Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This isn't Cinderella's slipper.

What would you do when faced with this scenario?
  1. There are millions of people who wear shoes.
  2. There are millions of people who want to make a difference in the world (a growing trend).
  3. There are millions of people who need shoes.
Sell shoes? Buy stocks in shoes? Probably not. Maybe you would support a cuase that gave people shoes. But sell them? The industry is dominated by the big players right? Plus, there are an endless lineup of stores and online retailers where shoes are the order of the day - like the Long Tail superstar Zappos that carries 1,196 Brands and over 3 million products.

So why shoes? There's no point.

Unless...you look at the situation differently. Unless...you have the experience and insight that tells you otherwise. Your response would be different. When you can look at business differently - not by how others do business, but by why people connect to a product - you can deliver a different result.

The result in this case: TOMS Shoes.

After traveling to Argentina, Blake Mykoskie noted that the large population of people living in poverty tended to have two types of footwear. Traditional footwear called alpargatas, or nothing at all. The latter was even more prevalent among children. Upon his return to the U.S. Blake thought the low cost alpargatas may have appeal to a wider audience, as was seen with the soaring popularity of other traditional simply styled footwear.

But remodeling the alpargatas was never really the point. Blake regonized that millions of people, like those in Argentina, needed shoes. He also knew that the internet has been a driving force behind the rise of social responsibility and that connecting to people who want to make a difference has never been easier. Finally, Blake recognized that when it comes to any brand, the story sells the product. Connect all these factors together and the spark has been lit for a phenomonon.

For every pair of TOMS shoes that are purchased, TOMS sends a pair to Argentina or Africa. In two years TOMS has gone from a shoe company with a story, to a brand leading a movement around the globe. To date TOMS has delivered over 200,000 shoes to children in Argentina, Africa, and other countries in need. The story of the shoes has been written dozens of times (here and here are great examples) and the community of loyal and excited TOMS fans tell the story for their brand.

When you purchase a TOMS shoe you help another human being. It's an easy concept. It's genuine. And it's just another example of how world of consumer connection is changing business.