Friday, 6 April 2012

No more paradox of choice - now, choose charitably.

In California, TOMS are everywhere.

I remember the first time I found a pair of TOMS shoes in a House of Fraser store in the UK. They were just the style of canvas shoe I’d been looking for – perfect for spring, takes you right through to autumn and available in a host of colours to suit any personal tastes.

And the best bit of all? I felt good for making the purchase because the company is founded on the commitment that for every pair sold, they'll donate a pair to a child in need. Which certainly beats post-shopping regret. 

The website states their vision clearly: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”

In that case, I’ll have two please Sir!

Looking at the website now, the business is clearly expanding at pace. They’ve gone global, they’ve expanded to eyewear and the movement, One for One, is hosting global awareness events including “One day without shoes” {self-explanatory} on April 10th to share knowledge and garner support.

TOMS was founded in 2006 by an American traveler, Blake Mycoskie, after a trip to Argentina. Within a year, Blake returned to Argentina to meet the children who had inspired his movement, armed with 10,000 pairs of shoes – made possible by the sale of 10,000 pairs of shoes to Westerners like me.

Two years later the business had $9.6 million in revenue.

Why such rapid success?

Is it because people like the style? Trust the brand? Or is it because they feel good about their purchase?

Probably a mixture of all three. But when you’re standing in a store looking at three types of canvas shoe that are similar in style and quality – but one will match your purchase with a charitable donation – the choice seems obvious. You get your new shoes and you get a warm, fuzzy feeling thrown in.

It’s social pressure too. If you’re seen to be wearing TOMS, perhaps you’ll be seen as a good person?

Even if you’re unconscious of the psychology affecting your buying behaviour, the business model is a great one. In today’s commercial environment, where there’s increased pressure to be socially responsible as well as environmentally sustainable, founding a business on a One for One principle seems foolproof. And the sheer volume of TOM-cladded feet I’ve seen in California over the past month suggests that it’s working.

So how do established global businesses replicate this model?

To be continued in the next blog… 

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