Toms shoes is the sustainable, socially conscious shoes company based in Southern California. The Toms mission is to provide shoes for children in need. The deal is for every pair sold, a child in need receives a free pair of shoes. Toms calls it the “one-for-one” deal.
Just five short years ago, Blake Mycoskie traveled to Argentina in the hopes of learning to play Polo. During his stay in Argentina, he was very moved by the poor living conditions of many Argentineans. What struck him the most was the lack of shoes provided for children. Without access to shoes, these children are highly susceptible to cuts, sores, and eventually infections—all of which are preventable with shoes. Shoes are also a mandatory element of school uniforms. Children of many developing countries are not permitted to attend classes (due to health purposes) if they aren’t wearing shoes.
Mycoskie returned to Santa-Monica, California from Argentina with a plan. He was going to start a “sustainable and socially conscious shoe company,” he noted in his interview with laist.com. In Southern-California, Mycoskie gather a group of friends and volunteers and began making and selling shoes—and without any real, hands on knowledge of what it takes to produce shoes. Mycoskie and his dedicated community willing individuals figured it out and sold 10,000 pairs that first year.
Since that first year the number of shoe sales and giveaways has multiplied exponentially—and continues to do so. The company has also expanded its inventory. Toms offers different shoes styles for various occasions. They offer shoes made of 100% recycled material and vegan friendly foot ware. They have also teamed up with high-end designers such as Ralph Lauren to produce limited edition shoes.
So how did Toms become such a big deal? For the first three years of business, Toms didn’t advertise according to traditional standards. They promoted their cause and thus their product via the internet and through word of mouth. They released short videos about their product and message and used facebook to spread the word.
In the past two years, Toms has received a lot of attention from the mass media. AT&T put out a television commercial in 2009 and many articles have noted to ongoing success of Toms in print and on the internet. But Toms specifically goes about “building their community,” through face-to-face communication as well as virtually. One of their biggest promotion tactics is screenings of the Toms documentary as college and high school campuses. As a result of many initial screening, clubs on school campus form and they work to build awareness of the Toms project and product. One way they do this is by hosting Toms decorating parties, where members and random participants come together and adorn their canvass shoes according to their personal style and taste.
Television commercials, buzz marketing, and student activists are all very necessary in the promotion of the product, but I believe the best promotional tool they have is the product itself. They are stylish and trendy. We’ve seen it all too many times—trends that come and go. Juciy Couture, Beanie Babies, Pokemon, The difference here is that this trend, is for a good cause—and hopefully one that can sustain a fickle market.
“toms.” Toms. 2011. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://www.toms.com/>.
Lerman, Emily . “PhiLAnthropist Interview: TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie Plans to Give Away 300,000 Pairs in 2009.” laist. 15 Apr. 2009. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://laist.com/2009/04/15/what_happens_when_you_travel.php>.