By Teresa Stedman, Managing Director, Stedman Corporate Clothing

Business can be fickle when it comes to fashion. In some businesses suits have been replaced by casual wear, but casual still needs to be smart. Why? Because when customers look at your employees and see that they are dressed appropriately for the business they are working in, it gives them confidence and trust in the business as a whole.

The way in which you and your colleagues dress can have a direct impact on the way in which your customers, suppliers and peers view you and your company’s overall ‘brand’. The way people are dressed in the workplace underlines how professionally the organisation is perceived.

It is therefore important to decide what kind of visual impression you want your team to project. Dress in business can vary from promotional t shirts to suits and everything in between. With casual dress accepted in various types of industries and businesses, including settings that traditionally dictated formal business wear, there are standards of appearance businesses may want to maintain. A recent example is Mercedes Benz, where building on the success of the F1 championship, and host teams moved from formal grey suiting to crisp cotton shirts, with 5 stunning embroideries, teamed with shell jackets and black trousers. It also made the brand stand out and become highly recognisable on location.

Do you need a dress code for your employees? If your employees deal extensively with the public, it may be appropriate to require certain standards of appearance or you may require uniform, so that staff can be quickly and easily recognised. In today’s corporate world, uniforms play a key role in branding. We all, for example, have walked through an airport terminal to be bombarded with staff in a host of different uniforms, but how do you differentiate the brands and stand out from the crowd.

Eastern Airways, for example, have gone for a bespoke look focusing on navy with red trims, from jackets and dress to hats and gloves. Skybreak, based at Gatwick, needed a unique look, but with only 40 staff, but could not afford a bespoke design, so stock charcoal tailoring was cleverly blended, with aqua shirts, bespoke chiffon scarves and strong embroidery to create the illusion of a bespoke outfit. This highlights the fact the successful uniform branding can be done on a budget. Both sets of uniforms provide a very strong visual branding.

Creating a corporate brand through dress doesn’t only apply to multinationals. Small to medium size businesses can also create a brand for themselves and stand out from the crowd with the right dress code.

Applying a dress code isn’t just about corporate branding. A corporate uniform can motivate staff, boost confidence levels and make them feel part of the company as a whole. This in turn generates a higher level of loyalty and commitment to the company which is passed on when dealing with customers.

If you decide introducing a uniform is right for your business or you are looking to modernize the one you have you need to first consider exactly what type of image you are trying to project and does it work for the roles being carried out by staff. Don’t forget to take into account the religious needs of employees and also ensure the design won’t cause any problems for staff with a disability. It is a good idea to get the team involved from the off-set, that way you get staff buy-in. Make sure the uniforms chosen are fit for purpose and don’t overlook details such as can they be machine washed instead of dry cleaned.

Remember every interaction your staff have with existing and potential customers is reinforcing your brand. Even when they are travelling to and from work they are getting your brand additional exposure – reinforcing your business image.

It is important to link your uniform with your web site design and digital messaging. The Shard in London is a good example of this. The Shard updates the web site with pictures to build on events such as Valentine’s Day, school half term etc. Their uniforms and therefore brand image stand out and are very recognizable to the public.

The Shard launched its new uniform in 2014, dressing the team in lilac striped shirts, bespoke purple waistcoats and functional, hard-wearing charcoal tailoring. The colours build on the London sunset colours. Management have seen first-hand how the branding has worked. The price points were right, staff are comfortable and for customers the employees a clearly identifiable. This scheme creates a less formal look, building on the look of fun and entertainment and can easily be achieve by any company with the right advice and design.

A brand or corporate identity becomes recognisable for consumers, customers and associates. Additionally, it provides consumers with trust that will in turn become company loyalty. Take time to get your branded uniform or dress code right. It is crucial to your corporate image and should be integral to your overall branding strategy.