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Marketing Ploys: The Fearsome Threesome

If you have the (dis)pleasure of watching commercials in between sports games or are subjected to watching CNN in the terminal of an airport while awaiting your next flight, chances are that you’ve seen some of the newest car commercials. One commercial that has caught my eye lately is the one for a new economy class car that comes in three styles and several snazzy colors.

The commercial (which has a few different versions) starts off with an indie/hipster girl shopping for home furnishings, accessories and new boyfriends. When she gets to the car dealership, however, she finds that she likes all three style offerings and, unlike with the previous selections in her shopping list, she isn’t able to come to a conclusion as to which one to choose.

There are a few ways to look at this commercial. The first point the car company is trying to get across is that their new model with its three different styles is so slick that you won’t be able to choose between the three. They’re just THAT awesome.

Secondly, though, and I think this part is the most important from a marketer’s standpoint, they only give the girl three options. Not two. Not four. But three.

Stable Marketing Strategies over the Years

Some things just never change. When I learned marketing, I learned that it was wisest to give the customer the choice between three somewhat similar products. For some reason, three choices is much less frustrating to a customer than two. They’re able to pick the “best” option, rather than the “better” option, which is easier for the human mind.

Consider, for example, that you’re at the supermarket and are trying to pick out a bag of chips. Do you want to choose from just Doritos and Fritos? That doesn’t sound like very many options, does it? Or do you want to try to pare down Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos and Tostitos? Almost sounds like too many, doesn’t it!

Since we’re talking about chips, you might be inclined to give up and say, oh just grab a bag of each! But what if we were talking about cars? Or for that matter, houses? You’re NOT going to buy all three!

Let’s take another look at an example of a fearsome threesome when it comes to marketing. If you’ve ever seen “House Hunters” you know that each house hunter is given three homes to choose from. They could have picked four houses to give viewers more diversity, but they chose three. Again, that’s the marketing behind the number three.

So what am I trying to get across here? Are you supposed to go from selling only one flagship product to selling three? Not necessarily. My point is that, instead of trying to promote your product as the best among all of the competition, promote it as the best of the top three best. Pick out two competing products that are decent, then compare how yours stacks up to theirs. In doing so, you give them three options to choose from, with yours being the most attractive, of course. 

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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