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The Epic Face-Off in Copywriting: Hype vs. No-Hype [Infographic]

by Marcia Yudkin  |  
September 14, 2013

Through the years, I've witnessed a perennial discussion among veteran copywriters.

A client refuses even to test the marketing copy written for him, for instance, objecting to the hard-sell style and saying it would damage his company's image. A chorus of copywriter colleagues then chimes in, calling the client a traditionalist idiot for refusing in advance to submit to the verdict of testing. After all, whatever wins in testing deserves to be used. 

A person or two in the chorus remains bewildered, however. What is in clients' minds when they call the direct-response style of copy—which to the copywriters has been proven supreme again and again—"embarrassing"?

Balking at over-the-top headlines and bang-bang arguments makes sense to me, though, because I've had clients email me: "Please, can you write something for my website I won't be ashamed to use?"

Theirs is not an anti-marketing mindset so much as a desire to maintain the trust of customers who disdain fast-talking infomercials, raw appeals to greed or fear, and tabloid-style promises. Rather than hot air and hoopla, clients want substance, practicality, and dependability coming through in their approach.

Here is the face-off between hype and no-hype copywriting—in infographic format:

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Marcia Yudkin is a veteran marketer and the creator of the No-Hype Marketing Academy. She is also the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity and other books.

Twitter: @marciasmantras

YouTube: Marketing for Introverts

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  • by Freelance India Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    Thank you for the information....!

  • by Dan Armishaw Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    I couldn't agree more. So much of the advice the experts are not only advising but doing themselves is so hyped it leaves me wanting to run the other way.

    At this moment the most bothersome strain is the headline-writing advice, coming from those I really otherwise respect. Grabbing attention is king. So they start with a heading that says "5 Stupid Things You Are Doing With Your Blog." Then they start writing the content. They haven't established that they have any knowledge of effective blogging, don't have any idea what my objectives are for my blog, and haven't looked at my blog!

    Your post is a breath of fresh air and I look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks!

  • by Stephen Ellzey Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    Why call something Hype vs No-Hype and pretend it's a comparison when you've entrenched yourself in No-Hype? I expected an intelligent appraisal but adjectives such as "stinks" are off-putting to some audiences. Having spent 16 years in a the "If it bleeds it leads" world of commercial news, I'm fully against hype. But the injection of personal feelings via villainous illustrations and adjectival editorial makes this article look live hype against Hype. Sorry if I offend...but you're asking for comments.

  • by Bob Bly Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    Another home run from Marcia -- I love this!

  • by johnnyrojo Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    Doesn't it really depend on who the true target is? Most small marketers have no idea and aren't willing to spend the money to find out. Many large marketers also don't know, but might be willing to find out if you can make the business case for them.

  • by James Clouser Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web


    The infographic is fun!

    I find myself somewhere between the two personas you've illustrated. Most of my training has come from John Carlton, Dan Kennedy, and my personal coach and mentor, Kelly Robbins - one of Bob Bly's "Best Copy Coaches".

    Whose copy would you consider hype? For example, John Carlton's work is always understated while being exceptionally effective. I wouldn't consider his work hype, yet most Direct Response Copywriters learn from John. Can you give an example of what you mean exactly by "hype"?

    I disagree that greed and fear are the worst of humanity. I'd say they're guides to lead us to higher awareness of our desires. Yes, some people use these triggers to inflict harm. But, notice that others use them to create a better life for themselves and others.

    James Clouser

  • by SH Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    There is something to what Stephen Ellzey says here.

    The issue is about personal values, beliefs, preferences -- and ultimately -- choice. Do you want clients or customers whose values align with your own, because it's something that matters to you? Or is this a question that you don't really ask yourself?

    There's no need to belittle hype users and their satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers. If their tactics work to achieve the objectives they've set for themselves, then you would be wasting your time trying to convince them otherwise. Plus, you would be "wrong" according to their calculations. Hype-free methods would not meet their objectives, and they don't care about anyone's moral or personal compulsions against hype.

    If some customers don't like hype, but continue to respond as if they don't mind, then there is no reason for "Hypers" to change. Change only happens when (enough) customers stop responding to a particular tactic.

    It is not for any of us to dictate what other people SHOULD like or prefer. We can work to market effectively to those hype-free customers whose tastes and preferences match our own and who may not be currently satisfied by what is currently available.

    The people who care about such things don't need to be convinced that hype is wrong "for them." They want reassurance that they can succeed without resorting to methods that are contrary to their nature and/or values.

  • by Bruce Lee Mon Sep 16, 2013 via web

    Exceptionally well presented. I would add that in the specialty retail world, which survives on establishing and maintaining credibility and trust with a core group of loyal customers, a mix of the two approaches is most effective. It seems to be about dynamic range. Predominantly speaking in a moderate "no hype" tone means that when you do raise your voice, it garners attention. Using the "hype" voice consistently has a "boy who cried wolf" aspect that undermines credibility.

  • by Marcia Yudkin Tue Sep 17, 2013 via web

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Thank you, everyone! James, I don't think it would be fair for me to cite *people* who are in the hype camp, because every skilled copywriter has a tremendous writing range and may write some copy that we could consider hype and other copy that is more low-key and straightforward.

    However, one headline I would place squarely in the hype column is "If you can write your name, you can write a book!" This promise sparks interest because people imagine it is true using the ordinary meanings of "write" and "book." Hype activates hope. However, as someone who has written books and coached hundreds of people trying to write books, I know that this promise is either a flat-out lie or relies on some non-ordinary sense of "write" and "book."

    If you analyze the headlines that come into your inbox, you'll find that quite a lot of them evoke improbable scenarios that get a response for that very reason. People want to believe that riches will fall into their hands from the sky and that magic cream will restore their youthful looks. It's up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable with that kind of selling approach.

    Marcia Yudkin

  • by AZ Mon Sep 23, 2013 via web

    Ohhh I struggle with this all the time. I guess I'm lucky that my clients trust my advice....I always lean towards hype I think just because its fun to read, it converts well...and you want to make the push for your products - if you don't - well, who will.

    But at the same's so outrageous!! :)

    I always thought the advice on marketingprofs though leaned toward non-hype - being a thought leader and all that - unless I'm mistaken?

  • by Quinn Mallory Mon Oct 7, 2013 via web

    Interesting, though I wouldn't classify as "hype" the copywriting/marketing strategies and best practices alluded to in the article. Those are just the best tools of copywriting. And they work. If the client wants to play it safe, then it's up to the client. But I will counsel as to what works and what he can expect from playing it safe. It will make all the difference between great conversion and just ho-hum conversion.

    As a side note, and sorry if this sounds like I am picking nits, but the infographic appears decidedly biased. The non-hype side's character expressions are neutral while the hype side's character expressions are drawn to make the character (and that side of the arguement) appear arrogrant and inflexible. I'd be more inclined to be open to the infographic if the characters' expressions were both neutral. And the third blue box on the non-hype side should really be the hype side's talking point (I would fall on the hype side, but a lot of the rationale I would use is being attributed to the non-hype side's arguement).

    Anyhow, thanks for the thoughtful write-up. Keep up the good work!

  • by Art Lewis Wed Apr 29, 2015 via web

    For the first time I have read something that I had a nagging feeling about. Everything I read elsewhere emphasized the hype approach, but deep down I felt it was wrong, even though it seems that hype boosted sales. Call me old-fashioned, but as a business consultant, I believe in providing solutions and results and in my field, hype would make me look silly.

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