I used to write speeches for a man who had once been written up by Rolling Stone as “the father of corporate granola.” We were a good team, and we did some speeches that both of us were proud of. And then one day he calls me and says, “You have to come down here right now. Advertising Age will be here tomorrow to interview me about my marketing philosophy, and I don’t have one. We have half a day to make one up.”
I had been with him through acquisitions, product launches, and battles for shelf space, so I knew how he made decisions and got them implemented. From there you could work backward and ask yourself, given the actions that we had all seen played out in grocery aisles everywhere, what kind of marketing philosophy could plausibly have been their driving force? I came up with three philosophical pillars that I thought could be plausibly retrofitted to the available facts. The next day, my friend stood confidently in front of Advertising Age and talked eloquently about the three pillars of his marketing philosophy that anyone could see being played out at that very moment in grocery aisles everywhere.
For me it was an inflection point. They used to decide what they wanted to say and then they called me in to write about it: I was a cog in the post-articulation phase. Now they wanted me there when things were still very much undecided: a seeker of plausibility in the pre-articulation phase. And today, at sr4, we have built an Articulation Practice for the express purpose of getting involved before anything has been decided. Articulation is at the table, listening intently, finding patterns in what is being expressed, shaping those patterns into word pillars, helping people achieve what they set out to achieve – by saying what they meant to say.
At the root of it, still, is plausibility, and I mean that in the best possible way.