“The difference between persuasion and manipulation is intent.” – Nathalie Nahai, Author.

When we hear about persuasion and manipulation in marketing, more often than not, both concepts are lumped into the same judgments – one of deceitfulness and connivery. While there’s no doubt that the two are closely related (even using the same skills can accomplish either outcome), there is also a fundamentally ethical difference between the two.

Manipulation aims to control the other party. Persuasion benefits everyone involved.

Using the three appeals – ethos (ethics), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion) – developed over 2,000 years ago by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, let’s look at examples in content marketing on how you can use each to persuade others of the value you provide to them (and their slippery slopes to manipulation).

Via www.reviewsonmywebsite.com

Ethos (aka ethics) in web content

Ethos calls into question the ethics of your target audiences. Your website serves as the perfect platform to establish your character wherever you list your credentials and value statements. An excellent, persuasive tool to showcase this appeal on your website is the concept of “social proof” where you can use the power of social status to influence the behavior of a customer. 

Do: allow for reviews on your website to show your clients what others think about you.

Don’t: delete or hide negative reviews. Breaching trust can be even more damaging than a poor testimonial.

Via Campaign Monitor

Logos (aka Logic) in email content

Logos leverages logic and reason, emphasizing the facts, processes, and benefits of your offerings, allowing for your target audiences to think and come to a conclusion for themselves. The use of incentives in email marketing can allure your network to learn more about the message you’re communicating to them.

Do: use email offers and discounts to create two-sided value for both you and your customers to get them talking and revenue flowing.

Don’t: try to “get one over” on your consumers by doubting their intelligence with an empty promise or misleading information. Most consumers will see right through this, or simply understand that your offer is too good to be true.


Pathos (aka Emotion) in social media content

Pathos is a widely used concept that targets the heartstrings of the audiences who interact with it. This is a tool that consumers of content encounter almost every day because emotions can cross-cultural, social, and personal boundaries.

Do: use storytelling to communicate how the value you provide to a consumer will in turn create a “feel-good” feeling for them.

Don’t: treat your consumers as victims to your own advantage, telling false narratives to control their behaviors.

In our digital age, where information is spread just as quickly and densely as misinformation, it is our role as marketers to mind our ethics and maintain the integrity of the industry. The truth is: even the worst marketers can have the best people skills.

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