Market Analysis & Communications for the Manufacturing Industry.
I’m going to discuss three things today about the number three. First, there’s something magical about three; secondly, three can be even more powerful when nested; and lastly, three can make your message more memorable.
Threes Have Magic
I learned a long time ago that including three items in a list is a lot more satisfying than two or four or any other number. I don’t know why – just a quirk of human nature, I guess. Consider: This newsletter is attractive and useful. This newsletter is attractive, useful and convenient. This newsletter is attractive, useful, convenient and valuable. The second example just feels better, it has a rhythm. Or should I say it feels better, it has a rhythm and it is more memorable.
Nesting adds power
Stacking or nesting threes within threes multiplies the effect. Make three essential points in your brochure, PowerPoint or white paper. Within each point have three sections, paragraphs or examples. Within each of these include three keywords, listed items or phrases. Establish the rhythm and exploit the resonance of repetition, nesting and consistency.
Make it memorable
Top ten lists are always popular but it is the top three that one typically remembers. Win, place and show – we don’t even have a word for fourth place. In technology writing – white papers, magazine articles and briefing papers – it is common practice (and an effective strategy) to emphasize a list of “7 best” of something, “6 things to avoid…”, or “8 things every (blank) should know about (blank)”. That’s all well and good but it’s only the top three that people remember. And in today’s text and twitter short-attention-span world, you have less of the reader’s time and attention so it pays to keep it short. It’s likely that they jump right to the top three things anyway so why not just put all of your marketing muscle into those three things to begin with.
Mark Twain is famously quoted as having written in a letter to an acquaintance “I apologize for the length of this letter. I would have written a shorter letter but I simply didn’t have the time.” (I paraphrase, but you get the point). This emphasis on brevity puts more pressure on marketing precisely because it is more difficult to write a short, concise and yet complete description of a product, theory or concept. But there is always room for the magic of threes to work for you even in the famous elevator pitch or 140 character tweet.