Who Could Resist Buying Shoes and Doing Good at the Same Time?

I couldn’t resist the concept behind this company. It seems to be a true example of feel-good marketing as described in former articles in this blog. Read this article on TOMS Shoes in Foam Magazine:


Blake Mycoskie blends philanthropy with a grassroots business model that is truly inspirational. I like to think that the reason why he sold an astounding 10,000 pairs of shoes in his first three months of operation is because people want to do good.

While traveling in the South American country two years ago, Mycoskie noticed a couple of things. First, the easy, basic style of footwear local farmers wore. And second, that many of the children in the North had no shoes on and were suffering from foot infections as a result.” So he decided to start a company that would make shoes and donate a pair to these poor children for every pair sold… The company name TOMS stands for “Shoes for Tomorrow.”

Let’s see if TOMS Shoes adheres to the principles of Feel-Good Marketing as outlined in article two of this series:

1. make it easy for them to buy your product–remove the obstacles to sale
— the website makes it easy to buy online or from a store.

2. make your product stand out as the clear choice in a sea of choices
— it is clear what the product is; apparently the appeal is the humble origins of the design and the chance to do good by buying the shoe. On second look, the TOMS shoe design is not much different from the familiar Chinese cloth shoes — canvas uppers and plastic soles. There is a leather insole, which adds to their perceived value while contributing to their comfort.

3. make them confident of your company (“image” branding)
— the brand seems to be based mostly upon the “do good” image.

4. let them see your product in terms of its value to them
— again, mostly the idea of doing good. I like the shoes, but the t-shirts and hats simply sport a simple, and rather dull logo, not the height of fashion.

5. understand the motivations of your customer
— it is easy to see that the founder underestimated his customer’s desire to do good; he wanted to sell 250 pairs of shoes and ended up selling 10,000.

6. make them feel good about their choice post sale
— I don’t know from my perusal of the website and the article in Foam Magazine if the customer feels good about the shoes post sale. Perhaps some testimonials are in order?

7. offer them a chance to do good with their purchase
— this brand certainly does that! My only concern is the environmental impact of the materials from which the shoes are made: canvas and EVA. According to Nicholas Narsavidze, owner of Legend Clothes, cotton is an enviromentally damaging crop, and my research on EVA doesn’t reassure me. Perhaps it is recycled EVA? I can’t help but wonder what happens to the shoes when they are thrown away.

I wonder if it would be a good opportunity for Legend Clothes (see my article on Legend Clothes in my other blog: Alternative Everything) to partner with TOMS to help with the ecological concerns of the product.

Suggested improvements:

1. Include a way for the user to get involved using Web 2.0 tactics and community building (see my articles on Community Building in this blog) Some ideas:

— allow users to design their own shoes and give them to friends. The best designs could then be licensed by the company for sale online and in stores.

— allow people who buy shoes to automatically become community members with various benefits.

— the community members can contribute ideas to help the philanthropic arm of the company. Credit the members with the ideas; give a reward of shoes or merit badge to the winning members with the best ideas.

— for more ideas of how an online community can be built and used for viral marketing, see my articles on Community Building on this blog.

2. Find a way to get better, more fashionable design into the product line.

— I am not seeing anything that makes me want to go out and buy the shoes, based upon their curb appeal. Why can’t these shoes be more fun and trendy? Polkadots and stripes? Come on! There is so much more that could be done with the design of this shoe. Pay good designers to come up with something that will sell these shoes on their own merit. Or, if you want to market to the younger crowd, give new designers a chance to have their work showcased. As defined in my article on Community Building, credit the designers at least. Better yet: credit them and pay them. I don’t see this on their website.

3. Explore materials that are eco-friendly; both in the manufacturing process and in the trash dump, where, let’s face it, all shoes eventually do their walking.

Entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie proves that you still can start a company in the USA from your apartment, and do good for impoverished people. All, in all, a very inspirational story about how someone started with an idea to do good and is making a profit as well.

— Copyright 2008 Aliyah Marr

(this article may be reproduced as long as credit to the author(s) is maintained and links to the original content is provided)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s