Does Hype Work on the Web? (The Sequel)

Feb 19 22:00 2003 Heather Reimer Print This Article

I recently wrote an article that asked readers, "Does Hype Work on the Web?" My ... was that today's web users are too savvy to fall for ... sales language like "Totally insane offer

I recently wrote an article that asked readers,Guest Posting "Does Hype Work
on the Web?" My contention was that today's web users are too
savvy to fall for hyper-inflated sales language like "Totally
insane offer!" and "Expires soon, don't delay!" and we're jaded
from having been subjected to it by TV advertisers over the years.
The response I got to that article suggests my theory was mostly

A group of e-booksellers and publishers used the article to jump
start a discussion on their forum about marketing hype. Rod Purnell
concluded that whether we like it or not, hype is effective.

He said, "Hype still works and I think people as a whole are still
eating it up, even if they don't want to admit it." He contends
that the excitement created by hype is contagious and can actually
drive people to buy.

But Teresa King of says there's a fine line
between using hype and using a strong call to action to create
excitement. If you cross that line, she says, you lose your

"I think enthusiasm is very important. I think a page that
promises to show you how to make 400 extra dollars per month is
way more realistic than a page that says make a million in six
months. Those are so hyped up that they come across as totally

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen would agree with that. He and
John Morkes conducted a study into the way people read online and
found that users detest what they dubbed "marketese" - the
promotional writing style that uses boastful, subjective claims
like "hottest ever". He says credibility suffers when users can
clearly see that the site exaggerates.

"Promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who
have to spend resources on filtering out the hyperbole to get at
the facts," Nielsen wrote. "When people read a paragraph that
starts 'Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized
attractions,' their first reaction is 'No, it's not' and this
thought slows them down and distracts them from using the site."

Another problem with hype is the word itself. It can mean both
a flamboyant promotion (yay) and a questionable, exaggerated
claim (boo). So if old man Webster can't even figure out which
way it swings, how can webmasters and copywriters?

Online marketer Andrew Tegenkamp of
has an answer to that dilemma. He posted this on the forum: "I
think that if creating hype on your sales letter makes you lie,
you've gone too far. If you're still selling the truth but using
words that inspire people, you're two things... a genius and an
honest business owner!"

Nobody ever said being a genius was easy, however. Writing web
copy that's exciting and persuasive without using false claims
or inflated language is a tall order. But it's a challenge that
pays off in the end. After all, using hype-free copy means never
having to say, "Your results may differ from those you see in
our promotional materials."

Copyright (c) 2003 by Heather Reimer

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Heather Reimer
Heather Reimer

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