Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things
How TOMS donated 100 million pairs of shoes
In 2006, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie transformed his one-bedroom apartment in Venice, California into a little shoe company with a big idea: using business to improve lives. Thirteen years later, TOMS has donated over 95 million pairs of shoes through its innovative One-for-One model, but the mission doesn’t stop there.
“It’s no secret that the world is changing,” wrote Amy Smith, Chief Giving Officer at TOMS, in TOMS’ 2019 Impact Report. “The issues facing our communities are complex and evolving — but our commitment to using business to improve lives is stronger than ever.”
This year, TOMS decoupled impact from the One-for-One model to expand giving that supports organizations addressing the most important issues. Over the next couple of years, we’ll see how this shift plays out in communities around the globe. In the meantime, here is a look back at TOMS’ impact to date.
How it started
After selling 10,000 pairs of shoes, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie recruited some friends, some family, and hopped on a plane to Argentina. There, they distributed 10,000 shoes — one for one — to kids in need wherever they could be found. In 2009, TOMS built a team of international development, health, and nonprofit professionals, now known as the Giving Team. Over ten years, this team has developed relationships with over 200 non-governmental and humanitarian organizations in 80 countries. Working hand-in-hand with these organizations, TOMS is able to understand the needs of the communities they serve.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
In 2011, they launched TOMS Eyewear, partnering first with the Seva Foundation to expand the One-for-One model. Through this partnership, TOMS provides medical treatment, sight-saving surgery, and prescription glasses to those in need. Then, in 2014, through a partnership with Water For People, they launched TOMS Roasting Co, which provided safe living conditions and economic prosperity to developing communities through sustainable water systems. This impact brought health and hope to individuals, families, and entire communities around the world.
When TOMS started giving shoes in 2006, their main goal was to help protect people living in communities that are prone to foot-related infection, injury or disease. However, the impact of shoe giving is really threefold:
- Basic Protection: More than 1.5 billion people (24% of the world’s population) have a soil-transmitted infection. Shoes help to protect against these infections, as well as injury and disease. 63% of TOMS’ Giving Partners have reported that TOMS Giving Shoes help to protect recipients against foot infection and disease, and 70% have reported protection from injury
- Greater access to education: Often, shoes that adhere to a specific dress code are a requirement for students to attend school. In addition to uniforms, books, transportation, and other fees, the cost of uniform shoes can be another financial roadblock. According to 88% of TOMS’ Giving Partners, TOMS Giving Shoes help to reduce families’ financial burdens.
- A sense of well-being: A new pair of well-fitting, weather-appropriate shoes can raise children’s confidence and help them realize their own potential. According to 80% of TOMS’ Giving Partners, TOMS Giving Shoes have helped increase a sense of well-being and self-worth among recipients.
Word of Mouth Marketing
Remember the last time you experienced something and just had to tell your friends about it? It might have been a new restaurant or shop that just opened, or the latest gadget you’re starting to use. Whether you’re talking or tweeting about it, this excitement to share is what drives word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM).
These days, 64% of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. And while we’ve all heard about word-of-mouth marketing and experience it on a regular basis, there are still many ways to further your word-of-mouth strategy.
Word of mouth is usually triggered by an event experienced by the customer. Whether it’s an amazing customer service or a free gift with purchase, triggers set your brand apart from the competition and keep you top of mind. Plus, they make for great talking points and organic word of mouth.
Where WOMM really stands out is its high level of trust. According to a Nielsen report, 92% of people trust word of mouth or referrals from those they know, above all other advertising. This means when someone sees a friend or family member raving about a particular brand, they’re much more likely to buy.
For TOMS, WOMM is a flywheel that sent it on a rocket-like trajectory. In 2011, Blake shared the story behind TOMS on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. During the interview, he explains the moment it all clicked. While waiting for his flight to take off at the JFK airport, Blake had a revelation about WOMM.
At least 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment, and freedom of movement. At a time when 1 percent of the world’s population have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution, 3.7 million pairs of TOMS Giving Shoes were distributed to refugees in 17 countries, most commonly within Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and Uganda.
TOMS Giving Shoes reduce discrimination among children that could not afford shoes.
TOMS is committed to manufacturing Giving Shoes in the same places they’re given, supporting economic development along with shoe-giving. Today, at least ⅓ of TOMS Giving Shoes are manufactured in the same countries in which they’re given.
It was a simple concept: Sell a pair of shoes today, give a pair of shoes tomorrow. Something about the idea felt so right, even though I had no experience, or even connections, in the shoe business. I had been playing around with the phrase ‘Shoes for a Better Tomorrow,’ which eventually became ‘Tomorrow’s Shoes,’ then TOMS.
The giving effect
Since giving its first pair back in 2006, TOMS understands that each shoe represents health and progress, with a ripple effect that touches the recipient’s future, their family, and their community.
The thing about shoe giving? It isn’t just about shoes.
Lessons In Word of Mouth
Stop collecting and start connecting. This is a key guideline for any strong word-of-mouth marketing strategy. You can have millions of social media followers, but to effectively use social media to drive word-of-mouth marketing you have to be active and engaging. This means providing valuable information, responding to comments and questions, and sharing some of your audience’s user-generated content. The more connected you are to your followers, the more likely they will become fans and supporters.
- Create triggers: Create your own triggers by finding something your audience sees or does on a regular basis. By associating your brand with these, you increase the likelihood of people remembering and talking about you. What immediately comes to mind when someone says peanut butter? Was it jelly? In this case, peanut butter acts almost like an advertisement for jelly.
- Create appeal: Like all marketing strategies, word of mouth works best when it puts the audience first. Think of what would appeal best to your audience. Is it an interactive contest? A behind-the-scenes video? By continuing to give your audience what it wants, you’re able to add to your social currency and generate word of mouth.
- Create value: The brands worth talking about are ones that provide value. Whether that means solving a problem or providing unparalleled customer service, a customer that sees value will share this with others. Providing value is one of the best ways to gain a customer’s goodwill. If you can offer value in a way that stands out, you can earn a positive customer review and maximize your word of mouth.
- Create emotion: Emotional attachments are one of the biggest drivers of word-of-mouth marketing. If people feel strongly about a brand or product, they are not likely to drop it, even if a more logical option comes along. People respond to emotions, whether it’s happy, sad, funny, or otherwise, they instinctively want to share it with others. So if you can create experiences that result in positive emotions, your word of mouth efforts can go a long way.
For more information about TOMS, plus sources to all of the statistics in today’s newsletter, you can check out the TOMS’ 2019 Impact Report.