How the Magical Number 7 Could Improve Your Marketing

According to Albert Einstein ‘everything should be made as simple as possible but not one bit simpler.’

If you think about the fact that each of your customers is being bombarded with millions of bits of information per second you’ll realize that they don’t have time to work out what you are trying to say.

So, the most important step in communication and marketing is figuring out what your key messages are.

Our capacity to deal with information depends on many factors and varies between people.

However, in the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi estimated that the average human mind is able to handle about 126 bits of information every second.

He based this on an earlier research paper by psychologist George Miller called The Magical Number Seven.

Handling Information

According to Miller, we can consciously handle between five and nine pieces of information at any one time (seven plus or minus two).

(The numbers are different because our minds work so fast that we can process several sets of 7 bits every second.)

The exact meaning of a ‘bit’ varies depending on the circumstances but it could be something like numbers, colors or facts.

Clearly, it’s much easier to remember a six digit telephone number than it is to remember a ten digit one, for example.

(In his paper, he also comments on the significance of the number seven throughout our society including the wonders of the world, ages of man, deadly sins, days of the week, colors of the rainbow and many more.)

As often happens with this type of scientific research, Miller’s work has been widely misrepresented to prove a lot of different points.

Miller himself commented that there is nothing in his work that made it necessary for Moses to drop any of the 10 commandments!

However, it proves to be a relevant and valuable guideline in planning communication and marketing.

If you want to get a message across to someone, it’s useful to consider that they will probably be unable to deal with more than seven bits of information.

Since they probably have in their mind a number of different things, your big challenge is to get them to pay attention to anything you want to say.

So you have to keep your message clear, simple and limited to a few key points.

If you want people to take action, it’s probably best to focus them on one specific action which you want them to take rather than offer too many different options.

So, in any communication, it’s important to be clear about what single action you want them to take or what one key point you want them to remember.

If you are planning a presentation, can you limit it to around 5 – 7 key points?

If you are sending out an email, what single action do you want people to take?

Keeping your message simple will make it much more effective.

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