The Anatomy of Hype
by Marcia Yudkin
On a copywriting board I frequent, someone expressed
bafflement that several respected marketers criticized the
tone of a page he wrote. "Why did they apologize to their
subscribers while linking to my pitch? This approach sells,"
Hype was the problem. If you use the following tactics,
many educated shoppers cringe and go elsewhere:
Lots of exclamation points, phrases in
bold capital letters with underlining and a
drumbeat of emphasis. "Programmers poured out their
TOP-SECRET strategies that you, too, can use to
earn a GATES-LIKE FORTUNE in the software business!!"
"Take out your credit card and order RIGHT
Learn From the
Masters of On-the-Level Copywriting
In 2013 and 2014, Marcia Yudkin
convened the most articulate and
experienced practitioners of no-hype
copywriting for an exchange of ideas
on writing copy that persuades
without excessive showmanship or
stretching the truth.
Presenters included Peter Bowerman,
Nick Usborne, Steve Slaunwhite,
Karon Thackston and others.
the recordings from this telesummit.
Lack of qualifiers.
Statements that should include a bit of
backpedaling but don't. It's really
not "all," "only,"
"never," "sure-fire" or
Marketers who favor a style
full of hype argue that the numbers prove these
techniques succeed, whatever the audience.
When they tone down the pitch, sales drop.
When they toss decorum to the winds and reinsert
that hammering excitement and the fervid
embellishments, sales return to previous
levels. Case closed, they say.
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Replace incomprehensible jargon with
reader-friendly, motivating content.
Assuming their numbers are
valid, this argument does have a point, but one
of limited relevance to many situations.
Hype may sell, but it may also undercut other
business goals, in these ways:
whose eyes do you want credibility?
Use this tone and you can expect snickering
rather than respect from established
journalists, academics, Fortune 500
companies, most people with postgraduate
degrees and colleagues who use any of those
groups as their benchmark of respectability.
opportunities. If you're aiming at
joint ventures with banks, universities,
community organizations, trade associations
and the like, hype counts very heavily
against you. You may also endanger
your chances of getting a contract from a
major publisher if that's among your goals.
Staying out of legal
trouble. Some of the techniques
listed above either flirt with deception or
cross the line to lies. The other day
I read through a Federal Trade Commission
judgment against an Internet marketer for
deceptive marketing and believe me, this is
wrath you do not want to bring down upon
yourself! Make sure you have a
nitpicky lawyer to vet your copy if you
favor a hyped style.
Please note that it's possible
to use a hard-hitting, dramatic direct marketing
style with descriptive bullet points, calls to
action and so on in connection with entirely
truthful and completely respectable copy.
Hype does sell. But
that's far from settling the issue of whether or
not you should use it.
Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.
All rights reserved.
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