Why TOMS Shoes is the Leader of Conscious Marketing - Social Media Explorer
Why TOMS Shoes is the Leader of Conscious Marketing
Why TOMS Shoes is the Leader of Conscious Marketing

No doubt you’ve heard of TOMS, the shoe company that shook up the world with their One for One campaign. The idea is simple: For every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS donates a pair of shoes for a child in need. But that simple idea has left a humongous mark. It’s a stroke of branding genius, and even though the one for one idea has been widely criticized, the company is still going strong today.

TOMS has always been a company with a strong social identity. Some consumers have even said that the main reason they buy TOMS shoes is to support their One for One model. And the backlash the company has received in recent years doesn’t seem to be hindering them. If anything, the criticism has propelled TOMS to be more vocal about the causes they support.

Like any contemporary business, TOMS uses social media networks, but they use them quite differently. Most businesses use their networks to draw attention to their product and emphasize the value it will bring to the reader’s life. TOMS doesn’t do that. They know that everyone knows TOMS, and they know they don’t need to focus on their apparel. Instead, they focus on causes. This is the key ingredient for why TOMS is the current leader of conscious marketing

Why TOMS Shoes is the Leader of Conscious Marketing

TOMS= Global Awareness + Social Media Networks 

As of this writing, here are the topics of TOMS’ latest Tweets: the recent ISIS attack on Brussels (which happened earlier today), providing safe water, protecting sea turtles, and Earth Hour. Perhaps their mission is best summarized by another recent Tweet: “Your #TOMS purchases have a great impact. Thank you for helping us change lives!”

They’ve also used social media platforms to create mini-campaigns. For example, on Twitter, they’ve used hashtags to designate different causes and drive conversation: #OneForOne, #TOMSAnimalInitiative, and #givesight are just a few. And those hashtags are populated by not only TOMS’s posts, but also by Twitter fans who are spreading the mini-campaigns to their networks.

Their Facebook uses similar yet more targeted tactics. Most of their posts follow a formula: They express joy or gratitude about their ability to help people around the world, then they link to a product or cause-related page. This simple formula creates massive interaction (and presumably conversion) among readers.

And readers are responding in droves––dedicated droves. A quick glance at the posts on TOMS’s page shows an endless list of users who are proud to represent TOMS and advocate their brand. Look at any of TOMS’s social media networks, and you’ll find the same group of users who are unabashed brand advocates.

TOMS also excels at creating iconic campaigns that both promote the brand and get people involved. Last year, the company held their 9th annual #WithoutShoes campaign to worldwide acclaim. They made it a breeze for people to get people involved; for every person who took a photo of bare feet and used the hashtag, TOMS donated a pair of shoes. They took something that people were already doing-–taking and hashtagging Instagram photos––and made that a native part of a marketing campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people participated, and good feelings were had all around.

The True Genius Behind TOMS’s Marketing

There’s no doubt that TOMS boasts one of the most memorable marketing campaigns of the last several years. The real secret of their success, however, is that they’ve been able to get so many people to participate.

Think about the people you know. How many of them have TOMS shoes, apparel, or even coffee? Now, think again about the people you know. How many of them actively donate to charities? Chances are, you know people with TOMS gear, but you may not be sure who donates to charities.

That’s because there’s a rather ironic reason to the success of TOMS campaigns––they make people feel like they’re participating than something bigger than themselves. In reality, people are benefitting in some way. They get goodies and feel like they’re making a colossal change; in many ways, many TOMS advocates are social justice warriors.

Think about the One for One campaign. If you buy a pair of shoes, you are giving one to a child in need, and that makes you feel good. But you also get the instant gratification of getting a pair of shoes.

On social media networks, people get the instant gratification of belonging to a group. They take a quick picture, use a hashtag, and instantly join a community of people who are making a change in the world. No matter the medium, TOMS fans get instant gratification of some sort.

That’s not to say that TOMS consumers are shallow or don’t care about global issues; they do. But TOMS builds all of their marketing campaigns knowing that people will feel good about themselves, and that good feeling will make them come back to the brand. The TOMS brand is one that users are proud to be a part of, and they’re proud to tell everyone about it.

About the Author

Ian Chandler
Ian Chandler is a professional writer and content marketer. He is Editor at NukeBlogger, a contributor for Freedom With Writing, and a writer for Haircut Inspiration. Visit his website for more information.
  • Avik Sarkar

    Hi Ian. your post got me thinking. The next few days would be spent on deciphering that very thin line (perhaps) between conscious and unconscious marketing!

  • Madison Chackel

    This is a wonderful article and a great analysis of marketing. I agree with the inherent human nature of needing to feel good about themselves. My biggest question is if this same marketing technique and approach can work for different industries. For example, I know of a restaurant that donates one third of all sales to a different cause every month. The restaurant originally started with focusing their direction on just one specific cause: autism, but then decided to dedicate each month to a different cause. They then turned an entire wall of the restaurant into a chalk board that records the amount of sales each week that are being dedicated to that cause. I am curious which marketing technique works better. Does dedicating your business to one cause create a greater following and bring greater awareness to that cause, while simultaneously creating positive PR and allowing the consumers to believe that they are bettering themselves by being a consumer of that organization? Or does dedicating your business to multiple causes allow your business to widen its consumer base and create business through those passionate about the cause? Is it the case that you create consumers through your involvement with a cause or is it the case that you create a good reputation by allowing your consumers to feel philanthropic with your connection and dedication to a cause? And most importantly, does this marketing technique transcend throughout all public relations industries?

    • Ian Chandler

      Great questions. I don’t have any hard-and-fast answers, but I can make some conjectures from a marketing perspective.

      I don’t think the number of causes has a large effect in the long term. However, if a business aligns itself with one cause, it will become known as the business that supports X cause. This could potentially be beneficial; for example, if a vegan eatery supports the ASPCA.

      Having multiple causes could make a business seem more philanthropic, but you won’t have as specific of a brand. Being the business that supports causes is much more vague. On the other hand, some people will enjoy the variety of causes.

      Either way, I think aligning with a cause or causes of some sort is enough to engage in this TOMS-style marketing. It’s all in how a business voices its mission and how it integrates it with its brand. That said, I think making customers feel like they’re contributing to the greater good is a must.

      Does it relate to all PR industries? I’m not too sure. I certainly think it could.


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