McD’s Wants Uniform Image

Discussion
Jul 06, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


McDonald’s believes changes it has made to its menu, restaurants and advertising has helped it move up on the public perception hip meter. Now, reports Ad Age, the company is looking to outfit its restaurant crews with uniforms so cool that everyone will be “lovin'” the new Mickey D’s.


A spokesperson for McDonald’s, Bill Whitman, said, “It’s about taking the contemporary look and feel of our restaurants embodied in our advertising and incorporating that into our employees’ business attire. The desire is to create uniforms that our crews would want to wear outside the restaurant environment.”


The restaurant chain has not decided on a designer for its new look uniforms but among those mentioned as being considered for the job are Russell Simmons, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, American Eagle, A&F, and P. Diddy.


Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer for McDonald’s USA, is overseeing the project. The company, according to Ad Age, has hired Steve Soute, a former music executive and chief creative officer of Translation Consulting and Brand Imaging, to help it find the right designer for its new uniforms.


“It’s very important to take [uniforms] from what they have to wear to what they want to wear,” Mr. Stoute said. “It’s a very important aspect of employee pride. McDonald’s has evolved and become a lifestyle brand … since it now is relevant to our lifestyle, let’s go one step further and make its employees relevant to our lifestyle as well.”


Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor, a branding and identity consulting company, said, “Employees are becoming more and more important every day in delivering a brand experience. How people feel about a company and brand directly affects their ability to deliver on the promise. Job One is to feel good about the company and Job Two is to understand the brand idea so they can deliver the brand and live its promise.”


Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on McDonald’s intention to redesign its uniforms? Do employee uniforms have a role to play in creating the
brand experience for consumers?


We don’t know if McD’s uniform fashions will make it to the street but we know that uniforms can be a source of pride when they’re associated with something
cool. We always felt good about putting on our Hawaiian shirt when doing research working at Trader Joe’s.

George Anderson – Moderator

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15 Comments on "McD’s Wants Uniform Image"


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David Livingston
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Uniforms do matter. Hooters is a good example of how uniforms define the dining and brand experience. It’s something I think companies should pay attention too. But how many times have we seen companies decide to get new uniforms in order to mask the real problems? To me, a clean blue shirt at McDonald’s is fine. Most of the time, I don’t even go inside anyway. My advice is to keep it simple.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

“Neat-appearing staff” is regarded as one dimension of overall quality by many experts on service quality. McDonald’s certainly should manage this dimension to best advantage. It should not, however, imagine that it will significantly move the needle on quality perception with this single action. I would also caution the designers to resist the temptation to “costume” McD’s employees rather then dress them.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 8 months ago

McDonald’s has been on a roll the past several years, and I applaud them for this initiative, and the many others they’ve undertaken. But, they need to not take themselves quite so seriously. Create a uniform that crew members will want to wear OUTSIDE when NOT on duty? That is hilarious, and they should lower their ambitions before they start this project. And, while they should strive to make their uniforms “hip,” they should stay away from “hip-hop” as that would alienate as many customers as it would win over.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
Three thoughts occurred to me, in no particular order of importance, before I read anyone else’s comments: 1. Will employees really want to advertise their jobs in their off hours? Bearing in mind the average age of employees and that most of them are either on the job because they need the money to further their education or because they are having trouble getting higher level jobs elsewhere, I wonder whether the kind of attitude suggested by Allan Adamson isn’t just a little bit unrealistic. Feeling cool in a uniform when working is one thing, feeling so proud that you wear it when you’re not working is another matter altogether. 2. If the uniforms are to stay hip and fashionable then they will need to change very frequently, not just a few times a year and not in rotation – they will need to be kept NEW. Big costs involved here or the exercise will fall flat on its proverbial within months. 3. Are super-cool designers really interested in having their names associated with McDonald’s?… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 8 months ago

You know, I was with the whole idea that this is a positive thing until I took the poll above and saw that the 2 front-runners for designers were American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch. Who’s going to be wearing these uniforms? That’s a question with a broad answer and, as above, I would hate to be the designer who has to straddle senior citizens, some high school kids, and a bunch of English as a second language adults – for whom McDonald’s is not a part-time job but their source of income. The person who can pull off something that appeals to all of these groups, plus is perceived as ‘cool’ by the public at large – is going to earn those big bucks, in my opinion.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 8 months ago

The uniforms could easily wind up on the street — who the heck knows how fashion trends get started? I’ll bet none of you would have predicted a long-lasting habit of wearing your jeans buttoned around your thighs with your underwear hanging out, either.

That won’t make McDonald’s any more hip, however. It would only be hip to wear the uniform (or more likely parts of it) if you are NOT actually working at McDonald’s.

No matter, uniforms are not going to make McDonald’s hip, and they are not going to make it cool to work at McDonald’s. Uniforms do help create an atmosphere, and if you’re working at McDonald’s, wearing a uniform that at least doesn’t humiliate you will improve employee attitudes, and that makes it a better experience for customers. If McDonald’s keeps in mind that fashion is fickle and what looks “hip” on one employee may look totally ridiculous on another, they’ll benefit.

Becky Roll
Guest
Becky Roll
15 years 8 months ago

I think McD’s strategy is brilliant! As a former high school teacher turned brand manager, I believe that having a hip designer (let’s say Armani) would really appeal to the label-conscious youth who make up so many of McD’s employees. A young person knows he or she needs to choose between one of, say, four fast-food chains for income. McD’s knows a shirt by Armani gives them the advantage of being that youth’s first choice. What else is there to differentiate between jobs?

I spoke last winter with one of McDonald’s marketing managers when I visited their corporate headquarters and he posed an interesting question. “How many brands trust their image to sixteen year old kids?” The answer, or course, is many more than just McDonald’s. What, however, are most of these brands doing for those same kids?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago

Have you ever been approached in a store and asked, “Do you work here?” How about being on the other end of that question, asking another customer, “Do you work here?”

Yeah, that’s what McD’s employees need, camouflage. Now as they lounge disinterestedly behind the counter and chat with each other, it’s at least evident that they’re SUPPOSED to be working there. With new designer camo-wear, they’ll blend in with the customers and you won’t know who to ask for extra ketchup packets.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 8 months ago

Everything matters in conveying the brand. I agree that there’s not a chance that the uniforms, no matter how fashionable, will be worn on the street.

I also agree that, while uniforms matter (and if they make workers feel better about themselves, it might help service), training the workers would make a more significant difference. I hope this is not an either/or proposition.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Darn it all, Phil, you said what I was going to say. I’ll just add one point: McDonald’s has also scored points in hiring senior citizens. I’m not sure they’ll be too happy with uniforms by P. Diddy or whoever, but you never know. I’d at least keep it in mind…

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
15 years 8 months ago

Of course, uniforms are a large part of the image of any business. More “hip” uniforms may help their image. I would not want to be their designer, though. McDonald’s is almost the definition of mainstream. Just adding their logo to a uniform may be enough to make it unhip.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 8 months ago

Yes, of course uniforms are a part of the branding experience. Everything the consumer comes in contact with while interacting with the brand becomes part of the experience. How important each element is to the loyalty of existing customers or the acquisition of new ones is another thing entirely.

Where would uniforms rank? Relatively low, but still worth including in the “to do” list of brand management for McDonald’s. If I were a stockholder, would I be happy about spending that type of money on uniforms? No way. Because it’s not necessary. The PR splash is nice, and there may be one or two people in the world who will come into a McD’s to see the new uniforms. But seriously folks…outside of Hooters (where it’s arguable what the product really is), are uniforms even in the top 50 of the brand experience?

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 8 months ago

Hats off to McDonald’s. I believe they are implementing a very thorough strategy…the uniforms are only one building block in their updated foundation.

If McDonald’s can accomplish their objective of creating “really cool” uniforms, they will be way ahead of the game. By that I mean their personnel will take pride in how they look and how they feel about themselves. This pride can only rub off in how they feel about their employer and job. The uniform — if it is as cool as the company’s vision — may serve to attract personnel, expanding its candidate pool, which can provide McDonald’s with a hiring advantage. All of this is good for the customer.

The uniforms do have a role in creating the brand experience. They are a part of the store’s ambiance. In combination with the “right” menu, signage, and server-customer interaction, the uniforms serve to reinforce the “new” McDonald’s message.

Phil Lempert
Guest
Phil Lempert
15 years 8 months ago

Of course uniforms matter – but they are not the savior. Remember when Grand Union hired Milton Glazer to redesign the stores, signage and uniforms? For McDonald’s its about the physical environment, store locations, food, training employees…and the uniforms. $80 million will be wasted without the rest being worked on as well.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Sure, they are important. But what is even more important is how they are worn and how those wearing them present themselves. Without the latter being the higher consideration, the designer is irrelevant. Having recently traveled and stopped in several McD’s along the way, the uniform is far from the top of the list of problems for McD’s. In fact, I’d rate it well down the list. If I was an executive or leader at McDonald’s, I’d be far more ashamed of the brand image of their stores than the uniforms worn. Both were equally unkempt and unworthy of the consumer’s dollar.

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