While all three of these elements are important, and it can be tricky to say which is more important than the other, I feel Pathos is the stronger of the three. It is the connection to a person’s emotions, what we feel.
People are more and more buying an experience, rather than a product. They are buying the story behind a product, not the product itself. You can purchase ‘Thank You Water’ now, which helps third countries with food, water, shelter and other infrastructure projects. So, by purchasing this water, which thanks you for doing so, you’re helping out those less fortunate than you. A very simple case of words hitting you right in the pathos. You are buying that feeling of happiness you get when helping other people out.
And now, looking at the Trivago series of ads again. The pathos being displayed is that of love, of romance. The romantic notion of a couple meeting in a hotel randomly, and then going on an adventure. The setup of the man appearing to be scruffy, connecting with the glamourous lady, which then gets flipped around. It is a Cinderella story told in a modern age.
And why does the pathos connect with me? I love a good story, and this feels like one told in a very short time frame. I’m a gentleman with long hair and a beard, so I can connect with the Male Main Character (MMC). And to see these two young things having fun and enjoying each other, around the world, gives me a sense of whimsy when I was doing that in my twenties with my, now, wife. I remember doing that myself!
Now, while Pathos is, I feel, the stronger of the three elements, it is also the one which can hit and miss, the most. You are trying to connect to something people care about, and this can polarise the reader.
Look at the vaccination debate, for example. You can write an impassioned article about why vaccination is so important, and you can include heart-warming and tragic examples of what happened to non-immunised children. Instantly you will connect with those who support this argument about vaccinations for all children. Also, there will be a part of your audience who don’t care about the argument- perhaps they don’t have children and feel this debate does not apply to them. And you will encounter people who are absolutely against vaccination, and there is no way your pathos is going to connect with them.
In one article, the pathos you have built will strike people in many different ways. Much like niching your target market, you cannot have pathos with everyone, and that’s okay. The ones you DO connect with, at an emotional level, will become your biggest fans and some of your best customers.
But does Pathos have to be someone LOVING what you do in a positive way? Or can they love you for being bad? And love is just one response, one emotion, which you want to connect with. Passion, perhaps, is a better word than love. People are passionate about the environment, but it is difficult to say you love it.
Passion can sit behind a lot of emotional connections. It can sadden you to see animals being mistreated and the offenders given a ‘slap on the wrist’ fine. What do you do? You become passionate about the cause, help out the RSPCA. Watching a reality show about weight loss can disgust you, it can make you passionate about your own life and own self. What do you do? Get fit and healthy and improve your life. A TV show about hoarders? It can spur you to tidy your own home and donate to charity.
The pathos of all these stories elicits a response from you, starting at an emotional level. The Ethos of the person or people involved may make you flinch, shy away or stare with wonder at the screen. The Logos might have you scratching your head as to why, or nodding your head in enthusiastic agreement. But it is the Pathos, what it makes happen to the core of who you are, which makes you change your ways, take action, become a customer of the product.