Ethos: Values, Branding and Gender

Summary: In this lesson students practice analyzing the values portrayed in particular advertisements and considering how the company is trying to build its credibility (and its brand) with its target audience.  Students also consider which values are marketed towards women and which towards men and how these might play into gender stereotypes.  This lesson also includes an informal presentation to help students practice speaking in front of their peers.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students identify claiming certain values as an ethos strategy
  2. Students practice analyzing the values implied or stated in different videos and considering how that would connect with the target audience
  3. Students practice organizing and producing a small informal speech in their teams
  4. Students gain experience speaking in front of the class

Teaching Materials:

  • handout for the student small group section of the lesson LP3 Handout
  • students will need laptops, tablets or phones to conduct their research into their team’s advertisement

Outline for Class Activity:

1. Ethos and Values (15 min)

  1. Introduce students to the idea that one way rhetors try to convince their audience is by earning their audience’s trust.  This is called establishing one’s Ethos or credibility.  A common strategy to establish ethos is showing the audience that they (they rhetor) share the audience’s values.  We see this all the time in politician’s speeches when they talk about having “Iowa’s values” or “American values” or “Chicago values”.  Today’s class will be spent looking at how companies try to convince possible consumers that they share the consumer’s values in order to gain that group’s trust (and money).
  2. Show them Audi’s #DriveProgress commercial from the 2018 Superbowl
  3. In discussion have them identify the rhetor, intended audience, goals, and message.  Then ask them to think about why Audi has identified this message and why they think that message will appeal to their intended audience.  While some might argue that Audi is really trying to advocate for change that the company believes in, they are definitely also appealing to the values of the people they think might buy their cars.  Especially in this world where people want to buy things that align with their values (think Whole Foods and FairTrade coffee) this message is particularly powerful.  You might also consider that, since Audi at no point actually mentions buying or selling cars in this commercial, this ad can make the company seem disinterested or selfless: as if they care about the audience’s well-being and not about making money.

2. Small Group Research and Analysis (15 min)

  1. Divide students into teams of 3-4 and distribute the following handout LP3 Handout.  Explain to them that they will spend the next 15 minutes researching a brand that markets itself to one gender.  By looking at different advertisements created by this company, they will identify the company’s target audience (or audiences, if it shifts from ad to ad) and analyze the values portrayed.  What does the company seem to think that this group cares about?  To what extent do you think the advertisement matches the values of that group?  Will it successfully gain that group’s trust?  How do they, the students, feel about these perceptions and messages about men and women? Once they have done that, each group will plan and create a 4-minute presentation that presents their findings to the rest of the class.
  2. Give students the next 15 minutes to work, moving around the room to answer questions and encourage students to deepen their analysis.

3. Informal Presentations (20 minutes)

  1. Give each group time to present their findings.
  2. As a wrap-up for the day.  Spend a few minutes discussing students’ reactions to these various ad campaigns.  Do they feel represented?  Like they “see themselves” and their values in these ads?  How so and how not? Prompt them to reflect on the wider implications of these assumptions and messages.