TOMS Shoes is a brand built on the power of storytelling. At every point, one is reminded of the simple message that underpins the company's ideology: For every pair of TOMS Shoes you purchase, a pair is donated to someone in need. It is captured in the tagline "One for One" and told and retold throughout their marketing communications and even by their customers themselves. The following short presentation demonstrates this...
Blake Mycoskie is the founder of Tom's Shoes, a fact quickly learned, and oft told by the company on their website and in virtually all other commercial messages. A significant part of the Tom's Story is wrapped up in this founder story, or what Smith and Wintrob (2013) might call a heritage story. As the company website articulates:
"TOMS humble beginnings happened unintentionally. While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Blake witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. His solution to the problem was simple, yet revolutionary: to create a for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations. Blake’s vision soon turned into the simple business idea that provided the powerful foundation for TOMS"
The story goes on and we learn of his many accolades for his pioneering socially-responsible business acumen, a narrative enhanced by tales of his work with Bill Gates, the Clinton Global Initiative, and other socially responsible bodies, to details about his self-authored book designed to help spread his words of good hope.
The power of storytelling is central to what the brand seeks to be, and what the brand seeks to achieve, both through it's own actions and those that it can inspire in others. It as much social movement as it is business, a fact reflected in the TOMS STORIES Blog, a series of stories told to espouse the brand and founder's vision (Smith and Wintrob 2013) for a more fair and just world.
TOMS' strikingly coherent and consistent commercial message is further communicated across different media platforms, as this slideshow shows.
Although only seven years old, for most of that time TOMS' has been hailed as a business success, and seen as much as a charity as it is a commercial enterprise. As of Spring 2013 they had given away over 10m pairs of shoes, and expect that to rise to 20m before summer 2015.
Their story has resonated with customers and they actively encourage their consumers to share stories of their own, integrating TOMS into their own lifestyles as they do. Variously described as "guilt-free consumption," a form of "consumer philanthropy (or "philanthropic capitalism")," or "giving through fashion," TOMS' signals something very particular for consumers. This is a point I will discuss further in class...