Feb 17, 2022 • 10M

Rule of Three in Brand Messaging and Talking Points

Plus one useful example thereof, from Steve Jobs

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Newsletter and audiocast about the business of brand messaging
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It shows up in all walks of life – math, architecture, chemistry, art, and design. Christianity and Hinduism each have a holy trinity.

Anything so ubiquitous should be applied to your business too. I speak on it today to make you think about it how to apply it to your messaging for your business or other ventures.

It should show up in the public-facing part of your business.

If you have a software brand, it might show up in these ways - you might have:

  • Three product features (as in Steve Jobs)

  • Three price points

  • Three reasons to buy

And course, three brand messages.

And here’s another interesting fact - they almost always show up right next to each other. Literally - they usually appear in the same visual space. They’re inter-reliant.

As an aside, I notice an all-or-nothing mentality in the people I work with, where they fixate everything on the headline that appears on the homepage of their website. They feel they have to say everything in that one single place.

But the headline is not a solitary message; it’s viewed in context and alongside complimentary messages.

Specific Examples

Let’s get specific about how the rule of three brand messages applies to you in places to your website homepage and your presentation deck’s intro slide.

In those two places, you could express your brand messages as this trilogy:

  1. tagline

  2. headline

  3. subhead

And you could vary this. A common approach, unfortunately, is to not use a tagline. There are psychological reasons for that. Another approach is to skip a subhead and express the same idea as the text of a call-to-action button. For example, your brand is a devops automation tool for Amazon W3 - your CTA might say, “Automate Amazon Now”.

This contains a message and gets one of your brands key ideas accross. (More say than, “Buy now”).

The point is, the rule of three applies to brand messaging. If nothing else, it will force you to think - what points do we want to make?

Speaking of which, let’s take a step back from messages to what lies just below their surface: talking points.

Caveat: these are my own definitions. I have my own definitions of, and distinctions between, brand messaging.

* * *

Talking points hold the same ideas as messages and are also designed to stick. But they’re for a live audience and are adaptable in real-time. So they haven’t been refined for the screen. Messages are the polished incarnation of talking points. They don’t need to counter unknown objections, questions, and doubts, so they focus on countering the known ones succinctly.

Rather than memorize a public address, for example, a speaker memorizes talking points - usually three.

And you might do the same - for a consultation meeting, a kickoff meeting, a sales call, a webinar, etc.

Or rather, you just focus your mind on them. They don’t need to be memorized because they are obvious to you. You just need to consciously acknowledge that they are the most important thing to say.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he did a remarkable job of employing the rule of three in discussing its core features. Just imagine how many features he could have talked about. Probably 50. Maybe 100.

But he made emphasized three. He said that in one device you had a smartphone, a large touch-screen iPod, and an Internet communications device. It was like getting three devices in one. Of course, he was talking about three key features of one device.

I’ve embedded this video into this post below and I think you should watch for a brilliant example of how to employ the rule of three; talking point in combination with three brand messages. The brand messages are displayed on the screen behind Jobs as he riffs on the talking points.

It’s not as legendary as his ‘Think Different’ presentation where he intro’d the 1984 Think Different commercial (which became an Apple leitmotif) or his ‘Secrets to Life” interview

but it’s worth watching.

Let me know what you think; do you have three talking points that come up when you talk to anyone about your business?

I think of the Richard Feynman principle. Feynman was a physicist who insisted that any idea you have, that you should be able to explain it to a 9-year old.

So what are the three key talking points about your brand? How do you explain them to a 9-year-old that you meet at, let’s say, your cousin’s wedding?

And then try to write them down.

Ok, Signing off for now.


“Everything around you that call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people will use … shake off this erroneous notion that life is just there and you’re going to live in it. Versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it ” link.