Stepping in a New Direction by Sheila Shayon March 18, 2011
2011 is proving to be a watershed year for TOMS Shoes. As founder Blake Mycoskie announced at South by Southwest last weekend, he’s repositioning — and in effect, rebranding — his charitable footwear company to move beyond the shoes in its name.
Just as Amazon branched out from books to pretty much everything under the sun, Mycoskie is confident that his unique “one for one” business model — for every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates another pair to a child in need — is scaleable to cover ... well, anything.
While he’s not revealing how he’s expanding beyond shoes until June 7th, he’s teasing the brand expansion now, primarily across his corporate and personal brands’ digital platforms. For instance, he posted this tweet on March 15th following his SXSW announcement: “wow - exhilarating speech at #sxsw. so excited to announce that the next chapter of One for One is coming soon. check out fb for more info!”
The brand’s Facebook page lands on a teaser for the upcoming reinvention of TOMS. The Facebook wall then directs fans to check out this YouTube video, in which he discusses the evolution of the brand:
It’s handy that the brand’s main website is ready to kick off its shoes too, as its URL works for both TomsShoes.com and toms.com. The site currently promotes the brand’s annual “One Day Without Shoes Event,” which takes place on Tuesday, April 5th. To check out details on that, there’s a standalone URL: OneDayWithoutShoes.com.
The event’s website is already selling t-shirts to promote One Day Without Shoes — for every tee sold, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. The microsite also offers an event toolkit, links to its mobile app (for iPhones and Android smartphones). There’s a Twitter widget to give a window to tweets using the promoted hashtag for the event, #withoutshoes, and there’s also a detailed overview of how the event embodies the brand’s philanthropic roots and mission on its homepage, where it links to this inspiring video:
The goal of this year’s annual event is to raise awareness about the impact one pair of shoes – or the lack thereof – can have on a child’s life. It will be interesting to see how “One Day” evolves next year as the brand evolves beyond shoes.
It all goes back to Mycoskie’s sense of purpose and mission in life, which he found while competing on the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister, which took him to Argentina. He returned in January 2006 on vacation, where he had a revelation: "I was sitting on a farm pondering life, and it occurred to me, 'I'm going to start a shoe company, and for every pair that we sell, I'll give a pair to someone who needs them.”
Taken with the local “alpargata” shoes, and noticing numerous children without shoes in the poorer villages, he returned to the US, sold his online driver education company and invested his money and time into TOMS.
As he says in the press release for this year’s One Day Without Shoes event, "The problem is large but the solution is simple. Wearing shoes and basic hygiene can prevent both infection and disease due to unsafe roads and contaminated soil. By imagining a life without shoes, we can all contribute to the awareness of these conditions.”
So far, TOMS has given away over one million pairs of new shoes, and last year, more than 250,000 supporters joined in and went shoeless for a day, as 1,600 events took place worldwide in support.
At he noted in his recent SXSW closing keynote, the time has come for the brand to kick off its shoes. Standing beside a seven-foot-tall cardboard box, he said: "The next one-for-one product is inside this mystery box, which will be opened on 7 June. The truth is what’s inside this box is not nearly as important as what is represents. TOMS is no longer a shoe company, it's a one-for-one company."
His One for One vision is succeeding because it’s all about giving. In his SXSW keynote, Mycoskie articulated three key factors in his brand-building strategy:
1) your customers become your marketers. TOMS doesn't advertise, using satisfied and engaged customers, and their tweets and posts, generate social buzz and positive word of mouth marketing. This leads to:
2) you’ll retain amazing employees. If employees work for a company that invests in and values giving, they will invest their time, energy and passion into the company. In turn comes:
3) you’ll also attract great partners. Mycoskie attributes the surge in TOMS success to partners, such as Ralph Lauren’s special line of TOMS shoes for his Rugby brand; Lauren’s first collaboration with an outside brand in 40 years.
AT&T has been integral as well, sponsoring a TOMS "shoe drop" and filming this:
The man whom Bill Clinton called “the most interesting entrepreneur I’ve ever met” has come a long way since losing The Amazing Race, journeying to Argentina, and being inspired by local volunteers who were running a local shoe drive.
As for the brand’s name, well, there is no “Tom.” Turns out its short for “Tomorrow’s Shoes” because it wouldn’t “fit,” as Mycoskie told his audience at SXSW. “There is no Tom. ‘Tomorrow’s shoes’ wouldn’t fit.”
As of June 7th, TOMS will be short for “Tomorrows” — which Mycoskie is bettering by spreading his philanthropic zeal in person, through charitable giving, and virtually, across digital.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.