Aristotle Beyond the Academy

Marketing (as) Rhetoric

The Journal of Marketing Management dedicated a special issue to the exploration of the relationship between the modern discipline of marketing and the ancient subject of rhetoric. Co-editors Miles and Nilsson make comparisons between 'the embarrassing hucksterism of old-style marketing, based on the mass push to manipulate customer attitudes and behaviours and untrustworthy Sophist rhetoric.' Aristotle's division of rhetorical proofs into ethos (appeals based upon the credibility of the rhetor), pathos (appeals to the emotions of the audience), and logos (appeals to the intellect of the audience based on argumentation) is identified as a way of looking at the communicative relationship between brands and stakeholders, labelled by Miles and Nilsson as 'highly nuanced and fundamentally strategic'. They go further to claim that 'the rhetorical concepts of kairos, prepon and decorum can provide powerful orientations for marketing strategy and tactical thinking.' Of Aristotle's categories of rhetoric (epideictic, forensic and deliberative), the epideictic is chosen by marketing colleagues as being worthy of special consideration. Miles and Nilsson say, 'it offers marketing a powerful, fecund vantage point from which to begin to deal with the sorts of issues around trust, authenticity, perception of influence, and the creation of value that have become such a challenge for the discipline and profession at this time.'
Chris Miles & Tomas Nilsson (2018) ‘Marketing (as) rhetoric: an introduction’, Journal of Marketing Management, 34:15-16, 1259-1271, DOI: 10.1080/0267257X.2018.1544805


Durham UniversityDurham University Centre for Classical ReceptionLeverhulme Trust