5 copywriting lessons from my dog.

Black and white dog Rufio who is also a copywriting genius

Meet my gorgeous pup, Rufio.

Professional tennis-ball-chaser, luncheon-meat-lover, and expensive-shoe-ruiner.

They say owning a dog teaches you things. And whoever “they” are, they are 100% right.

Rufio’s taught me how to love unconditionally. How to actually enjoy exercising.

And how to bottle up the fury of finding not one, not two, but THREE pairs of chewed-up jandals hiding under the couch.

In between all these valuable life lessons, I was surprised to find there’s also a thing or two that young Rufio could teach us about copywriting.

Actually, five things, to be exact.

So here they are; 5 lessons in copywriting – sent straight from Rufio, to you, with some of that sweet, unconditional dog-love he’s so good at.

Sit, stay, and enjoy!


Lesson no. 1: Say it Simply.

When Rufio came racing into our lives, the first thing we did was immediately turn into the OTT obsessed dog-parents we’d always sworn never to become.

The second thing we did was teach him how to sit.

Rufio, being the most talented and clever dog in the whole entire world, got it super quickly.

In fact, we were so confident he’d nailed it, that we started getting a bit lax with our instructions.

We were all, “Come on buddy, sit yourself down, there’s a good boy!” “Alright, Rufio, bum on the ground please!” “Get that ass down, SO HELP ME DOG!”

We quickly realised that the minute we added even one extra word to the command, he had absolutely zero idea what we were asking him to do.

The only thing he understood was “sit.” 

If we wanted results, it needed to be that simple.

And just like that, young Rufio taught his very first lesson in copywriting.


Simplicity is the foundation of good writing.

The last thing you want is people reading your words, then tilting their heads at you like a confused little puppy.

You want them immediately understanding what you’re saying, and plonking their bums on the ground with gusto.

So avoid jargon or a crazy-big word, when a shorter, more colloquial one will do.

Read those three long sentences, and ask yourself, “could I say the same thing with just the one?”

Try giving your copy to someone who knows nothing about the topic, and see if they get it.

And if they don’t? Simplify, simplify, simplify!


Lesson no. 2: It’s all about your audience.

Because Rufio’s spoilt completely rotten, he has a constant supply of his favourite treats on tap.

They cost $40 a bag, and they are ABSOLUTELY disgusting.

But Rufio? He adores them. Actually, every dog I’ve ever met is completely obsessed with these treats.

Whenever we go to the park, all I have to do is whip out the little bag, and every pupper within a 500m radius comes flocking to me. Like muddy, fluffy moths to a dried-liver flame.

Now, personally, I’d take a glass of red wine over a dog treat any day.

But would I try lure Rufio out from under the bed with a nice big glass of 2014 Church Road Grand Reserve Merlot?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: I tried once, and can confirm it definitely doesn’t work.

Instead, I’d high-tail it over to the giant cupboard in my house that’s dedicated entirely to Rufio’s things (so spoilt) and grab a handful of those heinous treats he loves so much.

Because, while I’d do pretty much anything for a good glass of red wine, the only thing that’ll stop that little weirdo hiding under the bed is a mangy piece of dried-up liver.

So, what does that have to do with copywriting, I hear you ask?

Great question!


Turns out your business isn’t actually about what you like.

The honest-to-goodness truth is that your business should rarely be about what you like or want.

It’s what your customers like, and what your audience wants, that really matters.

Let’s say you own a company that sells high-tech dog collars. They record your dog’s temperature, heart-rate, and location – and send the info straight to the owner’s smartphone. So fancy!

Now, you spent a lot of time, energy, and money developing the tech that went into this collar. So you fill your website with techy jargon, explaining every technical aspect in painstaking detail.

Only to find potential customers clicking away in droves.

Turns out, regular people don’t care about the GPS-tracking device. Or that it measures dog’s heart-rate using the light-absorbing property of hemoglobin.

The one thing they want to know is that wherever they are, this collar will let them know their dog is safe and sound.

It seems simple enough, but a surprising number of marketers and business-owners let this one slip.

And that’s because it’s oh-so-tempting to focus on the product benefit that you think is the most important.

Or to write your business’s copy in a way that you personally find entertaining.

Unless you’re actually part of your target audience, you need to make sure you take a step back, toss aside whether you like it, and think about whether your customers would, instead.


Lesson no. 3: The importance of tone.

There’s a very specific tone of voice that I use whenever I talk to Rufio. You’re probably pretty familiar with it.

It’s that same high-pitched, musical, coo-cooing kind of tone that pretty much everyone defaults to with babies and small animals.

And for Rufio, this tone is pure magic.

I could say anything – and if it’s in that tone, his ears perk right up. He drops whatever it is he’s not supposed to be eating, and races right on over, tail wagging like mad.

In fact, he responds SO well to this tone, that when my friend brought her new baby over and I started talking to her in the same high-pitched voice – he legit thought I was talking to him.

It was completely adorable. Cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

What I’m getting at is, this tone is super impactful. Because when he hears it, he knows I’ve got a crucially important message, just for him.

And he just can’t wait to come over and listen.


Every business needs its own special tone.


The copywriting version of my “very-special-Rufio-tone” is what we in the biz call a “tone of voice.”

At its simplest, a tone of voice is a brand’s personality – and how that personality is brought to life through words.

The way your brand writes, speaks, and visually communicates, all come together to leave your audience with an impression of who your brand is – and whether they want to interact with it.

Think of a few of the world’s biggest and most successful brands, and their tones of voice come through loud and clear.  

Nike is all edgy, inspirational, and full of attitude.

Apple is intelligent, minimalist, and pioneering.

Skittles are fun, playful, and vibrant.

Establishing a clear tone of voice is the difference between being just another business, and being a brand that people love and identify with.

Because when you understand the tone that’ll appeal to your customers the most, you can start to talk to them in a way that really resonates.

They’ll understand that the message you’ve got to share is the right message for them.

And – just like Rufio running for his lead when I say “walkies” in that magic voice – they’ll come running back for more.

You’d generally work out your brand’s tone of voice as part of your overall brand strategy, which is a whole other wonderful kettle of copywriting fish.


Lesson no. 4: Keep it consistent.

Like all good, responsible, not-at-all-obsessive dog-owners, we took little Rufio to puppy school.

It taught us some great lessons – and the biggest one, we learned the hard way.

The slightly scary puppy-trainer-lady told us over and over again that unless we were totally consistent with the rules we set out for Rufio, he’d never really trust our authority.

That meant if we didn’t want him to think he was allowed on the bed, we could NEVER let him on the bed.

Not even once. Not even for a second. Not even for the world’s quickest cuddle.

Well, we lasted about a week before completely disregarding the scary-dog-trainer-lady’s advice, and sneakily letting Rufio up on the bed.

Just once. Just for a second. Just for the world’s quickest cuddle.

And we regretted it every single day of the 3 months we spent painstakingly re-teaching him that our bed is NOT his own personal boudoir.

This particular story has two morals.

First, always listen to the scary-dog-trainer-lady. She really knows her stuff.

And second – consistency matters.


Consistency’s a biggy for your brand, too.


We’ve already touched on how important it is for brands to have a clear tone of voice.

And when it comes to having a clear tone of voice, consistency is your very best friend.

Showing up consistently across every touch-point of your brand is a fabulous shortcut to building trust, authority, and awareness.

Let’s look at a little example.


Imagine you see this post on Facebook:

funny pug dog on orange background in facebook post example of consistent copy

Now, let’s say you just so happen to have a dog that’s naughtier than a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs, so this sounds like JUST the thing for you.


You quickly sign up for the newsletter, and then this shows up in your inbox:

fluffy.co.nz email example of bad copywriting


A little bit jarring, right?

You signed up to hear from easy-going, conversational, fun-loving Fluffy.co.nz. And the Fluffy.co.nz you got was professional, formal, and no-nonsense.

Both valid tones of voice, don’t get me wrong! Just not when they’re coming from the same brand.

The weaker the connection between brand messages, the weaker the connection between you and your customers.

So keep your tone of voice consistent across the board, and earning your customers’ love and trust will be that much easier.


Lesson no. 5: Don’t be afraid to call in the experts.

For the first year or so that we had Rufio, both my partner and I were working in offices from 9-5.

We took him to doggy daycare two days a week (again, so very spoilt). But for those other three days, we had to leave him at home alone.

And let me tell you, he was NOT happy with the situation.

Every morning, as soon as he realised we were about to leave for the day, he ran and hid under the bed. Then, when we eventually lured him out, he’d scramble at the door in panic as we tried to leave.


It wasn’t until our neighbours told us that he was barking for hours after we left the house that we realised just how bad his separation anxiety had got.

We had no idea how to fix it ourselves, so we called in an expert.

And he. Was. Amazing.

He gave us all the tools we needed to turn our poor anxious little puppy into a confident, relaxed dog – absolutely fine with being left home any time.

These days, I’m lucky enough to work from home, so Rufio’s stuck with me all day. But on the odd occasion we do need to leave him behind, he’s totally cool with it.

The lesson here?


If you ever need help from an expert, go for it!


Dog trainers don’t come cheap. And being the cheapskates we are, my partner and I put off getting professional help for ages.

But the minute we finally got a hand sorting out Rufio’s separation anxiety, all I could think was how much I wished we’d done it sooner.

It didn’t just make us feel better – it also gave us a happier dog, not to mention happier neighbours.

So if you ever find yourself feeling like writing for your business is a constant struggle, don’t be afraid to call in the cavalry.

It might just lead to a happier you, a happier business, and happier customers.


That’s all, folks.


Well, there you have it! 5 lessons in copywriting from my dog, Rufio.

If you ever need the kind of copywriting help that a dog just can’t provide (like, say, the kind that requires opposable thumbs), get in touch!

Rufio and I would love to hear from you.

Elo's cute black and white dog Rufio


Elo Jack x

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