Ever noticed how things are often better in threes?
Two is too little. And four feels like it’s a tad too much.
Three feels just right, doesn’t it?
Humans love patterns
As humans, our brains are hard-wired to excel at recognising patterns. It’s how we’re built. Researchers even argue that our superior ability to process patterns is what’s behind most of the qualities that set us apart from other animals — intelligence, language, imagination.
Three is the minimum needed to make a pattern. Which means it’s got that one-two punch of brevity and memorability. So it shouldn’t be at all surprising that it’s such a powerful number.
Think about it.
- In music, harmonies are often created using triads, which — you guessed it — involves stacking a set of three different notes three intervals apart
- Most stories — whether they’re plays, movies or novels — tend to happen in three acts. Act one sets the stage. Act two presents the protagonist with a problem or complication. And act three brings about a resolution
- In design, the rule of thirds shows you how to position your most important elements for maximum effect by dividing your canvas into a grid with three columns
These are just three examples (see what I did there?). You’ll find that the number three features prominently in many other areas, including business.
Which brings me to my point.
Using the Power of Three to Make your Business Stand Out
Some of the most memorable taglines and business catchphrases of all time use three words — or, as it’s known in writing, the rule of three:
- Just Do It
- Finger-Lickin’ Good
- I’m Lovin’ It
But it’s not just three-word taglines that can help you make your business stand out.
Here are some other ways you can use the rule of three to make your business communications more memorable, impactful and appealing.
Use it in your product descriptions
The rule of three works especially well when you’re describing a product’s features or benefits because it helps you pare things down to the essentials in a way that’s satisfying.
Saying that a product is affordable and easy to use doesn’t quite cut it, does it?
On the other hand, saying it’s — deep breath — affordable, easy to use, innovative, durable and reliable makes it sound like you’re trying too hard.
But describe it as affordable, durable and easy to use and — ah! — it hits the spot. It has enough features to make you want to find out more. But not so many that it feels overwhelming.
Here are a few real-life examples of the rule of three in action:
- This simple description effectively boils down the jeans’ features
- This brand bio actually contains four features. But, because the first sentence has three adjectives and the fourth feature gets its own sentence, it still feels snappy and satisfying:
- And, of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without an example from Innocent, which always stand out with their consistently stellar copywriting:
Use it in your content marketing
There are several ways you can do this:
- Use it to inform your blog post structure. Your post could address three main ideas. Or have three sections. Or, more simply, you could use bulleted lists of three to make your posts easier to scan (and the key points easier to remember)
- If you fancy adding a dash of humour to your copy but aren’t sure how to go about it, the rule of three is a great starting point. This is because, surprise surprise, the classic joke structure has three parts: setup, anticipation, punchline. But tread carefully. A joke that falls flat can do more harm than good
- Use it to inform your social media strategy. This works as follows:
- ⅓ of your social media posts are your own original content
- ⅓ are personal interactions with your audience
- ⅓ is shared content that’s relevant to your audience
Use it in your visuals
Your website, your logo and your overall visual identity are just as important as your copy. Make them more appealing and effective by applying the rule of thirds:
- The rule of thirds can help you understand where users’ eyes naturally fall on your website. Use this to your advantage by letting it inform where you place call to action buttons, contact details and other key pieces of information
- Similarly, you can use the rule of thirds to determine where to position key information like your contact details on your business cards, stationery and other offline marketing materials
- Visuals are just as important to storytelling as words. The rule of thirds can help you choose visuals that add a sense of motion, which helps make your story all the more compelling
Three is more than just a number
The secret sauce that could take your business from unknown to instantly memorable.
Who knew, right?
Have you ever heard about the rule of three? Do you apply it in your business? Let’s hear it in the comments section.
André Spiteri is a copywriter with a big beard and no hair. Writes words that make customers go “ooohhh” Rooms with a snoring cat. Hit me up: Maverickwords.com
Also published on Medium.