The following scenario is one that we have all experienced ourselves and there is no shame in it. You are sitting on the couch binge-watching Law & Order SVU on your day off from work. During the commercials, you are on your phone scrolling through Instagram liking a string of selfies your old roommate took with their new baby nephew…classic. But all of a sudden a voice rips you away from your phone and glues your eyes to the TV. Before you know it the heavenly voice of Sarah McLachlan singing, “In the Arms of an Angel” and the SPCA has you locked in and there is no escape. The only thing interfering with the images of whimpering puppies and quivering kittens that pass before you are the buckets of tears that are streaming down your face. Your heart feels like it’s splitting in two after you swear you saw the malnourished dog with three legs mouth the words, “help me….please.” Memories of you trying to ride your old dog Bear as a child flash before your eyes. By the time the commercial has come to an end your face is soaking wet from the constant flow of tears and snot, you are considering seeing a therapist, and your life’s mission has become clear. You must rescue every animal on the planet….every single one.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this blog is going to discuss the power of using emotion to persuade others. In the world of rhetoric, an appeal to emotion is known as pathos. We have already discussed the two other modes of rhetoric: ethos, and logos. Let’s dive into the power of pathos and discuss how it can be used in video and marketing.
According to Literary Devices, “Pathos constitutes an appeal to the emotions of an audience. It is a popular technique by orators and writers alike to connect with people on an emotional level, which is often far more moving than logic or reason.” Emotions are hard to control and more often than not, we make decisions off of emotion. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt illustrates the tension between emotion and logic. He states:
“our emotional side is the Elephant and our rational side is the Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”
The reason that pathos is so powerful is because it can make our emotional elephant overpower our rational rider.
Let’s talk about using pathos and video. In order for pathos to be used effectively, one must focus on two fundamental elements of video: beauty and story. When I am speaking about beauty I am talking about the composition of your video. Lighting, color, spacing, setting, audio, music, etc. have to be aesthetically pleasing. The beauty of a shot brings a “wow” factor that moves people emotionally.
Story is arguably the most important element in video production. Stories entice people, so one must make sure to find emotional touch points and highlight them. Well-crafted interviews ought to capture the conflict the interviewee has experienced along with its resolution, or lack there of, conveying all the emotions the subject displays which are relevant to the story. B-roll footage can help support the story. This creates an experience for the viewer where they feel like they are sharing the same experience as your subject.
In conclusion, pathos is a powerful and extremely effective in persuading an audience, especially when it is beautifully composed and tells a story. If you are ever having trouble finding a way to persuade your audience, just remember you can never go wrong with puppies and Sarah McLachlan. No one can resist that.