The Most Persuasive Messages Make Three Claims
If you do concept testing that involves evaluating messages, ad copy, value propositions, benefits claims and so on, chances are you get to the end of the study and say, “Now I know which messages are best. But how many should I use?” New research just published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that the answer is three.
Two professors at UCLA and Georgetown University conducted a series of experiments testing the optimal number of positive claims and how they affect potential buyers. They covered a variety of domains including consumer goods like cereal and shampoo, interpersonal communications about politics and dating, and service providers such as restaurants. Consistently, their results demonstrated the power of three and the detrimental impact of going beyond that. Summarizing:
When consumers know that the message source has a persuasion motive, the optimal number of positive claims is three. Increasing the number of claims improves consumer perceptions until the fourth claim, at which point consumers’ persuasion knowledge causes them to view all the claims with skepticism.
What’s going on here? The authors theorize that most of us feel we need three data points to assess specific objects and form valid impressions of them. So when it comes to buying, we interpret ad claims and benefits statements as informative. But beyond three data points, we start to feel burdened rather than informed. “Oh right—this is just marketing” we say to ourselves, and begin to discount the information processed.
These are compelling and useful findings. I immediately reviewed our own sell sheets that we give to customers with information about our background and strengths. Yikes! We lay out four benefits of working with Versta Research:
1. Expertise (and the depth of our relevant experience)
2. Rigorous Research (with a background anchored in academic studies)
3. Partnership (from beginning to end when findings are communicated)
4. Stories (a unique ability to turn data into stories)
Any thoughts on which one we should cut? Send me a quick note, or give us a call at 312-348-6089. I would love to hear your thoughts or advice.