When Copywriter Hype Gets X-Treme

In college I had a roommate named Brad.

Brad was a proud “meterosexual,” back before that was a thing.

He had this elaborate hair care routine—he bought only the best salon-quality hair care products and scoffed at anything that cost less than $30 a bottle.

Me? Just give me the cheapest shampoo/conditioner at Wal-Mart and a bottle of $2 hair gel and I’m good.

Then and now, my go-to gel is L.A. Looks.

Now over the last 15 years I’ve noticed an amusing trend with this brand.

The gel comes in several “hold levels” depending on how crispy you want your hair to be.

Whoever writes the copy on their packages decided it was a good idea to name these different levels.

And over time they keep cranking the dial on the hype machine higher and higher with these names, to the point where they’ve lost all meaning.

Right now they have:

– Sport Xtreme Hold
– Mega Mega Hold
– Dura Hold (Max Hold Plus)
– Power Spikes

I defy even the most well-quaffed to sort those names from softest to stiffest.

Since the names spiraled so badly out of control, they added numbers to help shoppers sort out the difference…

Trouble is, the numbers they chose were 9, 10, 10+, and 12.

Seriously guys, we need to talk.

This little bit of comical self-parody is actually a great example of the natural ebb and flow of hype in a given market.

When you’re first to market with a product, you don’t need to use much hype in your copy—you just explain what you have and make claims about the benefits.

Then your competitors arrive. They start claiming the same benefits, only MORE and BETTER.

That forces you to ramp up the hype your promises to stay competitive.

The hype piles higher and deeper…

Until finally the customers are jaded and they don’t believe anything that anyone says.

Master copywriter Eugene Schwartz calls this “market sophistication.”

When you’re deciding what angle to take in your copy, one of the most important questions you can ask is, “What has my prospect already heard?”

In a skeptical market that’s “heard it all,” you can often win by taking a step back from the hype, pointing it out, and being the guy who tells it straight.

Or you can introduce a new “mechanism”—the thing that makes your product work where others fail.

Don’t write off hype entirely.

Sometimes it’s the right way to go.

Just don’t be the one promising Sport X-Treme Mega Mega Dura Hold.