Dear Client, I think it might not be a word you’re looking for, but the thought. Here’s why…

You know, dear client, we’ve spent a lot of time together.

We’ve strategised, we’ve branded, we’ve built a colossus out of a verbal identity and a set of beliefs.

And we’ve got to know each other.

Like you say, you can tell from the first word when I pick up the phone whether I’m operating in left brain or right brain mode.

And I’ve learnt to see the different nuances in your ‘urgent’, ‘today’ and ‘right now’.

I also know now, the meaning of that little shrug you do. The almost imperceptible heave of the shoulders you give, like you’re showing me there’s a weight but it’s really no trouble to lift it. You always do it (did you realise?) when you tell me,

“Oh, we know what we want to say, we just can’t find the right word”

I think the word might not be the problem. It might be the thought that you’re having trouble capturing.

Here’s why.

I can’t draw.

But ask me to draw an elephant, I’ll draw you one.

As an elephant, it works.

I know the bits that make up the thought of what an elephant is: trunk, four legs, a head and a tail.

And you speak far better than I can draw.

So what’s up?

Like we always say,

Language reveals behaviour. 

It only does that because language reveals our thoughts.

Recently, we worked with an international brand. They’d gone 900 miles on the 1000 mile journey to re-imagining their brand. It is great work: a tired, but loved, brand will become a modern and loved brand.

But they had the same problem as you: just couldn’t capture that last word for one of their brand characteristics.

Smart people. 9 month workshop. Already had about 200 words in the brand document.

They asked us to quickly find the word for them.

Sure, I said, what do you want it to say?

Ten people around the table had ten different problems explaining exactly what their final brand characteristic should be. Forget one word. In 100 words, none of them could do it.

Not their fault. A bit of forensic pyschological probing, (always painless, usually non-intrusive) revealed that about 5 months before, during one of the workshops, they’d plastered over a crack in their thinking. The right thing to do at the time. But the crack was showing now.

So we went back, looked at what was causing that split. It turned out to be rooted in what they thought their target audience did in their spare time.

Once we’d reached agreement on that, they knew (in 100 words) what the final brand characteristic should be.

And they were suddenly a lot more receptive to our suggestions for the one final word.

The word they went with in the end was a word they all use everyday.

But we could only help them find it because we helped them get the missing thought.

Perhaps we’re looking at a similar situation here?

I know you want us to help you find the word ‘right now’.

But before we find a word for you, can we help you find anything else, dear client?

My best wishes and eternal admiration,


ps here’s a really good drawing of an elephant. It wasn’t done by me, it was done by an art director. You can tell, can’t you…

an elephant by a verbal identity and copywriter friend

An elephant. By Simon Spilsbury, illustrator