woman with 3 hand drawn lightbulbs above her head

Three ideas for your marketing message

People in your audience can absorb only one message at a time.

That’s why your Message Map needs to build around one main message, the heart of your message. The heart of your message is the one thing you want people to know about your brand, your best answer to their question: What’s in it for me?

Heart = What's in it for me?
The heart of your message answers people’s first question first: What’s in it for me?

To communicate successfully, creating one main message is crucial. But by itself, the heart of your message won’t be enough to persuade people. That’s why you need to give them three reasons to believe you.

Why three? Because three is a magic number to humans.

the numeral three
Three is a magic number that helps humans recognize patterns.

It’s not just a coincidence that we have Three Blind Mice, Three Wise Men and Three Stooges.

Give people 3 reasons to believe you 

Once you establish the heart of your message, give people 3 reasons to believe you, known as positive points. Three positive points build the foundation to make your main message believable.

Why 3 positive points? Because 3 is a magic number for humans. Time has 3 aspects: the past, present, and future. Stories have 3 parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Human beings love to recognize patterns of 3. To set up a recognizable pattern, start with 3 positive points that support the heart of your message. These positive points give people 3 reasons to believe your main message.

Give people 3 reasons to believe your main message. These are called positive points.

Why 3 is a magical number to humans

For storytellers, here’s how to tap the power of 3.

  1. Great communicators tell stories using patterns of three. As Pope Francis says, “First of all I will talk about three things: one, two, three, like old-timer Jesuits used to do.” Three points pique human curiosity and intrigue people.
  2. Three events identify a trend. When I worked as a newspaper reporter, we spent lots of time trying to detect new trends. To us, a trend needed to consist of at least 3 related events. We learned to quickly connect the dots among 3 related events, so we could write the first story about a trend. In the eyes of reporters, 3 points are perfect because 2 points could be just a coincidence, while 4 points make clutter.
  3. We live in a 3-dimensional world. In the physical world, a triangle is one of the strongest shapes. That’s why you see so many triangles in truss bridges and other structures. A table with 3 legs is structurally sound, since it has the minimum number of legs required to hold it up.

In their book Making Numbers Count, Chip Heath and Karla Starr note that human brains are geared to process whole numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Beyond that, people in several cultures use the word “many” to describe quantities.

Book, Making Numbers Count
Find ways to make numbers more understandable for your audiences.

“We lose information when we don’t translate numbers into instinctive human experience,” the authors say. “The bigger the numbers get, the less sensitive we get to them, phenomenon psychologists have labeled ‘psychophysical numbing’.”

When you use numbers that everyone gets, you communicate more effectively.

When you create a Message Map, if you find more than 3 points to support your main message, make the tough choices. Select the top 3 points that support your main message and subordinate the others.

It’s easier to do such triage when you look at your marketing message through the eyes of your customers. Choose the points your audience finds most relevant, which you can see in your data.

To ensure that you have 3 points to support your main message, create a 1-Page Message Map.


Strengthen your message 3 ways:

  1. Keep your message short and simple. Deliver it in 7 seconds, 23 words or less.
  2. Create one main message, the heart of your message, which answers your audiences’ question, What’s in it for me?
  3. Support the heart of your message with 3 positive points.