I remember when I first saw a pair of TOMS shoes — I wasn’t sure what they were. At first I thought the shoes were a westernized version of foot binding. Thank goodness I talked to a friend who then explained to me that the shoes were not bandages, but a canvas shoe.
I then learned the story behind the shoe and the company’s pledge to give a pair to an impoverished child with each purchase made. TOMS represents a type of marketing I call “movement marketing.”
The company represents a trend that many young people have jumped at and will continue to be successful the more evangelistic the supporters become.
The target market for this company is clearly high school and college students, as stated by CEO of TOMS and self-proclaimed “Head Giver,” Blake Mycoskie.
People want to become a part of something larger than themselves and TOMS provides an avenue through which they can join a growing, global movement.
All of this sounds good and even looks good, but there are some pitfalls that are easy to fall into. A common reason why people choose to buy the shoes is so they can give a pair of shoes to an impoverished child.
Based off of pictures and videos of the shoe delivery trips it is clear that the places TOMS distributes shoes are in areas with harsh climates.
I have to admit that any shoe is better than none, but is there be a better shoe that could be distributed for these impoverished individuals? Many of us have heard of Samaritan’s Purse, but a less known organization is Samaritan’s Feet.
This charity has claimed to have distributed millions of pairs of shoes and utilizes 70,000 workers for their organization.
The key difference between Samaritan’s Feet and TOMS is that TOMS is a profit centered business and not a charity. Many feel that since they bought a pair of TOMS shoes they have made a difference in the world and supplied a shoeless child with footwear.
While this is true, their impact could have been bigger. The cheapest pair of TOMS adult-sized shoes is $54. TOMS mostly gives shoes to children, who have smaller feet that require less material for a shoe, making these shoes cheaper than the adult-sized ones.
The market value on children’s shoes is $38, so TOMS is retaining at least $16 for each pair of shoes given away. Charities such as Samaritan’s Feet receive donations from major companies and wholesale discounts when purchasing shoes, so each dollar given goes much farther.
However, I feel that the biggest issue of all is that TOMS teaches the wrong message about giving. When one tithes, the gift is given without the expectation of receiving anything in return — it is a sacrifice.
TOMS’ marketing ploy has the potential to train people to expect something in return for their gifts, which is not how sacrificial love works. We must be careful in what we give and who we give it to so that our sacrifice can be utilized wisely and effectively.