Create Your Companys Battle Cry in Three Steps

    June 19, 2003

Is there anything more worthless than a corporate mission statement?

Written by committee, and thus watered down in an attempt to appeal to all, the mission statement rarely provides guidance to the managers and workers who must put it into action.

As a result, the mission statement usually goes into the annual report, then into a desk drawer, never to play a role in the daily activities of the corporation.

Example: What is FexEx’s mission statement? Who knows? Who cares? What counts in the niche phrase that fueled FedEx’s success: “Absolutely, positively overnight.” Or Wal-Mart’s success: “Everyday low prices.” Or Southwest Airlines’ success: “Peanut fares.”

The niche phrase creates a space in the consumer’s mind for you to occupy. Americans are bombarded with messages every moment of every day. We remember only those messages that are focused and concise.

“Focused” means the phrase immediately announces your company’s niche. For FedEx, it was overnight delivery. For Wal-Mart, it was discount retailing. For Southwest Airlines, it was cheap flights. (You may be saying to yourself, “But our company doesn’t have a niche.” Well, get one. You can’t survive, much less thrive, as a corporation by being all things to all people.) “Concise” means your phrase must be brief and memorable. Not clever, but memorable. It must stick in the mind without effort. Without effort, that is, on the consumer’s part. You should expect to expend great effort on your part to come up with a niche phrase that defines your corporation. Don’t get cheap or lazy on this point.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – in your corporation is more important to its future than your niche phrase. It will define everything you are and everything you do. It is not your advertising slogan. It is your battle cry. And if it sticks in the public mind, it will remain your battle cry for decades to come.

FedEx, Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines no longer use their niche phrases in their advertising. But those phrases continue to define those companies for customers, investors, employees, managers, media and the public at large. To accomplish what these companies have accomplished, you must distill your message to its most basic components. You must oversimplify it in a way that makes it more powerful. This is no easy task. Fortunately, there is a formula.

Finding your niche phrase is a three-step process.

First, ask yourself, “What specific benefit will a customer gain from our product or service?”

Second, ask yourself, “What is our unique proposition? What do we offer that no one else offers?”

Third, ask yourself, “What sticky words will help the public to effortlessly remember our specific benefit and our unique proposition?”

Your corporation may lack a specific benefit or a unique proposition. If that’s the case, get them now. But even if you have these essential building blocks for your niche phrase, you may find it difficult to express them. So let’s look at our three examples.

FedEx: The special benefit is overnight delivery. The unique proposition is the FedEx “no excuses” guarantee. The sticky words are “absolutely, positively.”

Wal-Mart: The special benefit is retail goods at discount prices. The unique proposition is, “You don’t have to wait for a sale to get a bargain on the items you want to buy today.” The sticky word is “everyday.”

Southwest Airlines: The special benefit is inexpensive airfare, especially for the last-minute traveler. The unique proposition is, “consistently low prices and frequent departures to popular destinations.” The sticky word is “peanut.”

Invest time, effort and money into crafting a niche phrase that works as well for your company. Choose wisely. The niche phrase is your corporation’s North Star. It is the light by which your entire company will navigate for years and years to come.

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on news strategy. He is the author of PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract New Customers and Clients, available at To learn more about PR Rainmaking, visit