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In the Dry Cleaning Business, Branding is Vital

My son Joel, a freshman at the California State University at Chico, brought home for winter vacation the book, Inside Coca-Cola – A CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Popular Brand by Neville Isdell. It proved to contain the perfect topic for this column: Isdell’s concept of branding.

When I started writing this article with the important objective of defining the building of a brand, my father Sidney Tuchman, a recognized pillar of our industry, passed away. It became clear to me that Neville Isdell and my dad have a shared vision which provided the perfect material for this column.

Without a doubt, Coca-Cola is among the most identifiable companies and brands in the world. Isdell states that, “part of building a successful business is creating and sustaining a recognizable brand.” He emphasizes that this is true for small business situated in particular communities and admits they need care and attention in order to capitalize on the brand and grow. Isdell asserts it is essential to define “the company as something much more than an emotionless, profit-producing machine.” He believed that his company had to “build on the power of the brand Coca Cola in order to continue its growth as an iconic company.” According to Isdell these five basic principles are a guide to success: People: Inspire people to be the best they can be and cultivate a positive attitude in the workplace. Marketing Portfolio: Bring to your marketing effort a portfolio of examples of a great product. Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers who participate in the development of mutual enduring value. Community: Be a responsible role model in your community by making a difference beyond your particular business. Reaching out is an essential element in the process of creating a positive image in the community. Profit: By working as a team and reaching out into the community everyone will profit and the credit will rebound to your business. Isdell points out that, when companies exert themselves to partner with the community they can grow by expanding their success to other areas.

Throughout Sidney Tuchman’s remarkable career as President of Tuchman Cleaners in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Tuchman brand became a leading example of “how to do it” in the dry cleaning industry. With his 35 locations, Sid was determined to make his business more than a dry cleaner in the eyes of the Indianapolis community.

Like Isdell, my father also had major tenets that fueled his business success. He described his own sense of his business with these words, “Every business has factors that are essential to its growth and continued success. They have guided me from the time I started in the dry cleaning business until I sold it. You neglect any of them, and your business will suffer. Become excellent in each factor and your business will soar!” He was ahead of his time by articulating the following factors and remained passionate that we, as dry cleaners, must:

  • Develop an outstanding vision and have a pulsating will to succeed.

  • Exceed our targeted customer’s expectations.

  • Hire and maintain a skilled, motivated and loyal work force.

  • Search for new business opportunities, sites, services and products.

  • Design a creative marketing plan to assure profitable annual sales increases.

  • Develop an outstanding and strategic customer satisfaction program to target, attract and hold every customer.

  • Develop and institutionalize all systems and processes in the business.

  • Have financial stability.

The next few paragraphs describe examples of some of these factors.

When Sid was running Tuchman Cleaners, the slogan was the “Fine Art in Dry Cleaning.” He believed that every company should boldly back up its brand by advertising and displaying its guarantees at every opportunity. In his chain, “We keep our promise or you keep your money” and “Ready To Wear and Ready When Promised” were prominently displayed in every store and on hangers and on plastic bags.

Sid’s first rule was to provide exemplary customer service. He understood that was the key reason why Tuchman Cleaners was named the Best Dry Cleaners in Indianapolis year after year. The aim was to impart to customers that the product and service were of upmost importance.

Sid treasured community involvement and wanted the Tuchman name to become synonymous with building a better community. He used it as a marketing tool, as well, in these ways:

  • Art took center stage in his stores. He promoted it by hiring local artists to paint wall murals in each of his locations that depicted an Indianapolis activity, such as the Symphony, Civic Theater, Salvation Army, Girl Scouts, or Boy Scouts. Some murals highlighted something special about life in a particular store’s neighborhood, for example, a scene from the Indianapolis 500 Mile Racetrack.

  • Each week he printed non-profit organizations logos and information on the folded shirt bags. An announcement was sent to that organization’s mailing list which called attention to the shirt wrapper advertising their event and inviting them in to see the mural.

Through television and print advertising, Tuchman Cleaners became an identifiable brand, so he wanted to capitalize on this familiarity. Through his leadership and promotion of good works in the community, the Tuchman name and brand became more than a drycleaner. It not only represented service, but also equal opportunity employment.

Sid believed strongly that successful practices are learned by practice, practice and practice again to gain confidence. A company must have institutionalized systems to hire competent individuals, to press pants, to clean, to spot, to choose a location, to use capital, to sell, to answer objections, and to deal with myriad day-to-day issues that arise. He recognized that to write and institutionalize all of these systems would require laborious work. However, effective executives are successful because they consistently follow these institutionalized systems.

My father’s wisdom demonstrates that branding is more than providing a quality product. Sid Tuchman, former president of Tuchman Cleaners and the Tuchman Advisory Group, explains in precise terms that the process of branding—implemented the right way—builds business, helps a community, sets an example and provides the basis for creating a popular, successful approach on every level.

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