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Home Delivery Dry Cleaning Case Study: How Performance Impacts Brand Image

Category : branding, general marketing, strategy


Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand how performance directly impacts a brand image.

I despise ironing. There – I said it. I feel much better. I ironed my shirts for many years but as my use of button down shirts grew, it seemed like I spent most weekends ironing. I also dislike spending money on something I can do myself. But, like plumbing and electricity, I decided it was time to outsource. (side note: plumbing and electricity were outsourced as it was determined that I couldn’t do that myself :) )

My wife and I had heard that there were actually dry cleaners that picked up and dropped off at your home and after a quick price comparison we felt the few extra cents might justify the efficiency in this service.

So we searched for Minneapolis and St. Paul cleaners that delivered and we went with Total Care Cleaners. After a few months I was sold. The service was excellent. I put my shirts in a bag and hung them on the door where they were picked up. All the shirts came back in perfect shape ready for wear. We also found the customer service to be very good. No matter when we called or emailed, we always had a live response or one shortly after. Never a lost shirt and never a missed delivery.

Then came some tempting PR for a local competitor – Mulberrys Garment Care. They advertise 100% toxin-free cleaning. From their site:

“At Mulberrys, our award-winning dry cleaning and stain removal experts use pressurized, naturally occurring C02. The use of odorless C02 enables us to return your clothes cleaner and without the chemical smell. Also, because no heat is used, your clothes are finished without the fading, shrinking, pilling or stain-setting common to all other dry cleaning methods.”

We thought it couldn’t hurt to give them a try. I was sucked in by what came back on that first order. The shirts came back on nice wooden hangers and [drum roll please] they had collar stays already in the shirts. Wow! What a great perk for essentially the same price. Although my wife and I are loyal consumers it looked like we’d been lured and had found a new service for my shirts. This was just too good – they’re environmentally friendly and offer some nice value-adds.

Then, the wheels started coming off. First, it was a lost shirt then a lost suit and then a handful of shirts on one order. (Note: all the items were found and returned within a week). It wasn’t so much the temporarily lost shirts that bothered us as much as the lack of response to our emails or voicemails. We actually ventured into their store in a local grocery because we couldn’t get a response and we found chaos. There was no explanation or reason for the lack of response and we got vague answers as to the location of my shirts. For the record, all the people were pleasant and when they got the clothes right, they did it very well. But, we were using up the time we hoped to save by using this service in chasing down lost items.

We also found out they were expanding to other cities. What?! It seemed they were struggling to serve this city. That’s when the analytical business side of my head kicked in.

Total Care Cleaners understood the core needs of their consumer. Clean, pressed shirts delivered on time and the complete order in tact. Not only did they understand, but they did it well and delivered responsiveness when their customer needed it. No big value-adds – just dependable service. Mulberrys already had expanded to nice perks and value added features they knew their customers would like. But, they were missing that reliability and service that makes the extra features nice to have. In the end their brand is suffering because they haven’t mastered their core business the way the competition has.

Hopefully, we all supported Small Business Saturday this last weekend and we all got the chance to see some small businesses in action. I love to support small, local businesses that understand their target markets and the needs of the consumer. Who wouldn’t want to support that? Understanding your core business and executing on that before expanding is key in my opinion.

Any interesting insights around small business from this weekend?

Comments (17)

This is really true and holds not only for Business to consumer relationships but also B2B. Sometimes people go chasing new better suppliers only to have their business image and dependability ruined due to a lower cost less reliable supplier.

I’m not saying don’t ever change but there are a lot of hidden factors to consider.

Three cheers for Total Care Cleaners ( a great name) for their “care”. I will try a few different businesses of the same type until I settle on one. Once i do it would take dynamite to make me switch.

It is ironic how such simple and straight-forward industry has such an array of good and bad businesses. How difficult can it be to dry-clean a piece of clothes.. But branding and quality works even here..

Good choice on going back to Total Care Cleaners. They sound like they actually care about customer service, and the brand name.

I’m impressed that they do it without using harmful solvents. That’s a clincher right there. But you’re right, with a service like this, absolute reliability is a must. Sounds like there was probably someone who ran things really well on an individual basis, but the business hadn’t been “systemized”, so that when they had time off things started to fall apart.

An interesting article, I have ran into problems recently for the Jet management company I buy for. We pay for rag service through a large garment company. We had constant headaches when it came to getting the correct amount of rags. I mean how hard can it be, pick up 500 rags drop off 500 rags. We were often calling to get more rags as they may short us by as much as 300 rags.

Finally, the company started charging us for damaged towels. They stated that any rag with a stain was damaged. Within 3 weeks they had claimed that 110% of the towels we used were damaged and offered us a shop rag alternative. My response to the regional manager was simple, “Bring your nice car in here for my detailers to wax with the rags you suggest us to use.” He refused, as he knew that utilizing the cheaper rag alternative would ruin his car finish. How he expected us to wax a 4 million dollar airplane with the same rag he will not let people use on his $50,000 car is beyond me.

Anyway long story short, I paid for the allegedly damaged rags, demanded them returned to me and hired the cleaners down the street to pick them up clean, fold and return them. We now save as much as $50/per week and support the local economy. We have not had one issue and there is no customer service as the owner takes care of us directly. Great customer service goes a long ways!!

A company that goes an extra step and really does great service always sticks in my mind. Loyalty really counts. I have, like many others, been jilted by some firms over the years and I’ll never be going back!

sometimes just sticking to the basics in Business is all you need to be successful and Total Care Cleaners shows that with just simply “just dependable service”

I love the fact that they are using CO2 as a solvent! I had no idea that this was even possible for fabric care, I knew it was being used in essential oil manufacture as it leads to a higher quality product without chemical residue. The CO2 acts like a liquid solvent at high pressure and then just evaporates.
Good for you for supporting Small Business Saturday.

Image is important in every work and having some one care about you image is interesting. Companies that work with honesty and serve to their costumer are intended to last on the business environment

Agree..companies that work with honestly and have great services will have long live..make customer happy so you will happy too..think about quality not quantity

Service always seems to be the tie-breaker. All the “bells and whistles” and “awards” don’t count if you have bad service, especially for small business. Example: My wife and I had dinner at a beautiful hotel/resort near our home on the West Coast. It had awesome views; the food was fine, but the service was horrendous. It’s not that they were busy, just bad service. So, will we go back? For drinks, maybe. For dinner, no. They had all the plaques saying they were “great” etc. But I can’t eat the plaques! Features, cost, quality and service – and if you lose the last one, you lose business.

I couldn’t agree more. I think its even more true in B2B and honestly with technology its just too easy to easy to move away from the core business.

I too love encouraging small business, as you do. Moreover, caring for the brand name is more important rather than the looking for the high cost orders.

Truly, a firm that goes beyond what its customers demand is a winner. Customer relation is the key in business success considering clients as the source of every enterprise’s income.

I completely agree with you, The businesses those will serve their consumers at their best and provide quality services rather than focussing on quantity will live long. :)

I try to support small, local businesses when they have what I want. Recently, I went to a local business to purchase a second item which was similar to something I had just purchased from them. I liked the first one so much, I went back for the second. However, they didn’t have another one. It will take 4 weeks for them to get another for me. It’s not a specialty item. I can order another online and have it in less than 1 week. It really made me wonder whether they understand service (or the internet).