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Challenge your Brand with three-word marketing.

Jun 02, 2021

By Andrea Tartaglia – Co-Founder/Director @ The Marketing Leaders Ltd.

 

"omne trium perfectum" 

Everything that comes in threes is perfect (or every set of three is complete)

  

I am a big fan of storytelling and of applying storytelling principles to marketing.

This is probably the result of many years working in the entertainment industry and marketing stories (movies, TV series, books, etc.).

By working on content, I learnt the best structure of a story. I apply that to my work, writing strategies and delivering marketing campaigns.

Brand storytelling is relevant for all Brands, not only entertainment brands and content. 

The story of a Brand can be told (I would even say should be told) with the same structure of any other story: a three-act narrative, with a beginning, a middle and an end:

  • the beginning sets the scene and provides context
  • the middle expands the key messages and creates anticipation towards what comes next.
  • and the end brings closure. It reinforces or surprises. It’s the punchline in a joke.

Actually, I do not like thinking about the end of a Brand story… Brands should aspire to go on forever. Yet the principles still apply. Think about the Brand story as a never-ending sequence of three-part chapters, each one with a beginning, middle and end, leading to the next cycle.

I am also a fan of being short, direct and to the point and really admire marketing claims and Brand statements as short as three words.

There are so many great examples! From ‘Just Do It’ to ‘Hands Face Space’. 

Given my liking for short marketing messages, I want to explore why three-word marketing is important and effective in helping Brands with communicating their values, positioning, and offering. With clarity and without fluff.

 

The Power of Three

 

The number 3 is rich in symbolism across many disciplines and aspects of life (science, religion, storytelling, music, etc.).

Is it so important and recurring as a consequence of its spiritual nature? Or do its relevance and significance prescind and predate that?

It’s the chicken and egg conundrum. 

I like to think the number 3 is intrinsically significant and therefore it found its way into pretty much everything.

Think about a triangle as the first most solid geometrical figure in nature. It can’t be altered in any way, while all other geometrical shapes can (see my rudimental drawings…).

Out of respect, I will not dwell into symbolism and spiritual and religious meanings.

The key point is that 3 is a very powerful number and we can spot it pretty much everywhere, even without paying a lot of attention to it.

In my world (media and entertainment), I am used to the 3-part structure of individual stories (from fables to novels, from movies to jokes) and I am very fond of trilogies (my favorite are, unsurprisingly, the classic Star Wars trilogy and The Godfather – well maybe not so much Godfather part III…).

In this context, and marketing in general, it is worth recognizing the importance of the number 3 as the minimum number to establish (or disrupt) a pattern and set a rhythm. And the human brain responds to patterns and rhythm thus confirming the significance and the power of 3. 

Of course, a pattern can be longer than a sequence of 3 elements. But I like brevity and that is why I admire the number 3 so much.

 

Three-word marketing

Which brings me to loving whenever clever marketers use 3 words to communicate the most important messages for their Brand(s).

Allow me to use a big word: hendiatris.

It is defined as ‘a figure of speech or literary device in which three words are used to express one idea’ (from Wiktionary).

That idea can be a full story delivered with 3 words: ‘Veni. Vidi. Vici’ (I came. I saw. I conquered) reportedly Julius Cesar wrote to the Roman Senate to announce his victory at the Battle of Zela.

Or the 3 words can be used to reinforce the idea: Tony Blair used this effectively to set up the priorities for his government repeating the same word! ‘Education, education and education’

For all the reasons described above, henditaris is often used in marketing, in a variety of ways: for Brand positioning, for commercial slogans and in general copywriting.

I find the use of 3-word marketing (a friendlier name that hendiatris in marketing) very effective.

It is the simplest and shortest way to define and communicate a Brand positioning, a Brand promise or the essence of a marketing campaign.

The brevity of a 3-word sentence makes it memorable and when well-crafted entices me to find out more about the Brand.

In a world where attention span is reduced to mere seconds, 3-word marketing becomes the best way to grab that attention and retain it, giving the Brand the opportunity to expand, explain and create a deeper connection with its consumers.

And 3-word marketing is also efficient from a SEO point of view, which does not hurt!

In the end, the biggest advantage of 3-word marketing for me is memorability (as a by-product of brevity).

Consumers are faced with a broad choice of Brands for pretty much every possible product category. In this context, Brands with messages that can be easily recalled and evoke positive associations have a competitive advantage.

 

Challenge your Brand

Crafting a three-word brand statement or commercial slogan is not easy.

The task is to pack a lot of meaning into 3 words only. Every single word needs to be very carefully chosen for its individual meaning and also for its meaning in conjunction with the other 2.

Well, the good news is that the 3-word sentence is just beginning of a consumer journey, and everything can be expanded and explained further.

But the chance to take your consumers with you on that journey relies on a good starting point and that is why the 3-word Brand statement or campaign claim needs to be exceptionally effective in grabbing attention and generate curiosity.

Being able to summarize a marketing campaign or a Brand positioning in 3 words means the campaign or Brand has clarity of purpose.

I embrace the challenge to come up with 3-word campaign claims and Brand statements as it forces me to focus and be very clear on the key critical messages I want to communicate. And again, it pushes me to be very succinct, economizing on the use of words to great effect.

Operationally, I normally start with writing down everything I want to convey and then I narrow down my thinking, focus on the one key message that is most important for the achievement of my Brand or marketing goals, and build my 3-word sentence from there.

This initial step produces 2 important outputs: the 3-word sentence and also all the other key words and concepts I can use to expand the 3-word sentence to provide context and further depth.

I make the 3-word sentence the constant and consistent element of all marketing activities and communications reacted to the Brand. I use it across the board as the key strategic tool to tie everything together.

I use the other key words or concepts tactically to draw the attention of consumers on certain elements that might be only relevant in more specific contexts.

Let me demonstrate this by using the 2 examples I mentioned above.

 

Just Do it

 

This is the ultimate 3-word brand statement. It drives 100% Brand recognition and evokes so many emotional reactions, creating a deep connection between the Brand and its consumers.

It is the most succinct example I can think of, yet it packs so much meaning.

Here are just a few examples of other words and concepts that I think expand on the short ‘Just do it’ and can be used to complement it and expand it:

  • self-motivation
  • power
  • sense of achievement
  • results driven
  • determination

The list can go on and on. And in a very superficial way, it can also be interpreted in a more direct and commercial way (‘Just buy it’).

These further concepts can be used throughout the campaigns depending on more specific communication goals.

 

Hands Space Face

 

This is another good example of a very clear and short message focusing on 3 different actions to be communicated. 

Further messages can go deeper into the understanding of each of them:

  • explaining how to wash your hands, for how long and why
  • providing more information about the safe distance we should keep from each other to reduce the chances of infection
  • communicating in what context face covering is mandatory or recommended

 

In conclusion, I want to mention a couple more things that I take into consideration when working on marketing campaigns and developing my communication strategy based on a 3-word key message:

  • I always want to ensure that my key message communicates a point of difference. I want my Brand and my campaign to stand out and clearly communicate to my current and potential consumers why my Brand is different from the competition and why I think is best suited for them.
  • For Brand statements, I want to come up with a message that is durable. I am a big fan of consistency and I think Brand positioning and Brand statements should last a considerable length of time and not change too frequently. ‘Just Do It’ was first introduced in 1988 and still stands today.
  • Of course, tactical messages only need to last for the duration of the campaign and can change as frequently as needed. For one of the Brands I managed, I used to have a major seasonal campaign every year. Each campaign had a specific commercial message, under a more Brand generic statement that was constant across campaigns.
  • I focus on key messages that are simple and easy to remember. It helps with building awareness, evoking the right emotional response, generating recall and recognition and ultimately influence behaviors.

 

I wanted to close by providing more examples of 3-word marketing claims and collected a longish list. But then I thought it would be better to ask you for your best examples. 

Add a comment below with your favorite 3-word claim, including a short explanation of the reasons behind your choice.

I will collect all the answers and publish them on a follow up article.