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Opinions of Friday, 20 November 2020

Columnist: Dr. Alfred Owusu

What the 2020 presidential campaign in Ghana can teach us about sales and marketing

Politicians in Ghana must do more than serving. They also have to sell themselves and their parties. They have got to get the job before they can do it.

Then they have to keep their promise. Right now, President Akufo-Addo and former President John Mahama are actively selling themselves and their parties. They are using powerful persuasion tactics designed to earn more votes through their campaigns. These same tactics can be used to earn more customers by companies.

Aristotle in his treatise around 350 BC titled Rhetoric described three modes of persuasion. Each of these modes is still deliberately used today by marketing experts, public speakers, and political candidates to win over the public. These modes are very apparent in the Akufo-Addo’s and Mahama’s campaigns and serve as useful examples of effective selling and marketing.

The first mode is called "logos," or logic. It is using data, reason, and facts to seek agreement on your perspective. Both presidential candidates cite the statistics they believe will best make their case and harm their opponent. Listen to statistics about the economy now and during the last administration. You will hear references to statistical changes in Covid-19 infection. Both campaigns outline plans for the future, listing the steps they will take to improve the country.

This mode of persuasion attempts to appeal to our heads with data and logic. One will see the same approach in an automobile commercial that describes a car’s features, mileage, and available financing. Logos is all about ideas and information.

Of course, this information is only effective to the extent the public believes it, which leads us to the second mode of persuasion, "ethos." Ethos translates to ethics, but what Aristotle really meant was credibility. That means explaining why you are the expert or authority on the topic.

Here the argument is less about the message and more about the messenger. Often this credibility is established by third-party recognition. At each big political convention, well-known speakers stand up to praise their party’s candidate. Both candidates boast about the organizations endorsing them.

Each will reference their experience, their accomplishments, and the adversity they have overcome. They will bring family members (wives) to the stage to make them seem more human. They will cast doubt on their opponent’s intentions, competence, and character. They will also challenge and reject any press they get they believe is unfair or untrue.

In automobile commercial, the manufacturer might tell customers how their car is number one in its class. They may show an image of their awards. Or maybe they will put a known experienced driver behind the wheel. If he is driving the car, it must be pretty cool. Ethos is all about establishing yourself as someone worthy of believing.

The third and most powerful mode of persuasion in an election and in business is "pathos," or feelings. It means tapping into people’s emotions. If we can get them to feel something, we can get them to do something. For Nana Akufo-Addo and John Mahama, the feelings both men try to evoke are inspiration and fear. Both deliver speeches that are aspirational and troubling.

They give electorates a vision of a beautiful, better, and more prosperous Ghana. They caution electorates about how the opposing party will hurt the country. They tell stories about Ghanaians who are working, suffering, thriving, starving — all designed to humanize their message. They use slogans such as “4more to do more” and “The people Manifesto.”

These slogans do not provide information; they are just meant to create a feeling. Political campaigns intentionally stir voter’s emotions to call them to action.

So do advertising campaigns. That is why the same car commercials will show smiling owners and jealous neighbors.

They will feature a couple arriving in style at a restaurant or a group of 30-somethings playfully signing as they cruise the streets. Would it be fun to do that with your friends? Pathos is all about emotions.

Combining these three modes of persuasion will empower you as a business leader.

It will maximize your appeal to consumers. It will give you direction when designing marketing campaigns. It will also allow you to sell more effectively.

(All of these advantages are logos.) I know this to be true because I have seen an award-winning business owner, speaker, and author for many years (ethos). As a widely celebrated philosopher, Aristotle’s ideas are still discussed by academics and executives; they have stood the test of them (more ethos).

Consider how incredible it would feel to have these tools at your disposal. You would actually be able to convince people to try your business and to spend more. Just imagine the possibilities (pathos)!

In these final days of the election, Nana Akufo-Addo and John Mahama will work hard to appeal to both our heads and heart. They will share information, highlight their credibility, and tap into our emotions. Whoever does it better will win the 2020 elections.

Business owners are on a never-ending campaign to bring in more customers and sell more products and services. There is a lot of competition going after the same consumers. You want to influence people to come to you. The more deliberate you can be in your messaging, the more likely that they will. That will best happen when you appeal to them with logic, credibility, and emotion.

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