The Magic Number “Three”

Maybe there’s some truth to that old saying, “The third time’s the charm!” The number three certainly crops up often in marketing articles. Here’s why.

Tom Hopkins, renowned as the number one sales trainer in the world, gave an example of the power of three in a Success Seminar I attended several years ago. He said that salespeople should try to give their prospects THREE choices whenever possible, and put their best product as number three. Why? When you give someone three choices, 71% of people will choose the third one!

(Do you suppose the producers of the old TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal!” knew that “Door Number 3” would be picked most of the time? I’ll bet they did.)

You should also try the Rule of THIRDS when you’re designing a print ad, according to the author of Do-It-Yourself Advertising, David F. Ramacitti. One third of your ad should be graphic elements, such as drawings or photographs. One third of your ad should be the copy, including your logo. One third of your ad should be white space. He notes, however, that there’s considerable room for variation in this rule, and that it doesn’t mean you should divide your ad into precise thirds.

The advertising “Rule of Seven” also attaches significance to the number three. This advertising axiom states that a prospect must notice your advertising message seven times before they’ll respond. The corollary? Since people aren’t always “tuned in” to the messages they’re bombarded with, they tend to actually notice an advertising message once for every THREE times they see or hear it.

Another illustration of the power of three appeared in The Competitive Advantage newsletter, quoting Morey Stettner in The Art of Winning Conversation. Persuasive people, according to Mr. Stettner, have always known the power of a TRIO of ideas. Note these three-beat advertising slogans: The few, the proud, the Marines; or reduce, reuse, recycle.

Commands are also commonly given in three steps:

  • Lights! Camera! Action!
  • Ready! Aim! Fire!
  • On Your Mark! Get Set! Go!

Putting complex goals in easy-to-remember sets of three helps managers do their jobs better, too. For example, employees of Domino’s pizza remember FFF: fast, friendly, free delivery.

Using three points to convince someone of something adds to your persuasiveness while avoiding the dangers of saying either too much or too little.

Can you apply the magic of three to your business?