Jerry McLaughlin: Craft a success statement for your organization Featured

6:28am EDT October 30, 2013
Jerry McLaughlin, CEO, Jerry McLaughlin, CEO,


When my corporate giveaways company Branders was first getting off the ground, I asked many people, “What would our customers have to believe about Branders for us to get as big as we would like?”

The answer to this question was what I came to think of as our “success statement” — a simple, sentence-length promise that if believed by customers and profitably delivered by us, would keep Branders growing and gaining market share.

Articulate your success

I learned from experience how challenging and valuable articulating such a success statement could be. Why? Because, while grasping the concept of a success statement is simple, actually crafting one is hard. To create ours, we needed an accurate understanding of many variables simultaneously: what drives our customers’ purchase decisions, our customers’ options as they see them and our company’s current and potential capabilities.

But the hard work paid off. When we found the words, it felt like a “eureka” moment. Our success statement — “Whatever line of business you’re in, whatever your occasion, you’ll find the giveaway that excites and delights you here, every time” — gave my Branders team and I strategic clarity. It told us who we were, what made us special and how we could keep getting better.

From that point forward, every decision we made and every action we took was measured against our success statement. Sometimes, developing a credible success statement requires you to change your product, pricing, promotions or distribution. In this way, it can focus your entire organization’s efforts.

For example, think of Visa’s tagline, “Everywhere you want to be.” Behind this tagline is Visa’s success statement. Your Visa card will be accepted everywhere you might want to use it. With that kind of clarity about what the customer needs to believe in order for Visa to be successful, the organization’s strategic priorities become clear.

Thrive in a crowded market

Smart success statements can also help multiple competitors thrive in a crowded market.  Consider toothpaste, especially in the days before fluoridated water. One company’s success statement might have suggested, “When you brush every day with our product, you will have fewer cavities than if you did the same using any other toothpaste.”

Another’s might have been, “When you brush every day with our product, you will have fresher breath and whiter teeth than if you did the same using any other toothpaste.”

Both success statements would orient their respective company’s product development, distribution, pricing and advertising efforts — albeit in different directions. And, over time, each company would become increasingly distinct, which is a good thing on a crowded field. Both success statements could work as brand foundations — and evidently they did. Today we all know that Crest fights cavities and that Close-Up is best for kissing.  

Develop a success statement of your own. It is not easy work, but it pays off both in the insights that come from doing it and in the focus the resulting success statement brings to all your operations. Ask yourself what statement about my product or service, if believed by customers, would cause my business to be more successful? Once you can answer this question, you’ll realize you’ve unlocked the answers to many more as well.

Think of your success statement as your magic words to success. ●


Jerry McLaughlin is CEO of, the world’s largest and lowest-priced online promotional products company. He can be reached at