal both to credibility and to validate purchasing decisions.
Consider employing epideictic rhetoric to connect your audience with an event or phenomena that they may be unfamiliar with or never witnessed. This rhetorical tactic can be used to grant praise, celebration or blame to a person, place or event to exhibit its ethical value or emotional importance to a society. This creates both awareness and demand around a subject by simply bringing the subject into the forefront of the audience’s mind.
For example, documentaries of foreign countries and governments take us into the viewpoint of someone experiencing their conflicts and joys.
Spice up your blog posts by beginning your piece with an antithesis. You can venture into the outer edges or ridiculousness or controversy to help make your content more persuasive.
Finally, consider writing on topics important to your local area or industry that’s emotionally relevant to your customers. For example, if you operated in Texas, writing a post about high school football would certainly resonate with an audience, where football is an integral part of their culture and everyday lives.
Buzzfeed is an excellent example of a publisher that consistently publishes fun polls and articles detailing brands and different cultural products familiar to most people.
Establishing brand loyalty does not rely solely on an appeal to pathos, nor does it always require that within your content. Fulfillment on the product/ service end may supplant your content’s ability to establish consumer loyalty.
Your appeal to emotion should seek to display both a moral need present in your industry or society, as well as the emotional benefits of going through with a desired purchase. Commenting on the latter tactic, visually describe or show consumers how they will feel after making a purchase. Validate their purchase.
Sometimes an appeal to emotion is not always enough to get people to trust your brand and purchase from your business. Sometimes, the proof is in the pudding.