Rhetoric in Recreation

In the recreation and tourism industries, loyalty is a critical component of success. This loyalty can be demonstrated in the sales of enhanced or long-term tickets, such as annual passes and memberships. When they are sold, the destination generally receives a much larger amount of money than they would from a regular, one-visit ticket. Furthermore, the multiple visits made with these kinds of tickets will likely result in a multitude of purchases, whether they are in the food & beverage and/or merchandise departments. One difficult aspect of these ticket options, though, is how many visitors are hesitant to spending a rather large amount of money on them; they must be persuaded to do so. The Morton Arboretum, which is located in Lisle, IL and is considered an outdoor museum and a living laboratory, offers a flyer entitled “The Privileges of MEMBERSHIP” regarding their membership program. To truly understand this flyer, one must first consider the context of it. The situation involved with this flyer is, as mentioned before, the fact that the Arboretum desires the typical visitor to become a member of their non-profit organization. The genre of this object is a flyer in the form of a membership guide, as it is a fairly small piece of paper that has been duplicated and publicized with information regarding their membership program.  As the membership guide is found at a cart near the Visitor Center on the Arboretum’s property, which is where most visitors first enter their public areas, the audience for this flyer is the casual visitor of The Morton Arboretum. As I will show in greater detail later in this post, the language in this flyer is professional yet accessible to the average reader. The ideal consequence of this flyer is for Arboretum visitors to desire more information about their membership program, and subsequently purchase a membership. As I will explore in this blog post, I think that The Morton Arboretum’s membership guide does a very effective job at taking the aforementioned components of context into account when persuading the viewers of the flyer to purchase a membership through the use of rhetorical appeals.

Back of the flyer
Front of the flyer (the side facing the audience)










First of all, in their membership guide, The Morton Arboretum actively utilizes ethos. Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and is used to convince the audience of the credibility and character of the persuader. The form in which membership information is distributed to visitors is on paper, and the specific material choice is a conscious one, as the Arboretum’s choice of paper demonstrates the professionalism of the organization. Instead of using a flimsy piece of copy paper, the flyer is printed on a thick and durable paper with rounded corners. As my parents have been selling paper for decades now, I decided to hand my parents the membership guide and ask them if they could decipher what kind of paper the information was printed on; they said that it is “twelve-point coated two-side cover stock paper.” For those like me who have a hard time comprehending these specifics, they also said that altogether, it is a premium type of paper. As a result, the audience can assume that The Morton Arboretum has truly invested in their membership program and want to be taken seriously; therefore, someone even passively picking up the paper may notice its high quality and feel inclined to read it, which increases the chance that they will become a member of the organization. One textual example of how the Arboretum appeals to ethos is in the text under the title “Your img_0897Membership Matters” and under the subtitle “CAN YOU IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT TREES?” specifically. As shown by the picture of the membership guide on the left, the credibility of this organization is stated. Of course, in order to persuade someone to sacrifice a decent sum of their money, the persuader must prove that they are worthy of the generosity. By verifying to the reader that they are a reputable organization that is involved with scientific study, education, conservation, and outreach regarding trees in their outdoor museum, around the community, and throughout the entire world, the Morton Arboretum makes the reader feel as though the Arboretum is a worthy institution and that they can trust their money and time with them. In addition, the combination of the slogan and logo of The Morton Arboretum and their placement on the flyer appeals to ethos. The organization’s slogan as stated on the membership guide is “THE CHAMPION of TREES” and their logo is of the name of their organization and of a tree; both are located on the img_0902front of the flyer (in the lower right-hand corner) and on the back of it (in the top left-hand corner). By directly telling the reader that their organization is an advocate for trees, even though it is self-proclaimed, the reader is likely hold on to the declaration of the Arboretum being both educated about and proponents of trees. In addition, since the slogan and logo are found on multiple areas on the flyer, their slogan, logo, and subsequent credibility have a higher chance of retention in those looking at the document. Another, albeit more subtle way in which The Morton Arboretum makes itself known as a credible organization is through the font that is used on their flyer. The employed font is easy to read and portrays professionalism with a touch of casualness; if the font read as silly to viewers of the document (such as with Comic Sans), they would likely not trust a large amount of their money with them. In relation to the font used for the membership guide, the color involved with not only the font but also in the background of various parts of the flyer also convey the credibility of the organization. The main color scheme, especially on the back side of the flyer, is green and white. As The Morton Arboretum is heavily involved with nature, the purposeful selection of green as one of the principal colors on the flyer portrays that they are serious about, focused on, and have a clear vision of their goals as an organization. As a result, the audience of Morton Arboretum visitors will feel as though they can trust their money and time with this earnest institution. Lastly, the inclusion of social media platforms on the back of the flyer conveys the credibility of The Morton img_0903Arboretum. In our society, social media and its use is universal; in addition to many individuals using social media on a daily basis, businesses and organizations are now expected to be active on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As a result, these businesses are able to connect with their consumers and easily and personally respond to questions and suggestions from the public. If an organization such as The Morton Arboretum was not on social media platforms, visitors could have felt as though the institution is not invested in what is important to their guests and is not able to adjust to the current climate of our culture. Therefore, how could someone trust their money and time with an organization that is not truly open to the public? Since The Morton Arboretum includes information about how to connect with them via social media, the perceived credibility and character of the institution is enhanced.


Another rhetorical appeal that The Morton Arboretum addresses in their membership guide is logos, which is an appeal to logic and reason. One major section of the back side of the flyer details the specific membership benefits and how they relate to the different img_0895memberships they offer. For example, it is stated that those in the Morton 1, 2, and 4 membership levels receive free general admission 365 days a year, a 10% discount in The Arboretum Store, and a subscription to Seasons and ArbConnect publications. As the membership levels increase in grandeur, the benefits increase as well, including VIP Registration for kids’ summer camps and invitation to their Annual Dinner Party and exhibit previews. By detailing these specific benefits, the reader is able to reason out how purchasing a membership would be logical; for instance, someone who already plans on visiting The Morton Arboretum many times throughout the year may use the offer of gaining free admission and free parking as reasoning for how investing in a membership would be worth the money paid upfront. In addition, the way in which these benefits are organized appeals to peoples’ sense of logic, as the use of different shades of green and the arrangement and labeling of the table make the plethora of benefits comprehensible and able to be read in a short amount of time (compared to just a long list). Believe it or not, there is also a non-verbal way in which logic is appealed to, as the photographs on the front of the flyer relate to the specific rhetorical appeal. When one thinks of an arboretum, they may think of the fall season, as the changing colors of the leaves are something to behold. Therefore, when presented with the prospect of becoming a member of The Morton Arboretum, one without much knowledge of what the institution has to offer throughout the year may think that they would only be able to put their access to the Arboretum to use in a pleasant way during the fall season. On the flyer at hand, img_0901though, due to pictures of cross-country skiing in the winter, flowers blooming in the spring, and gardens in the summer in addition to traditional fall-centered photographs, all of the seasons are showcased. By including pictures from all four seasons at the Arboretum and the different sights and activities during each time of the year, one may realize that it would be logical to invest in a membership, since it could be put to proper use throughout the entire year.  Furthermore, an example of a persuasion trick in use in The Morton Arboretum’s membership flyer that appeals to logic is the “that’s-not-all” technique. The “that’s-not-all” technique involves a salesperson asking a high price, pausing, and then offering a better deal by adding a bonus. In the bottom right-hand corner of the back of the flyer is a section with large text stating “BONUS!” and information about how two-year memberships include free Acorn Express tram tours and img_0898an invitation to a special Membership Enrichment Event. In this case, the “pause” takes form in how the reader’s eyes typically follow the pattern of moving from left to right, and then go down the page for each row. Since the information about a bonus is in the bottom right-hand corner of the flyer, the last information presented to the reader is of the bonus. As a result, the reader is left with the impression that the prospective price of becoming a member of The Morton Arboretum is reasonable and logical due to the many benefits accessible with membership. If the flyer had the information of the free tram tour and event included in the regular membership benefits table and the document ended with the social media information, the audience would not have been left with such an impact. One clever way in which The Morton Arboretum may persuade viewers of this flyer to become a member of their institution is due to the omission of information that could potentially hurt the perceived logic of becoming a member. On the back side of the flyer, details of the membership are given, but the price of each level of membership is not included. Once I noticed this omission, I looked at the Arboretum’s website in order to find the prices (on a side note: by me actively researching more about The Morton Arboretum’s membership program, the flyer is proven to entice people to visit their website, in which even

Screenshot Image Source

more elaborate membership options are available). Regarding the memberships detailed on the flyer, I found that the prices of them range from $60 to $250 for one year, while two-year memberships cost from $110 to $320. If these prices were included on the flyer, there is a great chance that at least a portion of the audience would immediately be drawn to the prices. In doing so, many viewers of the document would compare the usual $14 adult admission price to these higher prices and could deem the membership  too expensive, and thus conclude their viewing of the flyer. Since the prices were omitted from the membership guide, even those who are not willing to spend a large amount of money on a membership would at least be exposed to the other persuasion tactics on the flyer. In doing so, after researching the prices of memberships online just as I did or at the Visitor Center (which is conveniently and most likely purposefully located near where the membership guide can be found), they may find the prices to be reasonable and subsequently purchase a membership.


Lastly, and arguably most importantly, pathos (which relates to emotions) is appealed to in The Morton Arboretum’s membership guide. Since humans often employ “hot cognition” in that we make decisions based off of emotions rather than only facts, it is critical for emotions to be appealed to in order persuade someone. One major example of how the membership guide takes advantage of this importance of feelings is in the section entitled “Your img_0896Membership Matters” and particularly under the subsection named “MEMBERSHIP IS GOOD FOR YOU — AND GOOD FOR OUR WORLD.” In this subsection, statistics regarding the extinction and endangerment of trees, such as the fact that ten percent of all tree species are now threatened with extinction, are presented along with the notion that one’s membership will help make the world a better place. A typical viewer of this flyer most likely already appreciates nature in some sense, as they are visiting an arboretum. As a result, by stating facts about how nature is threatened with extinction, a nature-lover is not only going to acknowledge the logic presented by the facts (although citations for them are not present), but is also likely to feel worried about the future of our planet. Since the suggestion of purchasing a membership from the organization is stated immediately afterwards, the reader may feel as though they need to do what they can to help make the world a better place in order to combat possible feelings of guilt, which is where The Morton Arboretum’s membership program comes into play. One may have noticed through my citations that many of the titles used on this flyer employ much capitalization; the decision to include excess capitalization appeals to the emotion of the viewers. By using only capital letters for specific words such as “nature,” “membership,” “free,” and “bonus,” and for titles such as the one aforementioned regarding the goodness of membership, words deemed important by the Arboretum in the process of persuasion are easily seen by viewers. When one notices words in all caps, they have a heightened awareness of them and may even encode them in a “shouting” way; therefore, the reader may feel excited and intrigued by these words. Since the words in all caps are quite important to the process of becoming a member of The Morton Arboretum, the use of capitalization and its subsequent emotion towards them may influence readers to engage in the membership program. An additional way in which readers may become excited about potentially being involved in The Morton Arboretum’s membership program is through the inclusion of the institution’s social media accounts. Many individuals in our society, especially those who are younger, feel emotionally connected to the social media platforms they use. I, for one, will admit that it brings me joy and comfort to connect with others through social media and be able to share my experiences. As a result, when someone like me notices the social media accounts that The Morton Arboretum is involved with, they may feel enthusiastic and comforted by the prospects of connecting with the organization. These viewers are then likely to become invested with The Morton Arboretum, and more specifically as a result, their membership program. Another example of how the Arboretum’s membership guide persuades readers to become members of their organization by appealing to pathos is through the pictures with “visitors” in them, which are featured on the front side of the flyer. These pictures are of one lone adult, children, and of a family. In these photographs, the peopleimg_0901 in them are clearly enjoying their time at The Morton Arboretum, as the family seems to be bonding, the children are enjoying themselves, and the lone individual is cross-country skiing. As a result, a reader may see these images as heartwarming and may desire to recreate these kinds of connections and experiences in their own lives at The Morton Arboretum. As the flyer is presented with the side including the pictures facing the audience, to do so, one must flip over to the other side of the flyer to gain more information. If both sides of the flyer only had statistics and written information (or even if the back side of the paper was facing outwards), the audience could have deemed it too lengthy, time-consuming, and quite frankly, too boring to read. Since the images grab their attention emotionally, they may have the motivation to take the time to learn more about their membership program and have the tolerance to truly delve into it. Therefore, viewers may create an emotional bond with the organization through these images, and as a result, become interested in purchasing a membership. A particularly cunning way in which The Morton Arboretum’s membership guide appeals to emotions is in the labeling of its membership levels. It is stated on the flyer that the membership levels from most minimalistic to afterlight-2most grand are Morton 1, Morton 2, Morton 4, Morton 6, and then Friend. We as humans feel the need to be involved with groups, as they typically enhance our self-esteem and give us comfort. By going from the levels with a more generic name and number to a more humanizing, inclusive name for the most expensive membership, viewers of this flyer will likely feel inclined to purchase the “Friend” membership (though any level would still cause feelings of acceptance). Particularly with the audience that presumably enjoys nature, the prospects of being considered a friend of this nature-oriented organization can be incredibly enticing and make them feel emotionally attached to the institution.


As shown, when one takes a closer look at The Morton Arboretum’s membership guide, it can be realized that much conscious decision-making was used in order to persuade the viewer to purchase a membership. This thoughtfulness shows how professional The Morton Arboretum is an organization, as they clearly are aware of the situation, genre, audience, language, and consequences of something as simple as one of their flyers and are able use this knowledge of context to persuade others through the application of the three rhetorical appeals. Reading it myself, as someone who already has a fondness of The Morton Arboretum and nature in general, I found this membership guide to be quite convincing as a result of the organization seeming credible, the prospects of becoming a member making the costs appear reasonable, and the emotional connection created with the institution and their goals. Someone who does not even enjoy nature may be persuaded by this guide, as its presentation and use of persuasion tactics that relate to almost every person is near-impeccable. Therefore, I would imagine that this membership guide and others like it have played a role in The Morton Arboretum’s membership sales and their success and endurance as a non-profit organization overall. Although most people think of persuasion as something that is effortlessly noticed and in-your-face, as demonstrated by this membership guide, it is not always easily discernible, as there is even rhetoric involved with recreation.

Do you, the reader, have any thoughts about the prevalent use of rhetoric in our lives? What kinds of objects do you think you should put more effort into analyzing moving forward? Let me know. Also, to learn more about The Morton Arboretum and their membership program, pay a visit to their website here.



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