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How Tom’s Shoes Mastered Purpose Driven Marketing

  • 11 December 2017
  • Expert Insights

91% of millennials today prefer to buy from companies associated with a social cause. 72% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t.

To remain relevant in the minds of modern consumers, brands as diverse as Dove and Dennys have begun highlighting their social commitments through purpose-driven marketing. But few companies have employed this strategy as effectively as TOMS.

Improving Lives – TOMS

From “One for One” to $625,000,000

TOMS was one of the first major brands to integrate social impact directly into its business model. Through its “One for One” program, TOMS provides one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that is purchased by a customer. To date, 75 million pairs of shoes have been donated and the company was most recently valued at $625 million.

But from a marketer’s perspective, the brilliance of TOMS lies not in the fact that it effectively integrates profit and social impact. What makes TOMS unique is that, from the very beginning, it focused nearly all of its marketing efforts on its social purpose. “One for One” isn’t just a business model. It’s a slogan displayed front-and-center on TOMS’ website and on many of its marketing materials.

As a result, it is impossible to think about TOMS without thinking about the company’s commitment to social impact. The product and the purpose are one in the minds of consumers. This is purpose-driven marketing at its finest.

In 2014, TOMS Chief Digital Officer Zita Cassizzi spoke at Association of National Advertisers Digital and Social Media Conference. She shared five points that have formed the basis for TOMS’ purpose-driven marketing strategy. We summarize those five points below.

TOMS’ 5 Keys to Successful Purpose Driven Marketing

1. Connect with Your Community

Because TOMS is a movement-based business, it must invest in building community by understanding and engaging with its customers. “Community takes on a special meaning,” said Cassizzi, “Who are these guys? They’re our customers; they’re our potential future customers.”

Cassizzi and her team invested a lot of time and resources into developing an accurate understanding of their customer’s behaviors. “90% of these guys do not get out of bed in the morning without checking their social status or emails,” Cassizzi explained, “They're leading this omni-channel and omni-connected world. They're 82 million strong, between 18-to-24, and we know them well.”

This deep understanding of their customers’ habits and priorities has allowed the team to craft effective engagement strategies centered on the brand’s social purpose. At the core of their strategy is the idea of being “Mocial.” Cassizzi explained: “We want to be social in our mobile, and mobile in the way we socially connect … and we do it early and do it fast.”

2. Deliver Content, Products, and Services

When developing content, the team asks two questions repeatedly: “Is it relevant at that instant of connection?”, and, “How is the content valuable?”

Cassizzi explained that “content must bring that intrinsic value – not only a monetary value of discounts and coupons… So, when a customer purchases an item, we try to focus on the opportunity for them – that they really are changing the world.” In this way, TOMS makes its customers feel like active participants in the company’s social mission.

What your purchase supports – TOMS

3. Customers for Life

In order to remain relevant to its customers, TOMS has adapted its social purpose over the years to reflect the changing social priorities of its customers. “For us to keep that… relationship for life,” Cassizzi said, “we need to know what point of the circle of life are they [at].”

Since its founding 11 years ago, TOMS has expanded both its product catalog and its social impact commitment. Buy a pair of TOMS sunglasses, and the company provides an eye exam and vision treatment to an individual in a developing country. Buy a bag of TOMS coffee, and the company gives a week’s supply of clean water. By diversifying its product line and its social commitments, TOMS remains relevant to its customers even when they aren’t looking to buy new shoes.

What we give – TOMS

4. Continue the Conversation for Life

To ensure that the TOMS brand grows and develops in alignment with the priorities of its customers, Cassizzi said that it’s important to keep “listening and adapting and changing the conversation.”

One of the ways that TOMS accomplishes this is by incentivizing its customer-service agents to spend more time on the phone with customers. “We want them to talk longer with the customer because that's our opportunity to tell them the story, to explain to them why their purchase and their interaction matters to us,” Cassizzi explained.

5. Create a Culture of Innovation

“The culture of innovation is no longer a nice to have,” said Cassizzi, “It's just crucial for us to serve millennials and to be a leader in the digital age.”

To encourage innovation internally, the team has adopted a method that they call “TTF” – Try, test, and fast. This action-biased mentality has been crucial as TOMS has experimented with new products and services.

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