Uniforms and Marketing: Planning Employee Attire to Cultivate Your Company’s Image
When you enter a building behind someone who is wearing a brown uniform, chances are you know who his or her employer is, even if you did not see them make a delivery or see the truck parked by the curb. That’s because UPS has been so successful at integrating its uniform into the company’s brand development efforts, as a symbol of the company, its identity, its quality of service and its values.
The good news is that a company does not have to be an internationally known household name to use its uniforms effectively for marketing, brand development, reinforcement of core messages and maintaining effective customer relationships that help attract more business.
Uniform rental companies provide assistance to customers that goes beyond simply providing new uniforms, picking up dirty uniforms, washing them, and delivering clean ones. These companies also can help ensure that your uniforms are ideal from a functional standpoint, based on the jobs for which they will be worn. They help you select styles, fabrics, and colors that convey the image and messages that you want to communicate to everyone who sees your workers.
The Uniform and Textile Service Association (UTSA) is an international trade organization representing these firms. UTSA has research and statistics to validate your decision to use uniforms – whether your business has always done so, or whether you own or manage a new company and are debating the value of having your employees in uniform.
Consumers and Uniforms: What the Public Believes
UTSA recently sponsored a study by J.D. Power and Associates in order to quantify a number of “common-sense” beliefs about uniforms. General research on the psychology of clothing had suggested that uniforms function both as a symbol of specific occupations, such as law enforcement or home appliance repair, and as a signal of the competence of the wearer. However, there was little data available specific to uniforms.
The survey commissioned by UTSA and conducted by J.D. Power was divided between consumer and business-to-business targets. The business-to-business side of the survey included heating and cooling services as a specific setting, with strong results: Among commercial buyers, 74 percent said that given a choice, they would prefer to do business with companies that had its workers in uniform. Going one step further, 73% said that the right uniform would increase their likelihood to buy from that company.
Business-to-business buyers also responded that they had more confidence in the ability of employees wearing uniforms and that these employees were more credible than their non-uniformed counterparts. Additionally, 63 percent of these buyers felt the product or service quality would be higher when the employees are in uniform.
On the consumer side, the survey also included appliance repair and gas/electric/water utilities. The survey found that 72 percent and 74 percent of respondents, respectively, said that they would prefer to use the service where employees were wearing uniforms.
Confidence and trust, essential aspects of any customer relationship, were attributed to employees in uniform, with 62 percent responding that “Employees in uniform increase my confidence in their ability to do their jobs.” Fifty-five percent expressed a greater sense of trust.
Overwhelmingly, both business buyers (87%) and individual consumers (83%) felt that ease of identification was a crucial factor. In today’s security conscious environment, businesses and individuals do not want to have unidentified personnel in their workplaces or homes. Uniforms provide fast, easy identification of your company’s workers, and afford certainty to the customer that they are who they say they are.
Uniforms and the Oilheating Industry
It is important to be aware of all of these factors in planning how your employees will appear at any time in public, and especially when they are visiting customers. As an industry that is working hard to build awareness among consumers of how much it can offer them, the oilheating industry can use uniforms to complement these efforts, both industry-wide and at the individual business level.
Recent marketing initiatives of the oilheating industry have emphasized that the fuel is clean, efficient, cost-effective and modern. Your company’s uniforms can be developed to convey such concepts to the public via a number of methods. Considerations such as the following should be part of your uniform planning process:
- Increase the odds of an all-day appearance of neatness and cleanliness for each employee. A clean image involves more than simply the absence of dirt or stains. Use or avoidance of specific colors, and of fabrics that minimize wrinkling also contribute to how uniforms will look after several hours on the job. For example, do your repair personnel often have to work in dusty environments? If so, remember that very dark colors will show dust as easily as very light colors will show dirt. Additionally, when you rent your uniforms instead of purchasing them, uniform rental professionals expertly measure and fit each of your employees. Professional garment replacement and mending, staples of a rental contract, will ensure that your employee’s uniforms are maintained in an appropriate manner.
- Plan for consistent worker appearance to help cultivate your company’s identity and convey an image of efficiency. Having your office, service and delivery personnel wear coordinating uniforms can be a great way to build name recognition, convey a brand image and communicate a strong sense of organization, while accounting for the various job tasks of the individuals. Service delivery personnel may need to wear multiple layers on cold days or shorts on hot days while office and other personnel do not. A full uniform program that includes the use of alternative textiles and uniform designs, with common color themes and logos, can be planned for workers in widely different occupations within one company, so that the uniforms present a consistent, professional appearance while remaining practical for individual jobs.
- Planning to use industry-wide slogans on your uniforms? Great idea!
Use of oilheat industry slogans such as “Oilheat, powered by Clearburn Science,” can be a great way to bring public perceptions of oilheat up-to-date, and build your own business in the process. Once again, however, placement of such slogans can impact the functionality of uniforms worn in some jobs, so you’ll need to consider the placement of the slogan.
Consulting with Textile Industry Professionals
Because it is so important to consider both image and functionality when designing your uniform program, you may need experts to guide you. Textile service companies have been providing uniform services for companies of all sizes in all kinds of industries for more than 100 years. The professionals in these companies can function as consultants and bring to their valuable information, ideas, and product knowledge to bear as you address your company’s unique uniform needs.
Textile specialists in the uniform service industry have up-to-date knowledge of the latest textile developments and technologies, including advanced fabrics, such as new performance fabrics that wick away sweat and moisture that may be ideal for workers in certain jobs. They can also make color and style recommendations so that your uniforms coordinate with your existing company logo to reflect a coherent corporate image. A textile service company will help you identify the impact of each job activity on clothing and plan accordingly so that all of your workers can look professional, make clear that they are part of the same team, and be comfortable while doing their jobs.
Overall, a textile industry specialist can help select fabrics and plan your uniform design to ensure both functional and visual effectiveness.
Visit www.uniforminfo.com to learn more or to find a UTSA member by location.
Contact: Jerry Martin, V.P. of Sales & Marketing (949) 250-4850 ext 275
By: Mary Anne Dolbeare