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The magic of three

18th Mar 2024

We’re past the halfway mark of the third month of the year. So, I wanted to dive into the magic of the number three. Why it works so well in marketing, and in life.

Every little helps

Trios of words crop up a lot. They’re memorable. Chances are you’ll know the brands linked to these three word slogans/taglines:

• Snap! Crackle! Pop!

• Finger lickin’ good.

• “I’m Lovin’ It

• Taste the rainbow

• Impossible is Nothing

• King of Beers

• Obey your thirst

• We try harder

• Vorsprung durch Technik

Different combinations of three little words or phrases have inspired millions worldwide. And it happens more widely than just in marketing:

• Stop, Look and Listen

• The father, son, and the holy ghost

• Location location location

• Blood, sweat, and tears

• I came, I saw, I conquered

• On your mark, get set, go

• Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil

• I’ll be back

The rule of three

The brain finds it relatively easy to grasp threes. Push that marginally up to four or five and the brain can get confused about where to look and what to do. Two of something is interesting, but three is compelling. Once a pattern is formed, the brain can easily digest the information and recall it. Patterns are a lot easier to remember than an odd sequence of events or facts and it just so happens that three is the smallest number required to create a pattern.

The rule of three also suggests when things come in threes they’re funnier, more satisfying, more effective than other combinations.

There’s brevity. Rhythm. A pattern.

So why does this happen?

As a child, everything you did and learned seemed to be centred around three — A, B, C; 1,2,3; Three Musketeers, Three Stooges and Huey, Louie and Dewey. (Quack! Quack! Quack!), The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears…

Three is also the minimum amount to be able to represent a beginning, middle, and end of something; a complete cycle or story. There are many examples of this in storytelling. And it’s something we use in the world of work – take case studies as an example, with a standard structure of challenge, solution, results.

The brain likes to have choices but not too many

Businesses often want to share huge lists of bests, show off all the benefits of what they do/sell, convince you why you should choose them. That comes from the belief that the more options there are, the better choice we’ll make. But the longer the list, the more confusing it gets, and it can lead to decision paralysis. The top three of anything makes the most impact on us. The rest, it barely matters.

Overwhelming your customers with information about the product, or giving them endless options will put your potential customer off from buying.

Just do it

When marketers follow the rule of three when coming up with their promotions and messaging, they can make anything persuasive. In a world of short attention spans and countless competitions, the power is in three.

So, here are three tips on weaving the magic of three into your marketing:

Avoid long lists – our subconscious finds long lists lower quality than short ones. It makes things feel more desperate, and gives the impression you lack confidence in the main thing you do/offer.

Group things in threes – categorise your products and offers into trios where possible. Pick the top three problems your clients face, and share ways you have to fix them. Focus on the top three benefits your clients/customers get.

Use a beginning, middle, and end when telling your brand story, in press releases, or coming up with case studies to demonstrate your success.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…

Leigh James (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.

You can drop me a message, or scribble an email to me.

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Photo credit – Laura Chouette | Unsplash