Dan Kennedy & Dog Whistle Language in Copywriting & Marketing

I am an on-going student of marketing and copywriting, and I am always in learning and seeking out mode when it comes to improving my own abilities.  Whether it’s a book, training resource or event, I always try to keep my marketing radar on for new opportunities, ideas and ah-ha’s.

Recently I learned something new and want to share it with you in a spirit of gratitude and   appreciation for your on-going readership.  This is a doozy and well worth your study of both this article and the enclosed audio recording of a conversation I had with Dan Kennedy.

Last month, I attended the last Titanium mastermind meeting with Dan and my fellow members, and as usual it was two-days of intense brainstorming and idea-sharing.  During the meeting, Dan mentioned how he used certain language when speaking and writing copy to get the attention of a select few.

He called it dog whistle language and as soon as I heard him describe it this way, I immediately perked up and started taking notes (ironically, this is a typical reaction to dog whistle language in and of itself).

In case you are not familiar, dog whistles are actual whistles designed to emit a sound that can only be heard by dog’s and not humans, and are typically used as training devices.

More recently, there’s a good chance during the recent U.S. presidential election you heard the term “dog whistle” several times.  Per Wikipedia, the term has been a part of politics for the past several decades, and refers to messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.

However, my intention is not to focus on pet training or politics, but instead sharing a powerful concept and how you can profit from it it in your marketing, copywriting and speaking opportunities to enhance relationships and sell more.

It’s a fact that most of us do general, “broadcast-style” marketing, meaning our audience is general and our message is broad.  The broader the message, the less influence and impact you have.  Dog whistle language breaks through this.

According to Kennedy, “Different words, that mean the same thing, mean different things to different people,” and this is the power of dog whistle language.

Dog whistle language allows you to wake-up a small, but definite segment of your audience and to have them connect with you in a deeper and more meaningful way.  Their impact is profound.  When people have that identifying connection, they are so much more likely to buy and they often buy for that reason.

For most of your readers or audience, the dog whistle will go unnoticed, yet for a targeted few, it will be as if you yelled at them.

According to Dan, there are two types of dog whistles you can use:

  • Dog whistles that sell
  • Dog whistles that enhance relationships

The intention of a dog whistle that sells is to get prospective clients to raise their hand and decide to work with you, in a subtle, non-forceful way. I have personally seen Dan use dog whistles to sell for years now both from the stage and in his newsletters.  An example of a Kennedy dog whistle that sells would be something like, “When I work with private clients to craft marketing campaigns that start at $100,000 + royalties, I require a $19,000 consulting day to kick-off the process.

While many may simple read, or hear these words and move on, for a very specific type of “whale” (as they are often referred as), they immediately arouse interest in working with him.

Dog whistles that enhance relationships are quite interesting to me personally, and are easily used by all reading this article to enhance their own relationships and marketing.


In his recent book, Speak to Sell, Dan describes how he embeds dog whistles in his speaking engagements to create connections with a select and targeted few.   During a private meeting I had with him recently he gave me a copy of the book where he ear-marked several examples in the book where he used dog whistles in his writing.  If you have not yet read this book, but would like to improve your speaking skills, it’s a no-brainer.


There is, for every group, unique tribal language that demonstrates my understanding of them; that I am not just delivering a canned, off-shelf speech. There is even more exclusive dog-whistle language that only certain people in the audience will hear and will go unnoticed by most. As example, there are specific philosophical terms that serious students of Ayn Rand recognize and, if hearing me say them, will recognize me as a kindred spirit— but that will have no resonance with anyone else. There are incidental disclosures— for example, that I stuttered as a child— that go unnoticed by all but someone who has or has had a speech impediment or has a son or daughter with a speech impediment. One of the things about speaking-to-sell that most people do not grasp is that it is not just broadcasting but is also about connecting with each individual in the audience, one at a time, one-to-one, multiplied. I call this “knock ‘em down, one by one.” For this reason, there is a lot of different dog-whistle language and a lot of varied incidental disclosures imbedded in my speeches, each of interest only to one or a few.


Hopefully the power of this type of intentional language, a.k.a. dog whistle, is obvious and you can immediately start thinking about how you can create your own dog whistles.  You need to think about all the assets you own that can be dog whistles to particular segments of your audience and then use them.  You need to answer the question, “What word choices could I use that would make my ideal prospect think ‘Hey, this is for me!’?

On a side note, the week after our Titanium meeting, we had a group conference call.  I used this call as an opportunity to get more insights from Dan about dog whistle language and I have gotten his permission to share this portion of the call with you.  It's 11 minutes long and in it, Dan goes into greater detail about the power of dog whistle language in copywriting and marketing.  It's gold, so make sure you download it now!


  1. Andrew Mazer on November 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    There you go again Mike…THAT’S good stuff.

  2. Mike Capuzzi on November 22, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks Andrew! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Peter on November 23, 2016 at 1:29 am

    Always learning, very intrigued with this notion. Am passing to some business associates

  4. Mike Capuzzi on November 23, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Thanks Peter. Hope all is well down under!

  5. Victor Taylor on November 24, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Hi, Mike!

    I’ve just found out about you.

    I’m fascinated about CopyDoodles. A very ingenious system you created.Anyway, put me on your mailing list. I’d like to receive future writings and know of any upcoming products.

    Happy Thanksgiving!