How Uniforms Influence Employees and Their Company Brand

In this entry, How Uniforms Influence Employees and Their Company Brand, Jennifer Busch, explains how uniforms play an important role in not only influencing customer expectations, but that one important element, often forgotten, is how uniforms heavily influence employees as well. This is part of our guest blogger series. You can read more about Jennifer in her bio below. If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

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We all know that a company’s uniforms can say a lot about its employees. But how about what employees say about their uniforms?

Most companies choose uniforms to reflect their brand—perhaps understated formal suits for a luxury hotel, or casual and colorful outfits for a family-friendly park. Uniforms reveal a tremendous amount about an organization and communicate to customers an image of professionalism and reliability. Though uniforms play an important role in influencing customer expectations, one element often forgotten is how uniforms heavily influence employees as well.

Research in the hospitality and service industries show that employees who enjoy wearing their uniforms had higher self-perceptions of job performance, better attitudes about their work, and higher levels of job satisfaction. Likewise, employees who disliked their uniforms had lower levels of job satisfaction. Levels of employee satisfaction directly correlate with customer satisfaction.

So what are the elements that go into creating uniforms that employees will be proud to wear? There are two main considerations, appearance and function.

Appearance. Employees care about how they look. An attractive uniform can greatly enhance self-esteem, which in turn improves attitude. One extremely important detail is the fit. Baggy or tight garments can make employees feel self-conscious and less confident in interacting with customers. Other important details include color, fabric, and style, which should reflect the company brand.

Function. Uniforms should be sturdy enough to handle daily wear and tear. They also should not inhibit job performance—imagine a waiter’s pockets not being able to fit a notepad, or a bellboy’s jacket being so overdesigned with buttons that they pop off every time he is lifting luggage. Impractical uniforms can increase stress and make job performance difficult.

In short, well-designed uniforms can build employee self-confidence and morale. In particular, studies show that employees believe that their credibility increases while wearing a formal style uniform, making them far more confident and professional while interacting with customers. This translates to better service, and in turn positively affects a company’s long-term profitability. It’s what researchers call the “Apple Store Effect.” When managers and employees feel connected to the company, they exhibit higher levels of loyalty and commitment to the job, which translates to better customer connections.

About guest blogger Jennifer Busch:

Jennifer is the fourth generation of the Busch family to run I. Buss & Allan Uniform Company. Prior to joining the family business, Jennifer worked in the field of psychological research and also flourished in the creative industries. She now channels her creativity into her work as the owner and lead designer for I. Buss & Allan Uniform. She has designed unique looks for many of New York’s most renowned owners and developers. I.Buss & Allan’s client list includes hotels and clubs, real estate companies, privately owned firms, The NYPD,  banks and Business Improvement Districts.

“You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works.”

I’m thrilled to be featured in Marcy Twete’s new book, You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works. Each week this summer the Career Girl Network is featuring one chapter highlighting one of the interviewees from the book. You can check out an excerpt from the chapter with my interview, “Julie’s ‘Best of the Best’ in Networking Advice,” order the book, and learn more about the Career Girl Network and how they are engaging women nationally in mentoring, networking, and relationship building to advance their careers HERE.

“Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.”  - Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive

Get information about priority registration for the next session of Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You?

This post, Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You? is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

Here’a a question I get a lot:

Should I work for an Agency or a Brand?

This is a tough one. There is no one right answer. I’ve been lucky enough to work on both sides of the branding aisle and I think like most career paths, there is no right or wrong path. Just the path you choose.

But I can tell you that from my perspective, if you are interested in an agency role, it’s good to pursue this at the beginning of your career.

Agency jobs can be tough. The pay (especially at the beginning) is low and the hours are long. But, at the right Agency, you will learn a lot. So if you are interested in trying the Agency side, it’s often best to invest this time early in your career when normally you have less obligations (mortgage, spouse, kids) and can put in the long hours and be less concerned about the pay.

In contrast, the relatively shorter and more predictable hours of a client-side job can often fit your lifestyle better when kids enter the picture.

I also believe one benefit of working on the Agency side is that by being accountable to a client, you can learn a great deal about program management and meeting management skills. As an Assistant Account Executive at Grey, I learned how to be very buttoned-up. I had to make sure everyone was prepared for meetings and we weren’t wasting the client’s time. Agendas went out with meeting invites, materials were prepared and next steps were clearly outlined in meeting reports. This kind of discipline, learned early on, stayed with me and was helpful as I advanced through my career.

You can also learn this on the Client side, but often meetings are a bit more casual. At least this was my experience at Virgin- but also at many Clients that I worked for as an Agency partner.

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The other aspect that I loved about working on the Agency side was the exposure to different accounts and business challenges. You don’t always get that when you sign on early with a client that works in one category.

So there are a  lot of plusses about the Agency side, but here’s one tick in favor of a Client job…if you are really interested in the business side of marketing you will likely learn more about this if you are on the Client side. This isn’t to say that Agency people don’t do a good job of learning about their Client’s businesses. They do. But in my experience, no matter how close an Agency partner is, its still not the same as being on the inside and hearing first hand all of the business and financial conversations – and being truly held accountable for business results.

My 5 + years at Virgin was like getting my MBA. I became much more comfortable and familiar with different business terms and business models. I saw first hand the impact of different marketing decisions. From a much closer perspective than I ever had on the Agency side. I also learned how to be more accountable for my creative ideas. I couldn’t propose solutions that were going to cost a lot without thinking about how we would make the cost up in additional revenue. This might sound like a constraint, but it actually made me make sure my creative ideas were more sound, and in turn, they had a better chance of being implemented.

So what’s the right fit for you? It’s hard to say. One way to make the choice is to think about where you see yourself in 5-10 years. If you have any ambitions of someday starting your own business, then I would say it’s really important to get some experience on the Client side. Even if you have an MBA from a top school – there’s really no substitute for in market experience.

And if you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur or are already building a business, our highly effective, premier branding program, Brand will give you the insight and tools you need to get the job done. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School was helped us set structure to our process, define our target and recognize our customer’s motivations. We were able to create timely taglines and better define our branding campaigns”.  - Randi Curhan, Development Coordinator for Redwood High School Foundation

How Lululemon Athletica Stretches its Brand Touchpoints

Check out “7 Bewitching Brands,” an article featuring an interview with BrandTwist founder, Julie Cottineau, in the April issue of Entrepreneur magazineShe addresses how Lululemon builds a community of brand ambassadors and uses all of its brand touch points (from tags to tote bags) to build its brand.

Despite the recent setbacks Lululemon Athletica has had with its recall of see-through yoga pants, we are still a big fan of this brand. We believe that all brands make mistakes, but in general, Lululemon does more right than wrong and we think they will weather this setback.

Read about Lululemon and 6 other bewitching brands HERE. This is a great issue of Entrepreneur – dedicated 100% to brand. A must read.

What brands would you put on the “bewitching” brands list? What’s missing? We’d love to hear your twist.

“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” - Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia 

Get  information about priority registration for the next session of Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also visit us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and inspiration on branding.

Hop to It… For Better Branding

What’s the next best thing? Sometimes it isn’t a “thing” at all, but how useful a thing is, or in the case of TaskRabbit, it is how useful people can fill the needs of people in need.

TaskRabbit is all about getting the job done, and right up front, their name says it all.  Immediately we know the company is there to take on our request, do it quickly and as their tagline promises help us go From To-Do, to Done.

They put a twist on their business by branding their identity throughout every aspect of the user experience. Their expert service providers are referred to as “TaskRabbits,” while those seeking to hire sign in as “TaskPosters.” Brand credibility and recognition are further enhanced when TaskRabbits wear identifiable branded shirts or jackets while on the job, and a job can be doing just about anything, anywhere.

FOCUS YOUR BRAND ON USEFULNESS, NOT INNOVATION

The entire premise and focus of TaskRabbit is to fill needs. Usefulness was the driver in the development of the business. The TaskRabbit brand identity was then built around that purpose.

This is a great strategy. Too often brands get caught up inwardly gazing innovation. They focus on what they can make (faster, stronger, smaller) but they don’t actually stop to think “hey, does anyone really need this new and improved widget?” Instead of focusing on what you can provide, try thinking about what your target needs. Build that solution into your branding and reiterate it as part of your brand promise. Then you will have people lining up at your door.

Clearly defining and communicating usefulness reinforces your brand’s impact in the market. But finding these brand-building needs takes focus and a strategic approach to identifying how your product or service can make people’s lives better and compel them to choose your brand over another. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, will give you the insight and tools you need to get the job done. Receive more information about the next session of Brand School and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here

“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and  feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” - Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia

The Power of “We” in Customer Service

Here’s a little anecdote from a shopping experience I had yesterday that shows how a subtle difference in language can really effect a brand experience.

My daughter broke her backpack and I went shopping for a new one. This is not an easy task by the way – three quarters into the school year the selection is very limited. It’s like trying to find a 4th of July sparkler in November.  Anyway, I digress…

I went into several brand name shops in my local shopping area, frantically searching for the back pack, and I noticed something really important in visiting  two stores back to back.

The sales clerk at store number #1 (Burlington Coat Factory)  told me THEY don’t carry backpacks right now. The “THEY” she was referring to was the store she worked at. The employer paying her check. By using this pronoun it was clear to me that she didn’t really consider herself part of this brand. I love Burlington Coat Factory for its great selection and low prices but I was dismayed by this attitude.

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The sales clerk at store #2 (DSW-Designer Shoe Warehouse) – also wasn’t able to help me find what I was looking for. But she said “I am sorry, WE don’t have backpacks in stock right now”. This subtle difference from “THEY” to “WE” told me that she realized that she was indeed part of the DSW brand. And my experience shopping there has been consistent, the sales clerks will spend a lot of time with you trying to help you find just the right pair of tall black suede boots size 9 (just for example).

Semantics? I don’t think so. I think a brand’s ability to deliver great customer service is linked to its ability to make its employees understand and feel that they are the brand. There is no “THEY” –  there is only “WE”.

Do your employees understand this distinction? Are they taking ownership of your brand?

Building a strong brand culture and delivering on your promise at every touch point - including employee interactions - may not always be as easy as it sounds. We understand the challenges in creating a strong, clear and more profitable brand. Brand School is our highly effective, premier branding program that will give you the tools you need to develop your brand and use it to make your business thrive. Receive more information about the next semester and also receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Quality information. The value is priceless. I loved every minute of it! I’ve recommended Brand School to industry friends and colleagues.” - Barb Wanzo, Non-Profit Homeowner Services

Engage in the Conversation

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.

en·gage 
v.
 en·gageden·gag·ingen·gag·es
1. To involve oneself or become occupied; participate: engage in conversation.

It’s not enough to talk to a few loyal fans and followers on social media. You must really engage: it’s the only way to get ahead. Read on for another tip that will help you engage better.

TIP #11: ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

Stop observing and start participating. Curious about Pinterest? Create a page and start pinning. Set up a Twitter account, follow those you can learn from, comment on and Retweet other users’ content. Start small; the important thing is that you get in on the conversation. You don’t have to start your own blog, but you should comment on blogs that you read and find relevant. This simple act can help drive traffic back to your site – and may even lead to valuable and enriching professional relationships.

What simple tips have you used to grow your business? Let me know in the comment section or on Facebook.

Check out tip #12 in the series, Innovate New Brand Ideas by Adding a Fresh Twist.

ENGAGE BETTER WITH A STRONGER BRAND THROUGH BRAND SCHOOL

Brand building is one of the single most important things you can do to grow your business but it takes expertise, energy and investment. Julie Cottineau, the Applegate Network’s Small Business Branding Expert and the former VP of Brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin is here to show you how.

Brand School is the premier program for business owners and entrepreneurs who what to grow their business. Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and teaches you how to apply their success to your business to build a stronger brand to drive business results. Brand School gives you engaging videos, interactive exercises and exclusive access to a private community of other entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School HERE.

“Julie was so generous and gave us so much depth.  I learned my core message and how to package and brand it so I could stand out from the crowd.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart 

5 Brand Trends for 2013

I don’t have a crystal ball, but that doesn’t stop me from having some opinions about what the year to come has in store. Check out my five predictions for brand trends in 2013 and let me know what you think in the comment section below!

1. The Royal Waiting

Anything Kate Middleton wears while baking the royal bun in the oven is sure to be an instant hit.  And it’s a pretty safe bet that the Duchess won’t be wearing anything too sexy or body clinging while she’s waiting for her royal heir to hatch. Will we be seeing a throw back to the formless maternity dresses and peter pan collars of Lady Diana? Probably not. You can bet Kate will continue to build her own personal brand with a maternity look that’s stylish, practical, and demure all at the same time. There’s likely a relatively unknown British maternity designer that’s about to become a household name. Look for knock-offs to appear immediately in the stores. Topshop may even start a maternity line.

2. Instagram becomes the new Facebook for tweens

Many tweens (ages 10-12) aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts, but many others have their own iPads (or at least constant access to the family device). Bottom line: these almost-teenagers want to share everything, and pictures have always been worth a thousand words. Will this set still want to graduate to Facebook when their parents finally give the ‘okay’, or will they eventually fuel the growth of Instagram as the hottest social media channel? I predict the latter.

3. Blind Agency Pitches

The best part of the immensely popular talent show “The Voice” is the first weeks when the judges choose contestants based solely on their singing ability. Chairs facing away from the stage, the performers’ appearance has no influence on whether they make it on to one of the judge’s teams. I think agencies will soon be asked to pitch in a similar way. I mean, I can just imagine potential clients sitting enthroned in over-sized leather chairs, fingers hovering over big red buttons. Perhaps the strength of a small, relatively obscure agency’s simply brilliant core idea will finally have the chance to trump the dog and pony shows that many of the larger agencies have come to rely on.

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4. I Heart Brooklyn

This younger-brother borough has long been creeping up on its more popular counterpart (Manhattan) as the coolest place to see and be seen in the NY metro area. The shiny new Barclay Center, home to uber cool Jay-Z’s Nets, may have finally given this area the last boost it needed to wear the crown. Will Brooklyn finally win the sibling rivalry and become the focus of the iconic “I Love New York” campaign? The way it’s looking right now, it just might happen. I Heart Brooklyn bumper sticker anyone?

5. Weather or Not

For the past few years, the seasons are completely out of whack. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, you have to admit that the temperatures are not what we used to expect each season and Mother Nature seems to be having a field day at our expense with hurricanes, October snow storms and then 60 degree Decembers. Will these changes affect the way that brands are created and marketed? For example, maybe we won’t see the same seasonal collections in fashion lines. Maybe a “round the year” collection from designers will become the norm. Hey, it could happen.

I PREDICT GREAT THINGS FOR YOUR BUSINESS WITH BRAND SCHOOL

Brand innovation comes from being a keen observer of the world around us and applying inspiration from one category to another. Brand School, is our premier program that teaches you to apply lateral thinking to build your brand and your business. Brand School takes the best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive exercises and exclusive access to a private community of fellow entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School here.  If you’d like to find out about our special discounts just for our social media friends, please sign up for the BrandTwist newsletter.

“Taking the Brand School course was THE best decision I ever made for my business.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart

The Most Important Person in Your Company?

Who is the most important person in your company?

Hint: It’s not the CEO, the CFO or even the CMO.

It’s the receptionist.

Come again? You heard me.

The receptionist. The person that greets people as they enter your office or when they call on the phone is the person who sets the tone for what the brand is about.

They are one of the most important people you can hire. And they are the first person you should fire if they are not embodying your brand values.

If you are considering hiring a company, or perhaps working there, spend a few minutes lingering in the reception area. I guarantee you will learn more in a few minutes than you would during hours of pitches or interviews.

A few weeks ago during my first visit to a particular agency I had an experience
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When the Customer is Wrong

Usually the mantra is “the customer is always right”.  Great brands go out of the way to resolve issues…often bypassing the details of who is wrong and who is right in a quest to prove customer love and win long time loyalty.

Well, one brand, Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, took a decidedly different tack.

Not only did the call out their customer for bad behavior. They made a public (albeit anonymous) spectacle of her.

The offense? Texting in a movie. Take a look at this video posted on YouTube which features the angry customer’s call to the cinema’s voice mail after she was ejected from the theatre for texting. I promise it’s worth watching.

In this case, the theatre made the conscous decision to sacrifice the love of one customer to gain the respect (and business) of many.

As someone who abhors the glowing lights from texting in my movie watching experience I applaud their efforts.

Given the amount of views from YouTube (2.5 million at last count), I’m guessing the “customer is wrong” strategy paid off in this instance.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Was the Alamo in the right or should all customers be treated with respect?