Copycat: 9 things cats and copywriters have in common

Tessa Parry-Wingfield

The Power of Words

When I first thought of this blog, my intentions were for it to act as a mood lifter in what’s arguably the dullest month of the year. And, if I’m being candid, because I am a proud cat lover (read: marginally obsessed).

Yet, once I put my thinking cap on, it struck me that there is a deluge of similarities between felines and fine copywriting.  Whoever knew? I feel enlightened in this dark January. I hope you do too, after reading this.

So without further ado…Cats have 9 lives, or so the saying goes. So, here are nine things cats and copywriting/ers have in common.

1. Attention-grabbing

As I write this, my girl cat Mabel, who has a penchant for posh treats, is shredding up the pages of my notebook – trying to grab my attention in no uncertain terms, so her belly may soon be full of fishy bites.

The boy, Nutty, has a more direct approach. He simply starts biting my ankles. His snack preference being a rather disgusting-looking meat stick.

Now, brands and businesses want their messages to be put across to their audiences as clearly as this. And it’s our job to make sure that happens with the copy.

We want to grab attention with content, metaphorically biting our audiences’ (clients or customers) ankles with the stories we are telling – using brilliant copywriting to make them sit up and take action.

2. Not backwards in coming forwards

On a similar note, if there’s something that’s not to my cats’ pleasing – let’s say, medicine that has to be swallowed, or flea drops on the back of their necks – think code red in terms of the reaction.

Cats are certainly not backwards in coming forward. They’ll do aerials in the kitchen, writhe around like a furry worm on acid and generally make a ginormous fuss. And they often win the fight.

Of course, copywriters would never behave in such a fashion. And I hope you’ll indulge my hyperbole for the sake of fun and creative frivolity. But….we also aren’t shy about certain dislikes in the fight to create compelling copy.

You may have heard us bang on about jargon, for example. We won’t do an aerial or writhe around if you mention the words ‘paradigm shift’ – but we’ll certainly state in no uncertain terms that there’s no room for it in our writing.

3. Like to get their claws into things

While my Korats (yup, had to get that in there – arguably the most beautiful breed in the world) are not vicious, despite the portrait I seem to be painting of them, they do love to get their claws into things.

Our nice mustard armchair, now a shadow of its former self, with stuffing hanging out of various holes. The base of our bed with its tremendous amount of tassels that weren’t part of the original design.

Or the Christmas tree that’s only just come down officially, but spent the last month being pulled over an unmanageable number of times.

But, you see, we copywriters also like to get our claws into things. We like to dig deep – there’s little point scratching the surface when it comes to crafting copy. If you ask us to write a blog, we won’t do just that (well, TPW’s writers certainly won’t).

We’ll think about your audiences, your messaging, whether the tone is right, some awesome analogies that might help explain complex matters, whether there are expert voices we can add to the mix.

4. Elegance and finesse

Ok, I’m biased. As well as being exquisitely beautiful, cats are the epitome of elegance and finesse. They’re daredevils that jump sky-high, but always with dignity. And land on their feet with barely a thud. They’re obsessive about their cleanliness. They sunbathe with the grace of Grace Kelly. And their purr is perfection felin-ified.

I’ll try to be less boastful about copywriters…but, there is an analogy here. It’s our job to turn lacklustre, sometimes clunky prose into something much more appealing and refined. Not flowery and overwhelming, but simple, sleek and sophisticated in equal measures.

5. Life’s observers

Every time I come home in the winter months, Mabel (girl cat) is sitting on her radiator spot looking out of the window, telling the birds who’s boss – but never mustering the energy to do anything about the hierarchy.

And when my kids get back from school, both cats are often perched on a shelf or a beanbag, watching us, taking everything in (also read: waiting for their bowl of Whiskas).

The craft of copywriting calls for a similar approach. Writers look, listen and learn – before ever putting pen to paper. We spend a lot of time imbibing information, gauging the atmosphere and hearing the whys and wherefores of our clients’ campaigns and aims. Only then will we strike…

6. Flexible thinkers

Cats are among the smartest creatures in the animal kingdom. Fact.

Feline behaviourist Kristyn Vitale, PhD, a cat researcher at Oregon State University’s Human-Animal Interaction Lab says: “I think the ability of cats to be very flexible in their behavior is one reason they’ve been so popular.” Yes, I really have found a feline behaviourist in the quest to make this story work.

Now, while I wouldn’t be as audacious as to claim that copywriters are inherently intelligent or smart, we do have to be very flexible in our thinking. Yes, we’ll voice our opinions – but we have to be extremely malleable in our approach to writing for brands and businesses.

When it comes to preferred style, tone, wording – these belong to our clients, and if they’re non-negotiables, we need to conform (whether we agree or not).

7. Strategic stealth mode

Have you ever seen a cat pounce on a laser or even a hair tie? It’s quite mesmerising. They quietly creep up to about a metre away from the object, as if no one can see them.

Their back legs start pummelling silently. And then they leap – boom – on top of the thing, hoping they’ve murdered said hair tie in one fell swoop. It’s a thought-out, highly meticulous mission.

Every copywriting mission also calls for this targeted approach. A stealthy M.O.. In other words: a carefully laid out plan of attack. The attention-grabbing comes later once the copy is distributed.

Behind the scenes, copy performs at its best when there’s a considered coherent thought out process behind it. Themes, series, different content, piggybacking the news – you name it. Preparation and forethought pays. Content strategy, in other words.

8. Lovers of meaty stuff

Fishy bites, meat stick, Whiskas, mice, birds, bits of offal – the meatier the better when it comes to feline foodie fancies. I’ve tried the mush that includes bits of carrot and peas to their teatime bowls. And it’s an outright nope. Nine. Non. Not on their nelly will they eat that stuff.

Copywriters are less particular when it comes to their projects. We like variety. We also love the meaty stuff. Sure, blogs are great. But we enjoy a deeper dive, that allows us to flex out literary muscles – like data-driven pieces that give way to ebooks, research reports, articles, videos, podcasts. You name it. The meatier the better

9. Hatred of fluff

And now, the pièce de resistance. The zenith of this copycat comparison….

If you’ve ever witnessed a cat under the influence of a fur ball, you’ll get what I’m on about. Tonnes of tiny hairs get into their oesophagus or even stomachs sometimes – following months of cleaning themselves with their tongues and swallowing the fur. A cat will then vomit up a wad of fur – and when doing so, make an extraordinary coughing sound.

Copywriters don’t like fluff either. You may say this blog is pure fluff. But I’d argue there are some valuable lessons here for all who engage. The kind of fluff we hate is innocuous content for content’s sake. Back of the knitting information that’s of no relevance or interest to anyone, and merely serves as a tick box exercise so social media targets can be met. We won’t cough up fur, but it does make us feel icky inside.

So, there you have it. 9 reasons why cats and copywriting/ers are more similar than you ever imagined in your wildest dreams. If this doesn’t get me a guest writer appearance in Your Cat – allegedly Britain’s best-selling cat magazine – I don’t know what will…

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