Rhetoric in the context of marketing is likely to be initially met with a sense of unease. For many, the idea of rhetoric takes them back to a high school or college Language Arts course, with the instruction focused on how to communicate persuasively in order to manipulate others’ thinking in favor of your argument.
When carrying this mindset over into marketing, consumers may become fearful of these rhetorical tactics. Yes, rhetoric can be used as a means of persuasion, but it can also be used as a way to effectively communicate information while simultaneously expressing personality, whether the personality be your own or your company’s.
A brief History of Rhetoric
The seed of rhetoric was planted by ancient Greeks and Romans who viewed skillful oration as a metaphorical currency for ideas and knowledge. The more skilled and persuasive the orator, the more credible the idea and therefore the more widely accepted. The seed then sprouted roots and branches and, in time, persuasion became just one branch of the broad concept of rhetoric.
Before diving into how to make rhetoric more effective in the context of marketing, lets first address the more pressing question: what exactly is rhetoric in marketing?
What is rhetoric in marketing?
Rhetoric in marketing is not simply the idea of persuading a consumer, but instead it is the ways in which we understand language, human nature, and our own or company values in order to most effectively communicate with consumers.
What are some examples of rhetoric in marketing?
- Bringing humanness and character to your communication by transparently expressing you or your company's values
- Using logic and evidence to prove the value of your brand
- Relating to consumers by using friendly and stylistic writing elements
- Using visual appeal to portray a well-rounded and truthful expression of you or your company
This article from Content Marketing Institute goes into the baseline techniques of rhetoric that can be particularly beneficial used in accordance with the techniques explained in this post. Although specific to social media, the intentions of the article extend into all forms of communication in marketing.
How to Successfully Use Rhetoric In Marketing
Engrained through history, rhetoric has been labeled as one-sided communication. Instead of viewing rhetoric simply as a way to outwardly persuade others to agree with and adopt certain information or ideas, marketers should use rhetoric as a fluid interaction to resonate with whoever is reading or listening.
Allow the audience’s existing knowledge and habits of thinking to act as a resource for your communication, but don’t tailor the information to fit a specific consumer while neglecting your brand voice.
PRO TIP: Instead of viewing rhetoric simply as a way to outwardly persuade others to agree with and adopt certain information or ideas, use it as a fluid interaction to resonate with whoever is reading or listening.
When the audience is uncritically given what they want is when the fear of rhetoric sets in. Whether conscious of it or not, consumers will be wary of language written with manipulative intent. Guide the consumer towards adopting your goal using truth and genuine excitement for aiding them in the process. Language without humanness is like a culture without the people; always put a human face on your communicative intentions.
Language without humanness is like a culture without the people; always put a human face on your communicative intentions.
Now, how does one write with hopes of persuading without allowing persuasion to be the engine of the vehicle? Here are a few tips to write with effectiveness, style, and noticeable sincerity:
1. Be short, to-the-point, objective, and amicable.
It may sound contradictory to be both objective and personalized, but you can still express personality while communicating objectively. Similarly, being too subjective gives off a sense of unease similar to that of persuasion, so you want to be careful to avoid using opinion. While being short and to-the-point with the facts and information, use a writing style that’s inviting and polite--the best way to express personality in marketing is through style.
INSTEAD OF: The service provided by Example Co. is one of the best experiences you’ll have with a provider; they are by far the most efficient, experienced, and knowledgeable company that you’ll find in the market.
TRY: With expertise and efficiency, Example Co. readily provides you with the service you need and the experience you want.
2. Be scarce: the less there is of something the more value it holds.
Although you want to use style to create a personality in your writing, you don’t want to overdo it. Stylistic comments here and there that break from sophisticated deliverance of information will draw attention to personality while remaining professional and trustworthy.
INSTEAD OF: Trust us, we know how busy life can be (sometimes you just want to curl up and take a nap!), but with Example Co. you can finally have time for the nap AND the cleaning AND the workout you’ve ‘been meaning to get around to for weeks’ (or just an extra long nap… we’ve all been there).
TRY: Allow Example Co. to cross something off your to-do list.
3. Put a human face on your written communication
It’s great to deliver consistent values and style when writing for or about your company--it’s even better to embody these values as the writer. People are more likely to be malleable and adopt your intended goal if the communication comes from a source of humanness. A good way to express company values with a personal style is to use personal pronouns such as “us” and “we” rather than limiting yourself to third-person perspective. Similarly, if applicable, create a “meet the team” section to literally put faces on your company.
INSTEAD OF: Example Co. is dedicated to customer satisfaction.
TRY: Here at Example Co., we’re dedicated to our customer’s satisfaction.
4. Don’t just sell the product, sell the company.
If you feel overwhelmed with information about a product, try writing about the company selling the product beforehand. It’s helpful to include company values as part of your marketing tactic (this will put that human face on your writing that’s so important for a company-consumer relationship).
TRY THIS: If you’re writing for a company that doesn’t want general company information to be on display, it’s still helpful to write a brief summary about the company’s history and values to adopt and practice a consistent style before you begin writing about a product.
Many perspectives surrounding rhetoric in marketing are negative, yet marketing is rhetorical by nature. To create trust between you in your audience when using rhetorical techniques, you must distinguish between persuasion and communication. Rhetoric isn’t about manipulation, it’s about sincerity, style, and, as a result of these, resonance.
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