TOMA… the acronym for “Top of Mind Awareness,” according to Wikipedia – “is a brand or specific product coming first in customers’ minds when thinking of a particular industry.Companies attempt to build brand awareness – through media exposure on channels such as internet, radio, newspapers, television, magazines, and social media – .” Awesome right? But when does TOMA become “too much”?

Uniforms are considered a great way to build brand unity. Being uniformly dressed also helps with enforcing that dress code those certain few people at the office always seem to push. But I beg to ask the question, is dressing your marketer in a strict uniform the best idea?

I was at an expo the other week held for some group of insurance agents when I completely forgot to put my name tag on. Because I don’t wear a uniform, there was no mark on my clothes that told anyone what company I was with. Riding in the elevator, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of agents. The unassumingly looked at me and asked if I were here for the expo. When I told them I was an exhibitor, we got into the details of what our restoration company could offer and by the time the elevator doors had opened, I was handing off my business card to the group.

Later that day, I was riding in the same elevator, this time, wear a badge the indicated my name and who I worked for. I was with a group of agents and proceeded to make small talk. Before they responded, each one looked down at my name tag, then who I worked with. The conversation was a bit stiff and no one asked for my business card.

What changed? Did I have something in my teeth? Oh I know… toilet paper stuck to my heel. Wait, could it be… could it be… that they had seen my badge and prejudged my intentions before I’d even said hello?

Now before you run to your seamstress and tell her she’s fired and you don’t have any use for her embroidery capabilities anymore, I’m not saying that branding clothing with your company name is a bad idea. I think it’s a great idea. But I have a problem with companies who require both men and women to wear the same uniform. Obviously, there are some physical differences between the genders, and I think that uniforms should capitalize on them rather than tuck them away under a unisex suit coat with built in shoulder pads (everyone who is still dressing in their 80’s clothes, I’m looking at you too).

When choosing uniforms, don’t go with a suit jacket – that looks professionally stuffy. But don’t let it be a free-for-all brandless circus either. In summary, TOMA is a great thing in moderation. When it comes to uniforms, give your restoration marketers some general guide lines, allow them to choose their own outfits, and get those labeled with your company name. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the land of shopping malls, it’s that one size definitely does not fit all.

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