Thursday, 25 November 2010


Founded by Blake Mycoskie, Toms stands for a better ‘tomorrow’, a tomorrow I want to be a part of.

Travelling through Argentina and South Africa, Blake Mycoskie stumbled across a community which he found suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating foot and leg disease. The majority of the community are too poor to afford shoes. This disease enters the body when bare skin comes into contact with the earth. As such, a lack of shoes is perpetuating the spread of the disease and thereby greatly decreasing the possibility of any children getting any education at all which is an education the Western world so readily accepts as a right of passage.

Shocked at such poverty and the implications that this simply lack of shoes has for the community’s future, Mycoskie proposed a charitable idea with the potential to eventually provide an entire Third World community with shoes, and in turn eradicate the disease and ensure the possibility for education. However, all too aware of the instability associated with charity, a reputation caused by the unreliable charitable nature of the West, Mycoskie cleverly consulted the commercial world on his journey to making a difference.

Toms is one of the few brands that has successfully addressed the ‘other’, which in a modern world obsessed with the self-satisfaction of all things charitable, is a shameful surprise. Fuelled by the Western world’s preoccupation with socially responsible consumption, Mycoskie has implemented a charitable business solution, with the guarantee of a continuous return. As the majority of claimed charitable brands essentially fail to achieve a relationship with the ‘other’ which penetrates through the material world, Toms are the proud owners of the sought after recipe for bona fide charitable business success.

So what is this golden business strategy that essentially implements the impossible? Soon to be sought after by the commercial world, the sustainable strategy, one-for-one, provides a revolutionary platform for Mycoskie’s valuable vision. When the consumer purchases a pair of Toms shoes, Toms pledges to donate an identical pair of espadrilles to a child without in the Third World; the result being a successful shoe brand and an equally salient, sustainable charity. Through such a vivid, yet effective, business procedure, a solid relationship between the brand and the consumer market is formed. Taking full advantage of the socially responsible movement of the moment, whilst effectively mediating between charity and brand, Toms' priorities to their cause withstand the overbearing consumer desires of the West.

A sacred element to Mycoskie’s model of business and charitable success is the donation, made with every purchase. Importantly viewed as a direct donation from the consumer, we are empowered by a sense of connection, hence becoming part and parcel of the charity’s challenge to heal the lives of the less fortunate ‘other’. We become a crucial player in the West’s commitment to the Third World. Such engendering of deep commitment is stimulated by quirky marketing gestures. Receiving a flag when purchasing a pair of espadrilles, a community of protesters are born, goaded to wave the Toms flag with pride and in protest to consumption, a consumption that comparatively becomes banal.

With such powerful marketing tools, Toms is one of the few brands which gets away with a total disregard for advertising. As advertising plays a quintessential role with the major players in the shoe shop, such as the global giants, Nike and Adidas, Toms prove that nothing is impossible. Toms relies on targeting consumers through social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Addressing their desire to create maximum circulation of their initiative, the charity targets the active, savvy and socially aware. Furthermore, it strides ahead of the social media curve, instilling a variety of viral marketing stunts, throwing their products and services into the cultural lifeblood of relevant subcultures. Toms engages with such subcultures, propelling a sense of global community into the lifestyles of their consumers. Such stunts include encouraging the West to spend ‘One Day Without Shoes’, giving Toms consumers the opportunity to physically relate to the distant ‘other’, invited to step into their shoes, or lack thereof.

With the creation of a physical relationship, Toms provokes a vivid sense of connection with the West and the rest, arguably illustrating the charitable brand’s ability to not simply create the impression of global connectivity but, furthermore, to create a positive impact towards the reality of a globally connected world.

Rose Brownlow

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