"Lose the hype!"

by 14 comments
I don't usually post articles here, but this one was the direct result of a lot of feedback from folks here, so I thought the summary would be fair to give back in return.

"Lose The Hype!"

You've probably had that thought at one time or another,

"Lose the hype!"

It's a common response to some salesletters. An even more
common response to barrages of identical emails from 27
different publishers, all claiming to have "just gotten off the
phone with my friend Joe Schlabotnik, and twisted his arm to
get you this special deal."

Yeah. That's hype. In almost every case, that's an outright
lie. (Where it's not, you won't see it, verbatim, from 27
different people.)

On the flip side, have you ever heard someone describe
something as hype and wondered what they meant? Something that,
to you, seemed perfectly reasonable and believable?

Happens a lot, if you hang out in marketing playgrounds.

That happened recently, when I listened to a group of highly
skilled technical people describe what I saw as a very
reasonable public comment as "extreme hype."

As a writer, I find subjective words endlessly fascinating.
Most people couldn't care a lot less, and they're right not to
waste their time on such things.

This word, though, is one that should be interesting to anyone
who sells anything.

I mean, if people see your sales materials or presentation and
respond with, "What a bunch of hype," do you think they're
likely to buy from you?

So yeah, it's an important word.

Without getting into too much navel-gazing, let's see if we
can't come up with some practical ways to use it to our


Instead of just guessing, I started a thread at the Warrior
Forum, asking people what they mean by the word. As of this
moment, it has 144 replies and 4019 views.

A very handy bit of research indeed, with a lot of well
thought out responses. You can see the whole thread at:

What is hype?

That's a redirect to the thread at the forum. The original link
is way too long for most email software to display correctly.

If you want the nuances, you can get them there. It's also a
pretty good lesson in doing research on forums in a way that
people appreciate, rather than objecting to. That's handy all
by itself.

I'll summarize it here, for folks who don't want to read
through the whole thing.

The goal of the thread was to get a sense for what most people
mean when they use the word 'hype,' and to develop a working
definition that you can use to remove the negative impacts
associated with it.

Basically, to make more sales.

The discussion got interesting.


It's a marketers' forum, so it wasn't surprising that some
people had positive meanings for the word. Those relate
primarily to the effect: Getting people interested in and
excited about your products.

That's a legitimate definition, to be sure. We can safely
ignore it, though, since it doesn't cause problems and isn't
likely to lose you any sales.

Notice that having a specific goal in mind allows you to
acknowledge differences and still move forward without having
to argue about them.

That's a trick that Jim Lanford showed me years ago, when
discussing the best way to get the results you want when
dealing with programmers. He summed up the process in three
little words:

"Define your output."

Remember that phrase. It's useful for a lot more than dealing
with programmers.


The people for whom the phrase had negative connotations can be
broken down into three broad categories. They defined 'hype'

1. Attempts to evoke emotional responses that lead
someone toward buying the product.

2. Any claim which isn't proven in the message.

3. Lies or exaggerations.

There were a lot of different ways of saying those things, but
they were the majority of the responses, by a large margin.

Let's look at them in order.


1. Emotional language.

This is one that a lot of people have trouble with. You'll
often see people claiming that they only want the facts. A list
of features, the guarantee, and the price. They claim to buy on
pure logic.

If you believe them, you're screwed.

Logic can support and regulate emotion, but it does not cause
action. All voluntary human action is the result of emotion.

Buying is, despite what some copywriters will tell you, a
voluntary action. People buy things because of some
expected/desired change in their internal state. Often that
change will be the result of external changes, but the internal
change is what they're after.

Remember "Myers' Marketing Maxim":

Benefits exist in the head and the heart.
Everything else is a feature.


You can't just remove all emotion from your communication.
That's a disaster in even the most logical markets.

There are some folks who are uncomfortable with any noticeable
level of emotion. We don't need to get into changing our
communications to appeal to those people, no matter what their
reasons, because that would put us in the dead zone, sales-

We need to recognize that most people who object to emotion in
sales copy are objecting to exaggerated or non-associated
emotional content. These are legitimate objections.

By non-associated, I mean things that don't relate to the offer
in any meaningful way. The most common example is the attempted
use of fear when there's no actual threat involved.

This is most commonly used by suggesting that not getting some
potential benefit that you don't already have is the same as a
crippling loss.

Wrong tactic. The way to promote something that offers a new
benefit is through rational optimism, not fear. If you use
fear, you're going to trigger the "inappropriate emotion"
filter. That causes a disconnect, and can lead to the "hype

Exaggerated emotion is a different story. That's pretty
obvious. Making a bigger deal out of something than it really
is turns almost everyone off.

It's also unnecessary. Rather than going for one big response,
the better approach is to find a whole lot of benefits your
product offers and go for an appropriate level of response for
each one.

This has a number of benefits. The biggest is that it tends to
be much more believable. It also creates the same total
emotional desire for the product, while giving the logical
rationalization needed to support the decision to buy.

Much better results, and much easier to do. Copy written this
way tends to be easier to craft and a whole lot more powerful.


There's another circumstance where emotional content becomes a
problem: When you misread or inaccurately assume what really
matters to your market.

Do this in a technical market and you're doomed. That's the
most common source of the "I buy on pure logic" response, by
the way. Technical types actually believe that.

They don't respond well to direct emotional appeals, but
phrases like "set and forget" are music to their ears.

Selling to this crowd is an art, and way past what this issue
is intended to cover. The key is that these folks are not
motivated by the same language and "feature sets" as people in
most other markets. Ultimately they want the same things, but
they have a very different internal syntax for achieving them.

If you aren't completely sure of the things that are genuinely
important to your perfect prospect, you need to keep digging.

Don't stop until you hit bedrock.


To illustrate the point differently, a story...

I spoke at a conference a few years ago, and mentioned the
concept of "Ultimate Benefits." One of the people there asked
me for an example, so I started asking him questions about what
he wanted to achieve with his online efforts.

The end result: He wanted to feel like a good father.

Note that the guy already IS a good father. What he wanted was
to feel like one. Those are two different states, and it's not
useful to argue with someone about subjective desires. Just
take them at their word.

"Feeling like a good father" is not the real "Ultimate
Benefit" in this case, but it's the point just before it.
That's the safe spot to address. Your sales copy can connect
with that desire. That will be the benefit in your offer that
he judges for credibility, because it's what he wants most.

That's just one thing he wants, of course. Most offers involve
a lot more complicated network of desired benefits. There are
commonalities in most groups that you can work with.

The trick is to get as many of them right as possible, without
introducing effects that conflict with anything important.

What has this got to do with hype and emotional copy?

If you start addressing someone's deepest desires, you'd
better get it right. Push the buttons too hard without
establishing acceptable levels of credibility, and you're going
to trigger the "hype response."

You're getting close to home. Pure emotional drives. Balance it
right, and show them that you can deliver, and they'll let you

Get it wrong and they'll put out the "No Trespassing" sign.


2. Claims that aren't proved.

Fact: You can't "prove" anything in a sales message.

What you can do is offer evidence. If you do so, you need to
keep in mind that the credibility of the evidence is based on
two things.

First, the credibility of the source.

If you're the source, your evidence will be subject to the
attitude that the rest of your message evokes in the viewer. It
works like this:

Anything a person hears which supports an existing
belief or preference tends to be given more credibility
than it deserves. Anything one hears which contradicts an
existing belief or preference tends to be given less
credence than it might warrant.

People will interpret any evidence presented in a way
that leads to that evidence supporting their existing
beliefs, even when it is, on its face, contrary to
those beliefs.

The result?

It takes a lot more evidence to change an opinion than it does
to form one. This is why the headline and first part of a sales
letter or other persuasive message is so critical. You begin
the process of forming opinions at that point. It's your best
chance to move things in the right direction.

This is also why so many of the big launches could sell out
without any real sales letter at all. People already believe
the claims, so they don't need to read the pitch. They're
convinced, and that's enough.

If the claims in your evidence exceed the credibility you've
established with the rest of the message, the evidence will be
viewed skeptically at best. You're verging on 'hype,' even if
you're telling 100% truth.

If the source is external, that is, a third party, their
credibility is separate from yours. Examples would be
independent web sites, testimonials from known individuals,
confirmable media sources and the like.

In these cases, the credibility of the source affects the
credibility of your message.

Choose wisely.


The second thing affecting how your evidence is viewed is the
reader's belief system, as based on their own experience.

If someone believes that it's impossible to do XYZ, it's going
to be very, very difficult to change that belief.

If you show them a dozen people who've done it, they'll either
refuse to believe it, claim that those people must have
cheated, or give all sorts of reasons why they can't do it

I'm sure you've run into that.

This one's tougher than most, but there are ways to soften it.


One of the most effective ways to encourage someone to believe
something is to get them to say it.

There's an old truism in marketing: If you say it, it's just
something you said. If they say it, it's the truth.

This is especially effective when you're dealing with people
who simply don't believe the higher end possibilities in your

The technique is very simple. As an example, suppose you're
promoting a system that shows people how to get more visitors
to their web site. You would explain how each step affects the
process, and ask them, for each step, something like:

"If you were to use just 3 of these techniques, how many
new visitors do you think you could get to your site
every day?"

Let's further suppose that your system shows them how to
improve the conversion rate for each step. Ask them how much
they believe that using your system, assuming it works, could
increase their conversion on each step.

Now, show them how to figure the improvement. Or, even better,
put a calculator in the page itself that lets them plug in
their current numbers along with the improvements they believe
could be achieved. Let that do the math for them, and show them
the results.

They will believe those numbers.

Why? The first set is what's already happening. No reason to
doubt that. The second set is their own estimation of what will
happen. If they didn't believe they were possible, they
wouldn't drop them into the calculator.

Of course, the final result is the number of subscribers
they'd get after a year, using the current and projected

Things like this work. And the results can be surprising.

For example, suppose your prospect gets 100 visitors a day, 30%
of them sign up, 40% of those people confirm their
subscription, 6% of those buy the offer presented after
confirmation, and it pays a net of $25 per sale.

At the end of a year, that is 4380 confirmed subscribers, with
a profit of $6570 on the first offer.

Let's say you believe that you can triple the number of
visitors with the right techniques, increase your sign-up rate
to 45%, your confirmation rate to 60%, and the sales to 7.5%.
(These are very doable numbers.)

At the end of a year, the number of new subscribers using these
figures would be 29,565. The profit from the initial offer
would be $55,434.

Almost 7 times as many subscribers, and more than 8 times the

Think that would motivate them?

Notice that you make no claims at all in this process. None.
The size of the increase is set by the beliefs of the reader.
The big jump is demonstrated by showing the result of the
compounding of the different increases and calculating it over
a year's time.

There's an additional benefit to this, aside from increased
sales. More of your customers will actually use the information
you supply, since they'll have believable goals staring them in
the face.

That means lower refunds, more credibility for future offers,
better testimonials, and more back end sales. Not to mention
much happier customers.

All by letting your customers set the level of expectations.

Everyone wins.

That's a Good Thing.


Of course, not everything is easily converted to mathematical
formulas. That doesn't change the process itself. It just makes
it necessary for the prospect to imagine the feeling of the new
results, rather than getting out a calculator.

It has the same effect.

As long as you're not exaggerating the potential, there's no
more honest way to demonstrate what your product can do for
someone than to let them make their own predictions.

The thing that makes this work is that people tend to be much
more likely to achieve a goal they really believe is possible.

Simple, elegant, and amazingly effective.


There are other ways to do this, but I'm sure you can think of
them on your own, if you look through your current sales
materials. For the moment, let's move on to the third thing
people define as hype.

Lies and exaggerations.

This one is easy to deal with.

If you're outright lying, stop. The suggestions above should
provide you all the tools you need to sell without it, unless
your product just sucks that badly. If that's the case, fix the
product or sell something else.

If you really are exaggerating, use the techniques above to cut
the exaggerations and move to more credible representations of
your product and the benefits it offers.

You now know how to do that.

If it's a matter of your prospect believing that you're
exaggerating, when you're actually representing the potential
honestly, you have what you need to fix that.

Wasn't that easy?


This could easily have been a complete product, but it's one of
those subjects where getting into any more specific info would
end up expanding the length way beyond what's appropriate for a
newsletter issue.

Hopefully, this will give you some useful techniques and
perspectives to significantly increase your leads and sales.

Test these ideas out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at
the results.


#internet marketing #lose the hype
  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod

    I read this in TalkBiz earlier today and posted on Twitter about it (you may want to log in to Twitter more than once every full-moon, buddy!).

    In a word - BRILLIANT.

  • Profile picture of the author PatDoyle
    Thank you Paul!! This is really helpful information for me. I feel that copywriting is my weakest skill right now, and your points are really clear and easy to implement.
    • Profile picture of the author lakshaybehl
      Hey Paul!

      Great info... Ridiculously practical advice!

      This is something that must be understood clearly, and then put to action.

      Thanks again!
  • Profile picture of the author Rachel Goodchild
    I reallyenjoyed reading this in my inbox this morning- It's something I've suggested someofmy clients read- as in NZ we are so fearful of being hypish that we under sell.
    Which is of course, to our detriment.
  • Profile picture of the author cypherslock
    Tell me Vlad, do you EVER post anything constructive?
    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      A little long winded, but gold.

      You're lucky I like to read.
      Which one of us is lucky?

      This is actually funny. If it's 9 pages and free, it's long-winded. If it were 20 pages and I were selling it, it would be too short for a lot of people.

      Funny. And interesting...

  • Profile picture of the author Simon_Sezs

    I actually read this last night and funny that you posted it here b/c I was right in the middle of writing you an email about your blurb.

    All in all, I do tend to agree emphatically with you although there is one area that I would love to see your opinion on (and perhaps you can elaborate on).

    The comment in question is here:

    The way to promote something that offers a new
    benefit is through rational optimism, not fear. If you use
    fear, you're going to trigger the "inappropriate emotion"
    filter. That causes a disconnect, and can lead to the "hype

    I don't know if I can agree with this as you see fear based advertising (sometimes overtly, sometimes not so) in the offline world all the time.

    For example, proactin (acne medicine) does this in their commercials. They basically say that if you don't buy their product, your face will wind up peppered with acne....(and you can also see the implications behind having acne...ie. not getting dates, not being beautiful..ect).

    I see this type of advertising in all sectors of business and wonder what your thoughts are on this? Targeting someone's fears is a great way to get them to pick up the phone, click the order key...ect. and is used by multi-million dollar businesses.

    Anyway, maybe I am looking at this wrongly and am misconstruing your statement.

    Your thoughts?
    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers

      I knew when I wrote that part that it would be a bit confusing to some folks. Clarifying it would have added to the length, so I let it go. I should have given an example.

      Consider: Proactiv fixes an actual problem that their target market already has. Their advertising focuses specifically on the consequences of continuing to have the problem. The "fear" is real and proportional to those consequences.

      The promise - clear skin - isn't something new. It's regaining something lost.

      As a counter-example, consider the fictional list building product mentioned later in the article. That offers to give you something you didn't already have and which you could live without, albeit not as well.

      The inappropriate use of fear would involve including things in your pitch like:

      "Without this, your competition will crush you!"

      "You're facing a meltdown in your business!"

      "The crippling mistakes you're making in your list building efforts!"

      Many people use lines like that. And many prospects see them and think, "Huh? I'm not crippled, crushed or oozing in a puddle on the floor of my office. What's this clown thinking?"

      The process I describe for getting the prospect to estimate their own benefits is a more optimistic approach, and will trigger a completely different mindset.

      If your product removes pain, it's appropriate to make the prospect acutely aware of the pain, in order to sharpen the desire to get rid of it.

      If it promises gain, you want to focus on possibility thinking, which is something at which a lot of copywriters, quite frankly, suck.

      Does that help clarify it?

  • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers

    "Eye youse to hait hipe. Now eye ar won!"

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