The Rule of Three: Drive Sales with This Rule Founded in Brain Science
In 1988 Winona Ryder opened that gate to the Netherworld and unleashed the ghostly character of Beetlejuice by chanting his name not one, not two, but three times.
Why three times? The rule of three is a magical and powerful force that can do anything from bringing the dead back to life to making your marketing content more successful.
Ok, so maybe it’s not actually powerful enough to raise the dead.
But using the power of three can cause your content to convert more frequently, drive more traffic to your website, and increase your sales.
Unlike the movie Beetlejuice, which is rooted in science fiction, the rule of three is rooted in brain science.
That’s the real reason it’s such a powerful force.
Keep reading to discover the neurological science behind the rule of three, and how to use it to make your marketing content more powerful.
Defining the Rule of Three
The rule of three is a distinct pattern that is commonly used in stories, nursery rhymes, parables, jokes, comedy, and speeches.
One of the most popular examples is the story of The Three Little Pigs.
The story addresses three separate character interactions (pig in house of straw, pig in house of sticks, pig in house of bricks) before the story reaches its conclusion.
In terms of comedy, the rule of three is classified as AB, AB, AB (A stands for Character and B stands for Situation) interactions in which the third AB tends to be unusual and delivers the punch line.
Here’s what this would look like…
“Because I grew up in the deep south, people assume I have a love for farming, hot weather, and pig wrestling in the mud…(pause), but only the third thing is true!
Note: If you’re looking for a way to become funnier, try using the AB method. It’s a foolproof method to get some good laughs.
The Brain Science behind the Rule of Three
The rule of three is often used because it’s a powerful tool–a tool that helps people engage and absorb content more easily.
Here’s how it works…
To start, it’s important to recognize that the human mind actually enjoys thinking in patterns. In fact, we naturally look for and create patterns every day, in everything we do.
The reason our brains love the rule of three so much is because the number three is the lowest figure that can be used to form patterns in our mind.
The first time something happens, like bumping into your neighbor at the grocery store, the situation is considered to happen by chance.
The second time you run into your neighbor at the grocery store, it’s considered a coincidence.
The third time you run into your neighbor at the grocery store, it’s perceived as a pattern–the pattern being that maybe every Tuesday at 10 a.m. your neighbor goes shopping and that’s why you always see him.
This deeply ingrained instinct to recognize patterns is what gave humans an evolutionary edge over animals.
We have the ability to observe and say, “If this happens more than once, then maybe this will happen next” or “I’ve experienced the same results because I’ve done this action the same way multiple times.”
The bottom line is that our brain craves patterns and engages with patterns, particularly the rule of three, more successfully than any other content format.
How to Use the Rule of Three in Your Marketing Content
Most businesses have a catchy slogan that is featured in or on marketing content. From your web copy to your case study headers, this slogan is going to be seen by a lot of people.
For this reason, we suggest making it powerful with the rule of three.
One great example of this is the Marines’ tagline: The few. The Proud. The Marines.
Personally, I have no military background, and I certainly have never been a Marine, but if you asked me to randomly recite their tagline, I could do it in an instant.
Now pop quiz…can you recite the Air Force slogan?
If you knew it, way to go!
If had you had no idea (like me), it’s “No One Comes Close.”
As much as I admire the Air Force, I would never in a million years have guessed that.
If you want to be competitive in the marketplace, you need to be memorable.
If people don’t know your name or brand or motto, the chance that they will go directly to your website to purchase a product/service with so many competitors is slim.
Highlight Product Benefits with the Rule of Three
When you have an amazing product or service, it’s easy to want to talk about every single amazing feature or benefit in your marketing content.
Here’s why this isn’t a good idea:
Too much information can be overwhelming.
People get bored reading lists of product features/benefits.
Readers will forget things about your product because there is too much information to consume.
Instead of trying to cram everything about your product or service in one piece of content, use the rule of three.
Let’s pretend you sell mops. Your target audience is mothers with small children.
When you create a piece of content, whether it be an ad or a blog post, your first thought may be to include as much detail about your product benefits as you can. This may include the idea that your mop head is washable, it’s made of microfiber material, the handle is 6 feet long, the mop head is detachable, it traps and locks dirt fast, so on and so forth.
That’s great…but what do busy moms really want to hear?
My guess is that they really just want to know that my mop is easy to use, is a powerful mess cleaner, and that it makes cleaning a zero-stress chore.
Hone in on the three biggest benefits of your product or service so they are easy to remember and can be communicated clearly to your audience.
Feel free to include the other benefits in a list format elsewhere in your content–these are important, but they shouldn’t be the meat of your content.
It’s also about breaking your benefits/features into digestible chunks that will be remembered.
Use the Rule of Three as a Storytelling Technique
Storytelling is one of the best ways to engaged in a piece of marketing content. When you use the rule of three, like the example of The Three Little Pigs, it makes your content that much more engaging and exciting.
There are many ways you can break up a content marketing story to follow this rule.
If you’re telling a story about how your business came to be, maybe you break your story into 3 sections:
#1 The moment you came up with your product/service.
#2 The struggle you faced while getting the product/service on the market.
#3 The moment you realized your product/service was a success.
Or maybe you’d write a content piece on how your product/service changed someone’s life, which could look like this:
#1 Suzy Smith was dealing with life-threatening health problems.
#2 You introduced your life-changing weight loss program to Suzy.
#3 Suzy tried the program and three months later is now not at risk for a heart attack.
In honor of the rule of three, I’m going to give one more example. This time the focus of the content is going to be about how the product work:
#1 The beginning of your content would cover how to set up the product someone purchased.
#2 The middle would talk about how to actually use the product.
#3 The last section of the content would talk about what results you should see. Example, if you bought a carpet cleaner, after using it you should notice your carpets aren’t covered in dirt and they don’t smell like pet dander anymore.
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