The Anatomy of Hype


Hype can be a problem! If your using the following tactics, many educated shoppers cringe and go elsewhere.

*Overblown claims – ‘If you can write you name, you can write a book in 30 days – Guaranteed!’

*Overexcited tone – 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 NOW!’

*Unsupported and extreme superlatives – ‘The most important new product launch, ever.’ Adjectives and adverbs you would not encounter from IBM or Exxon; ‘Mind-blowing’ ‘Exclusive’ ‘Huge’ ‘Incredible’ ‘Wildly’ ‘Literally’ It is important to distinguish truth from hoopla.

*Exaggerations – ‘They’ve made millions under the radar.’ When most haven’t made that sum and the ‘secrecy’ is just not having been asked. Sounds impressive but untrue. Calling someone a best selling author who has not appeared on a recognized best seller list.

*Lack of qualifiers. Statements that should include a bit of backpedaling but don’t. It’s really not ‘all’ ‘only’ ‘never’ sure-fire’ ‘or ‘will’.

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. 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:

*Reputation – In whose eyes do you want credibility? Use this tone and you can expect snickering rather that respect from most people who use any company as their benchmark of respectability.

*Trust – Are you aiming for a one-time sale or a long-term customer? Hype works better in former situation, especially where a buyer believes they can obtain a refund if the purchase doesn’t live up to promises.

*Staying out of legal trouble – Some of the techniques flirt with deception or cross the line to lies.

Please note that it’s possible to use a hard-hitting, dramatic direct marketing style with descriptive points, calls to action and so on in connection with entirely truthful and completely respectable copy.

Hype can sell, but be cautious of over-hyping. The challenge is figuring out what level of “hype” to use when trying to sell. You don’t want to be accused of over-hyping something, nor do you want to put in such a weak effort that no one buys.


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