Should You Wear Your Brand on Your Sleeve, Literally?

Whether you love them or hate them, the promotional value of staff shirts most likely will make them continuing fixtures of the events industry.

Branding at events can include everything from posters to flash drives to Frisbees—and at some organizations, even uniform staff shirts.

What could be easier than having your staff literally wear your brand and promote it while walking around doing their job at a conference?

For better or worse, society tends to judge people by how they dress.

But not everyone is convinced. Hence the great shirt debate—the pros and cons of enforced outfit coordination.

On the plus side, dressing similarly can help create an attractive business image, according to UniFirst, a uniform provider, which recently released a list of the top 10 benefits of employee uniforms.

“For better or worse, society tends to judge people by how they dress,” said Adam Soreff, director of marketing at UniFirst. “Selecting an appropriate employee uniform can immediately establish a professional business image that attracts and helps retain customers.”

While not all of its listed benefits relate to associations—and granted, this comes from a uniform company actively pushing its product—some of the advantages apply, including:

  • Improving customer relationships
  • Promoting company pride
  • Creating team spirit

It’s true that from the customer’s perspective, branded attire has big advantages. Have you ever felt lost looking for something in Target and been delighted to see that signature red shirt coming your way? That’s how your members may feel in the controlled chaos of your annual meeting. Staff shirts can help distinguish employees from the crowd of meeting attendees, who may feel a sense of comfort knowing whom they can approach with a question or comment.

A potential pro for employees is not having to worry about what to pack when traveling to a meeting or what to put on in the morning, as Associations Now’s Samantha Whitehorne pointed out last year.

On the other hand, staff shirts can make the wearer uncomfortable, especially if they don’t fit right or make people feel self-conscious in an unflattering color or style. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re less likely to feel confident and put your best foot forward. And as for team spirit, it may be of the ironic, “can you believe we have to wear this thing?” variety—probably not the positive vibe the organization was going for.

So where is the happy medium? Could it be name tags? While they might prominently display an organization’s logo, they can also be hard to see from across a crowded expo hall or conference center. Maybe it’s coordinated color schemes, with all staff members wearing the organization’s branded colors.

But the question is probably moot, as event attire is most likely here to stay. Where do you fall in the staff-shirt debate?


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!