If you are trying to sell a product, a service or even a personality (such as running for office), you will experience the most success if your marketing strategy includes three positive claims — no more and no less, according to new research published in the Journal of Marketing.
The findings show that giving three positive claims about your product creates a more positive impression than just two; but a fourth claim makes it look like you’re trying too hard — inviting consumer skepticism.
“Firms tend to believe their product is the best, which leads to a tendency among practicing marketers to present as many compelling claims as possible,” said associate professor Kurt Carlson, Ph.D., who co-authored the study with Suzanne Shu, Ph.D., of University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management.
“But there is danger to that, as consumers’ awareness of persuasive intent will convert into skepticism, causing the consumer to discount all claims.”
“Whether it’s a corporation selling a product, a politician running for election, or a firm promoting new services, there is a tipping point of positive claims for target audiences,” he said.
The study offers important insights for understanding how the consumer thinks.
“We had previously examined how observing three events in a row was all it took for people to believe they were seeing a trend,” Carlson says. “We surmised a similar pattern might exist is discourse involving persuasive claims. And it turns out we were right.”
Prior research shows that people are more likely to think of three items as a complete set. In 2007, a study conducted by Carlson and Shu found that “people reached their maximal willingness to infer that a sequence of events was a streak after witnessing a third event, be it the third time a coin landed on head, the third basketball shot made, or the third day a stock closed up.”
According to Carlson, consumers say that the seller appears to be trying too hard when they give four or more positive claims about themselves.
The “charm of three,” does not apply, however, when the audience believes the message source has no persuasion motive.
“We expect marketers will use this information to design clearer and more compelling messages,” he said of the study. “We also hope consumers will be aware of their tendency to see more claims skeptically and that they might endeavor to be skeptical of messages consisting of fewer than three claims.”
Source: Georgetown University