– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

Schoolhouse Rock fans already know this, but it took a January 2014 publication in the Journal of Marketing for marketers to get confirmation.

I blogged about Procter & Gamble’s “Secret of the Number 7” a few years ago on DuetsBlog, and later observed that their “magic number” had dropped to 5.

Well now there is scientific evidence that the actual magic number is 3.

The publication was titled: “When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings”. The authors Suzanne B. Shu & Kurt A. Carlson conducted a study where consumers were shown messaging that consisted of one, two, three, four, five and six positive claims about a product such as shampoo or a breakfast cereal or even a politician.

For example, in the case of the “six claim” breakfast cereal situation, participants were told:

“Imagine that you are shopping at the grocery store and you notice that a brand of cereal you sometimes buy has a new package design. As you look closer you discover that they have also changed the product itself. The packaging says that it is now:

“Healthier, better tasting, crunchier, sweeter, organic, and with higher quality ingredients.”

After the participants saw the messaging, the researchers measured the attitude of each respondent to gather positive or negative impressions. They also measured the amount of skepticism the respondent had about whether the messaging was intended to inform them or to push them to choose a particular product.

The results clearly demonstrated that those who read three claims rated all of the subjects of the ads (e.g., breakfast cereal or politician) significantly more positively than respondents who had read the ads with one, two, four, five or six positive claims. The results seemed to indicate that adding additional positive claims increased appeal until the third claim, but after the third positive claim, additional claims increased skepticism which in turn lowered the overall level of persuasion.

So 3 really is the “Magic Number,” at least when it comes to adding positive claims to your advertising!