By Brian Wallace | Mar 27, 2012
What is our industry’s brand? I’m fond of the following motto that I derived from the insightful consumer research conducted by the Coin Laundry Association: Our customers want time-savings and convenience in a clean, safe environment that is close to home. I believe this statement does a great job of describing what we aspire to in each of our member’s stores.
Knowing what we want our brand identity to say to the public – and understanding that many of your competitors simply perpetuate the “stigma” created by poorly run, ill-equipped and unkempt laundries of the past – brings me back to the most integral component of any brand – the name.
This becomes very interesting for our industry. I can’t think of another business that could possibly suffer the identity crisis we do if we measure based on the number of names by which we’re known:
• Coin laundry
• Coin laundromat
• Self-service laundry
• Vended laundry
• Card laundry
I didn’t mean to start name-calling, but you could probably come up with a few more that I haven’t listed here. And the quandary continues when thinking about doing laundry for customers – are we offering wash-dry-fold, fluff-and-fold or drop-off laundry?
By any other name, indeed.
What does it matter what’s on our sign, or on our business cards? You can imagine that, as the trade association serving this industry for more than 50 years, this is the sort of thing that we lose sleep over. It seems like everyone has his or her own preference, and I often hear from CLA members suggesting that everything from our publications to the name of the association itself be changed to reflect their chosen nomenclature to describe the industry.
For me, the central notion of branding is to effectively communicate to your audience who you are and what you do. Sounds straightforward enough, no?
However, as businesses, we often have multiple audiences or stakeholders as potential targets of our message. What is the right name when talking to any of the following?
• Current laundry customers
• Potential laundry customers
• Current laundry owners
• Potential laundry owners
My approach to this challenge has been to use the name that best fits both your brand and its primary audience. Laundry owners in Texas are likely to run a “washateria,” while California operators are apt to offer “fluff-and-fold” service. Industry manufacturers who produce equipment for both laundry stores and apartment laundries are more likely to talk about the “vended laundry” industry.
When I’m talking with a news reporter or a state legislator, it’s often the word “laundromat” that gains the most familiarity. Yet, for some within the industry, “laundromat” carries a negative connotation that evokes the run-down laundries of the past.
From a strictly descriptive point of view, I personally prefer “retail, self-service laundry.” In fact, with alternative payment systems dominating the intra-industry conversation, some feel that “Coin Laundry Association” no longer sufficiently describes our organization.
Perhaps the CLA is due for a name change – tough to say. On one hand, fewer stores today are coin-operated; on the other, the association has built a great reputation and significant brand equity with its members as the Coin Laundry Association. The industry’s (and the association’s) brand is likely to be subject to perpetual debate. But the fact that we’re talking about the importance of brand at all is in itself a major leap forward.
For an industry that has done so little advertising and marketing in recent decades, it’s about time we started making a name for ourselves.