Magazine

Uniforms and Marketing:

Employees' Attire Can Help Build Your Brand

By Jim Zahrt

I'm sure you've heard the saying "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." It applies everywhere -- in personal situations and in business, where it can make a big difference in your bottom line.
When customers enter parking facilities to find spaces for their cars, they're also often engaged in other tasks, such as talking on their cellphones, shuffling through papers or flicking through radio stations. Along with these activities, they also are forming an impression of your parking facility -- one that will likely determine whether they will ever return.
During the process of "impression formation," the customer may address many questions, often unconsciously: Does this facility seem safe? Does the attendant have a friendly, professional demeanor? Could the employees be counted on to help if I have a serious problem, or simply needed directions to the nearest highway entrance or gas station?
The impression conveyed by parking employees can make a big difference in whether the answer to these questions is "yes." And employees' attire is an important part of that equation.
Uniforms can and should go beyond the basics of neatness and professionalism, to the level of creating a strong impression of your company in the customer's mind. A positive impression, or brand personality, conveyed by your company will help your customer feel good about choosing to park in your facilities time and time again.

Marketing and Uniform Design
Uniform rental companies provide assistance to customers that goes beyond simply providing new uniforms, picking up dirty uniforms, washing them, and delivering clean ones. They help select styles, fabrics and colors that convey the desired business image to everyone who sees uniformed employees.
The Uniform &Textile Service Association (UTSA) is an international trade organization representing these firms. UTSA recommendations for bringing a marketing and branding perspective to uniform design and development include:
Design on the basis of safety and functionality concerns first. Textile service providers have up-to-date knowledge of the latest textile developments and technologies and how they will perform under various conditions.
Neatness counts -- and it is the first step toward effective marketing with uniforms. An employee wearing a clean, well-fitted, unwrinkled uniform with no missing buttons or ripped emblems will make the best impression on your customers.
Use of color in uniforms -- Parking facilities often have employees wear dark-colored uniforms, or dark slacks and light or white button-down or polo-style shirts. Such uniform designs convey authority and professionalism. Ideally, however, a uniform design will reinforce your company's name and help the customer associate your company with a good parking experience in a safe facility that employs good people.
If your company uses high-impact colors in its logo or other graphics, a uniform rental consultant can help incorporate these colors into attractive uniform designs that will help reinforce your organization's brand image, while maintaining a sense of professionalism.
When incorporating your company logo on uniforms, make certain that all logo colors and graphics are exactly consistent with the colors and designs used on other materials, such as signage, receipts, your Web site, etc. This consistency will help your organization reinforce its image.

Valet Uniforms: From Casual to Elegant
Whether your company prefers to attire valets in the traditional red vest and black slacks or a contemporary polo shirt and dress shorts, considering the same factors important to uniforms worn by lot and garage attendants will enhance valet uniforms. Updating designs to incorporate the latest breathable, wrinkle-resistant fabrics can help keep uniforms looking neat and valets feeling comfortable, even after hours on the job in warm weather.
When your company's uniforms provide comfort and convenience for employees -- and also work effectively to sell your business and lay the groundwork for good customer relations -- you are getting the greatest possible benefit from your investment in them.

Jim Zahrt is Director of Marketing at the Uniform & Textile Service Association. He can be contacted at zahrt@utsa.com. Also, visit www.uniforminfo.com to learn more or to find a UTSA member by location.

Article Abstract from February, 2006




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