What Aristotle Can Teach You About Content Marketing

By: Chris Thompson on March 12, 2015 Categories: Content Strategy, Corporate Communications

Introducing the Original Thought Leader

With all the noise about marketing trends and continuous new prescriptions from today’s thought leaders, it’s easy to forget that many of the core precepts of content marketing have been around, not for decades or centuries, but for a couple of millennia. Take one of the all-time leaders of thought: Aristotle, great Greek philosopher and salesperson of ideas. Following his teachings will help your organization create more persuasive content that stands the test of time.

The Connection to Marketing

Content marketing covers the entire customer journey–from initial awareness to the purchase and beyond. This means that Marketing works more closely with Sales than ever before. When you’re working to deliver Sales content to help move customers along in their journey, it needs to be persuasive.

It turns out Aristotle had a lot to say about Persuasion.

According to Aristotle…

In the 4th century B.C. Aristotle wrote a book called Rhetoric that defines modes of persuasion that can inform your content marketing strategy. Specifically, he lays out three main methods:

  1. Logos;
  2. Pathos; and
  3. Ethos

Let’s talk about each of these methods and how you can use them in your content marketing strategy and execution…


What it is: Reasoned logic. The use of proof, or apparent proof, to make an argument.

How you can use it: Are you telling an inherent truth about the core challenges your audience faces that you know the solution for? Does your product provide such a solution to these challenges? Does it do it better than other available solutions?

Sprinkle proof throughout your customer journey to back up your claims. You see this a lot with marketers using data and facts, perhaps survey results to show proof in the Awareness and Considerations stage. In the Interest phase, use images (like screenshots in our case) and product samples (product demos in our case) to help provide proof of the product’s solution. And don’t forget social proof in the form of case studies and customer testimonials–you can use this type of proof in the Interest phase as well as in the Engagement and Loyalty phases to help remind your customers they made the right choice.

The more complex the logic that leads to this truth epiphany, the more important it is to break up your logical reasoning into blocks of persuasive logic that can be lined up into a connected customer journey. Defining those blocks and breaking them out into content pieces, formats and distribution channels helps to build persuasion into your content marketing strategy.


What it is: Putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.

How you can use it: With caution. While it’s important to understand the ideal mindset of your target personas at each stage of the customer journey so that you can frame your arguments and tone your language appropriately, you need to be careful not to cross into the territory of cheap parlor tricks to elicit certain quick-think behaviors. You often see this appeal to emotion in click-bait style articles which might not be what your brand is going for.

If you focus on what your content should achieve in terms of objectives, this will help you understand how to create content that elicits the emotions that support that objective, whether that means putting the audience at ease, focusing on pain, creating anticipation or unlocking amazement.

As an example, in the Awareness phase of the customer journey, the objective of content marketers is to make the customer aware of the problem they have. This could be a good time to remind your customer of the frustration and pain they feel without your solution.


What it is: The personal character of the speaker, in this case your company (i.e. brand).

How you can use it: Establish and support what your brand stands for. Make sure that your content aligns with your vision and principles. Also, make sure that your content places your brand first as a collective thought leader, rather than beholden to one individual, who may leave. To do this requires a shared understanding of strategy and team-based execution.


Aligning your content with a cohesive brand message across all functions that touch the customer journey touches on all three of Aristotle’s methods:

  1. Ethos: The audience gains a deeper understanding of who you are as a company and why they should listen to you, buy from you, keep buying from you, and become advocates for you.
  2. Pathos: The audience gains the appropriate frame of mind at each stage of the journey and feels that you are in touch with what they are looking for at each stage.
  3. Logos: The audience has comfort that you have made reasoned logical arguments that they can support and advocate in their organization and to the wider public.

Looking for a way to apply these principles in a cohesive way for your team? Sign-up for a free trial of our software today and find out how easy it is to break down silos across company and organize your content and teams around the content marketing strategy framework that makes sense for you.