Today, according to TOMS SHOES, is ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES day. I love the idea. I am barefoot today. But more interesting to the business world, and especially those trying to understand how social media marketing can work for them, and how to market a concept or idea over a product, TOMS SHOES is a fascinating case study. TOMS is a for-profit company with a social cause. TOMS has a model of buy one, give one. For every pair of shoes bought, TOMS donates a pair to someone in the developing world who has no shoes. The company was founded in 2006, and has taken off. SO much so that TOMS has the marketing power to put together a day where more than one million people will go all day without shoes on. They have done a lot of things right, including creating a beautiful YOU TUBE video explaining the ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES concept. The founder of TOMS explains in a USA TODAY article why he decided to found a for-profit company instead of a charitable organization:
“When I first decided that I wanted to do something about this problem, I had a few options. I could have written a check to a charity or foundation for a one-time donation. But it didn’t feel right. By being a for-profit, we’re more sustainable,” he explains.
In the world of entrepreneurship, I admire and respect Blake Mycoskie. He has started a company doing something that he loves, is passionate about, and can also do some social good. He has been super smart about how to get the message out about what and how he is doing what he does, and has turned his shoes into a social status symbol. Many people recognize the shoe, and know that you paid more in order to donate a pair of shoes to someone in need. He feels like not only is he donating shoes to a good cause, but he is also helping people talk about the need for shoes in developing countries. But at the end of the day, remember that TOMS is a for-profit company. Which is why I think he has done a brilliant job of marketing his shoes and his cause. His company has been successful. He has been successful. And at the same time he gets to feel good about what he does, and consumers who buy his products feel good about buying them.
It’s interesting though, that people feel the need to point out, that if TOMS really wanted to put a dent into helping developing countries take care of their people, the TOMS model is not as efficient. Sally Nelson wrote an article titled “TOMS? No thanks” that explains you would be better off donating directly to a cause, rather than buying shoes through TOMS. She is definitely right. But does that make TOMS a bad company? Or misleading? Sure, if he donated 50% of the revenue he received from his shoes directly to an organization that built wells, or feeds children, or helps bring vaccines to developing nations, the results may be different. But would he have a company as successful as he has? Would he be able to champion a movement that gets over a million people to go shoeless for a day to help bring awareness to the problem (and not so coincidentally probably sells more shoes for TOMS in a day than any other day)? Somehow I doubt it. The marketing message would be much more complicated. Complicating the message most times means it does not spread and does not get traction. At the end of the day, TOMS seems to be producing a product that people LOVE, think is comfortable and stylish, and gives them a certain social status. What would other companies do to get this sort of consumer loyalty, word of mouth, and repeat buyers? If you are curious, check out their website and the hundreds of customer reviews for the shoes.
Meanwhile, regardless of anything else, it feels good to participate in something that raises awareness for a good cause — and one that is not impossible to fix. We don’t have to find the cure for AIDS or cancer, or free the world from genocide to put shoes on every child’s feet. So, for the time being, ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES works for me! I commend TOMS shoes.