Engaging Audiences with Emotion

Article by Crystal White
2 minutes 2 seconds read

Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.

With our previous posts, “You See What I’m Saying” and “Building Audience Confidence,” we covered the importance of rhetoric in writing and how to gain an audience’s trust.

But, you first have to get their attention.

Speakers commonly do this by telling a joke when they first take the stage. They want their audience to smile, to laugh, and to sit just a little bit closer. What they’ve done is use emotion, or pathos, to connect to their audience. Because emotion is key to capturing attention and delivering messages with power.


Pathos is communicating a message at an emotional level. It touches our hearts, makes us laugh, makes us afraid, and more. Although we can discuss at length how companies can successfully employ pathos, you’ll understand far better if you watch the following videos.

While you watch, carefully consider the messages these companies are sending. What are you feeling? Why is that important to the company? By feeling that emotion, how does your perception of the company and its product change?

And this Volkswagen commercial quickly became a favorite among audiences–all without a single word being spoken:

These videos capture our hearts because they tie into emotions we all feel:

  • Determination against difficult challenges
  • The need to achieve
  • Empathy for another human being
  • Fear of loss
  • Gratitude in the face of kindness
  • Childhood wonder
  • The love for our kids

The companies didn’t burden us with a lot of product information. The products were in the background, but the message–the message was emotional. That’s what hooks audiences and builds brands.

Emotional storytelling is achieved through an observance of pathos. You must reach your audience on a human level. Because no one cares about products.

We care about people.

When we  strike an emotional chord with our audience , we capture their attention. But, it’s at this point, when we’ve hooked them, that we can become distracted. And if we become distracted, so does our audience.

Which is why we must understand the third element: logos. To learn how to employ logic in your writing, read our post “Better Writing Through Rhetoric: Improving Audience Understanding.”