Tool #14 Get the Name of the Dog

Updated: Jan 13

In last week's post, I wrote about how we can play with words, even when the topic is supposed to be serious. And, when it comes to marketing, sometimes appealing to people's emotions--giving them a reason to believe that your product will change their lives--does work.

There is another tactic that works. On the surface, it helps people make a connection with what is said. Doing this is what Roy Peter Clark refers to as,"Get the name of the dog," in his Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

Content that Makes your Reader See

When I was an English teacher, I always reminded my students to visualize what they were reading. This technique was especially useful when the passages they were reading were a little more challenging to understand. I would tell them, "Stop and think about what the author wants you to see right now. What is the author saying that makes you understand what is happening at the moment?"

Clark tells us that certain details about characters--and in our case, products--are what matter to an audience. To see something is to understand it. Therefore, challenge yourself to market a product that people can see themselves, for example, that they can't live without. By doing this, you know you are helping your consumers understand the need for the product.

Content that Names the Dog

This type of seeing is what is referred to in the journalistic world, "Get the name of the dog." Everything is in the details. For instance, Clark tells us that reporters were not allowed to come back to the office until the specific details of the story were revealed. The following example is one of my favorites:

What is the point of telling us that someone smokes a pack of cigarettes a day or that a woman is chewing her nails? These details become significant when we are provided the realization that the man smoking has lung cancer and the woman chewing her fingernails is anorexic. Do you see the vast difference between a detail and make the connection to the character?

So now think about someone you know that has a dog. What is the name of the dog? My dog's name is Ruger. So what does this reveal about me as a person? You can probably guess that I am not gun-shy, and in fact, I enjoy a night out at the shooting range. But dig dipper. I also believe that dogs should not just be watchdogs, but guard dogs as well. I take my dog almost everywhere I go because he protects me. Perhaps something happened in my life (and it has), in which I feel I need that extra security. What could you sell me that makes me feel safe?

Think About the Consumer and then About the Content

This week, pay close attention to the demographics of your customer base. If you had to guess, what would the name of their dogs be? Why do your consumers or readers purchase the items that they do? Why do they participate in the activities and purchasing trends that they do? Take it a step further, and do some people watching this week. Go to your local mall or town square and pay close attention to what people are doing with their time.

Clark provides another example that resonated with me. One that I think will stick with me on my marketing content journey. There was a journalist that walked into a house and noticed a piece of tape on a light switch. The journalist, seeing this finite detail, asked the homeowner, "Why is that piece of tape on the light switch?" Her response was this: whoever comes home last, turns off the light. My daughter has yet to return home, so until that day comes, the light will remain on." Sadly, the woman's daughter never came back.

Content that gives Consumers a Reason to Believe

In the end, content that gives consumers a reason to believe something is essential that he or she can't live without is what sells. Find "the name of the dog" and start focusing and honing your skills to appeal to those beliefs. You'll be surprised by the results!

Need help writing content that sells. Schedule a FREE consultation with me today!


Clark, R. P. (2008). Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Columbus, GA: Little, Brown.

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