THOUGHTS

THE POWER OF 3.

By

Lee Newham

Reading time: 2 min

STUDIES IN NEUROSCIENCE PROVE THAT OUR BRAINS SEEK OUT PATTERNS. THREE IS THE SMALLEST NUMBER THAT MAKES A PATTERN.

STAR WARS VS THE DAILY MAIL BOOK OF HOUSE PLANS.

In 1977 Star Wars came out. As thrilling as that was to a young kid, something more exciting also happened. 

My parents bought a plot of land. 

My trips to the library changed from returning with the latest Roald Dahl book to the Daily Mail Book of House Plans. I knew I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. 

But that changed about five years later.

I found a book that blew my mind. It was about US advertising guru Bill Bernbach. He worked with clients like VW and Avis.

My copy of Bill Bernbach's Book and a photograph of the guru himself.

Avis was, at that time, smaller than Hertz, which was the largest car rental company in the USA. He came up with a campaign based around the idea 'We try harder'. Why? Because they were only no2! They weren't Hertz. This was extremely clever. Not only did it paint their main competitor as being inferior to them, safe in their position as no1 in the market, but it also made them Hertz's MAIN competitor. 

Bill Bernbach's advert for Avis.
Closeup of Bill Bernbach's advert for Avis.
Closeup of Bill Bernbach's advert for Avis showing the slogan 'We try harder.'

I eagerly bought the book.

There was a lesson I learnt that day: 

THE POWER OF 3.

Studies in Neuroscience prove that our brains seek out patterns. Three is the smallest number that makes a pattern.

The Jackson 5 famously sang "ABC, it's as easy as 1,2,3…"

Now chant these words:

  • Build that wall.
  • Take Back Control.
  • Lock Her Up.
  • Get Brexit Done.
  • Hands, Face, Space.
  • Education, Education, Education
  • Just Do It.
  • The Real Thing.
  • Vorsprung Durch Technik
  • Every Little Helps
  • Beanz Meanz Heinz
  • She Loves You.
  • Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The Beatles performing at The Ed Sullivan Show "She Loves you…yeah, yeah, yeah". Bernard Gotfryd photograph collection (Library of Congress) 1964. digital ID gtfy.00502.

I expect we all know who or what these relate to.

I also expect you will start noticing the power of 3 wherever you go.

Pattern. It can be rhythm, repetition or arrangement.

STORIES HAVE 3 PARTS, A BEGINNING, A MIDDLE AND AN END.

  • We learnt our ABCs.
  • Julie Andrews sang Do-Re-Mi.
  • At school, we were told we needed to learn about our reading, writing and arithmetic.
  • The top three prizes at the Olympics are gold, silver and bronze.
  • The golden proportion divides (roughly) into thirds.
  • The Latin 'omne trium perfectum' means 'everything that comes in threes is perfection'.

Of course, not every slogan has to be three words. But it's a good thing to aim for. Patterns are memorable. The further you go away from that, the more likely it is that you won't be remembered accurately.

For instance, What did Shakespeare write about Yorik? It wasn't "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well." *

And if you thought Darth Vader said "Luke, I am your father"** you are also wrong. There are many misquotes from history, mostly because what gets repeated is simpler. It becomes remembered because of repetition.

So if you want to be remembered accurately, the power of 3 is a good rule to abide by.

It's as easy as A, B, C.

* "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest..."

** "No. I am your father."


POSTS YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN:

closephoneenvelope