Marketing, Humans, Lists: Psychology + The Rule of Threes

Three things. There is something magical about three.

We love to hear stories told in threes. It lets us pace ourselves. Threes have a rhythm. We’ve come to expect to hear things in threes. We count down. We stay focussed.

Much has been written on the Rule of Threes, I took the best ideas I found from this list of research, added some incite of my own and made a list of 22 things to learn about the Rule of Threes.

Headline for Learning from The Rule of Threes
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Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
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Learning from The Rule of Threes

Source: http://blog.list.ly/?p=19412216002

1

three lets the reader countdown

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three lets the reader countdown
2

three lets us remember: we are better at absorbing in threes (better than larger or smaller clusters)

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three lets us remember: we are better at absorbing in threes (better than larger or smaller clusters)
3

three makes you find the core pillars of your story > ask what matters most

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three makes you find the core pillars of your story > ask what matters most
4

three provides visual relief

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three provides visual relief
5

three simplifies your story

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three simplifies your story
6

three works for colours, names and images (three works in many forms)

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three works for colours, names and images (three works in many forms)
7

three works for nesting more complex messages > hierarchies of three

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three works for nesting more complex messages > hierarchies of three
8

three can be used for repetition: eg location, location, location

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three can be used for repetition: eg location, location, location
9

three can segment and unite your audience: eg Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three can segment and unite your audience: eg Friends, Romans, Countrymen
10

three helps you control what your audience remembers

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three helps you control what your audience remembers
11

three divides your time (into equal segments)

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three divides your time (into equal segments)
12

three gives a roadmap to your communication

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three gives a roadmap to your communication
13

three is storytelling: hero, problem & solution

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is storytelling: hero, problem & solution
14

three gives us structure: beginning, middle & end

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three gives us structure: beginning, middle & end
15

three has symmetry, trumping two and four

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three has symmetry, trumping two and four
16

three is expected and comforting (it's the norm)

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is expected and comforting (it's the norm)
17

three is for explaining: eg three tips, three steps, three ways

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is for explaining: eg three tips, three steps, three ways
18

three is short enough to keep our attention

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is short enough to keep our attention
19

three is used by everyone: Salesman, Teachers, Parents, Marketeers, Psychologists

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is used by everyone: Salesman, Teachers, Parents, Marketeers, Psychologists
20

three is used by great communicators: Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three is used by great communicators: Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill
21

three makes for fun stories: Stooges, Little Pigs, Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks's Bears, Musketeers, Wise Men

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three makes for fun stories: Stooges, Little Pigs, Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks's Bears, Musketeers, Wise Men
22

three says complete, whole, rounded

Jun 17, 2013
Learning from The Rule of Threes | three says complete, whole, rounded

Threes are deeply embedded in our culture. You may be able to draw on existing trios when you are communicating.

Religion

  • Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • Heaven, hell, and purgatory
  • Three Wise Men with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh
  • Faith, Hope and Charity

Repetition

  • “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning” – Sir Winston Churchill
  • “The rule is: jam tomorrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam today” – Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking Glass
  • “Our priorities are Education, Education, Education” – Tony Blair
  • “Location, Location, Location” – Kirstie Allen, Phil Spencer
  •  “Three Strikes You’re out!” – US State Government
  • “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” – the Gettysburg Address

Trios

  • “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar
  • “Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare
  • “A Mars a day helps you to work, rest and play” – Advertising slogan
  • “Stop, look and listen” – Public safety announcement
  • “Rock, Paper, Scissors” – Game
  • “Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill
  • “The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood

Using threes is a good habit to get into, but it takes practice to do it well.

Organizing things into groups of three and if needed, within those groupings, add three sub items.

When you use this method to tell a story, it highlights that you can tell the same story in many ways. Playing with how you group your story will let you get a much better idea of how good a story you have. Just about every story can be enhanced if you focus and work hard to lead with the right three headings.

Find the most compelling three in order to have your story be remembered. Don’t stop at your first trio.

The Power of Three should make you a better story teller and a stronger communicator, but it’s just a tool. Don’t rely on it. You still have to do the work.

What’s your favourite tips for the use of three?

Image CRedit: wwworks via Flickr.com and creative commons

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.