Hodgson Legal

TOMS “One for One”-Copy that, Copycats?


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Cheryl & Kyle discuss TOMS “One for One”

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TOMS has extended its brand, and its brand voice, and taking its social conscious nature with it. TOMS has extended its brand reach from shoes to coffee with the launch of TOMS Roasting Company.  Along for the ride, its One for One brand driver.  Buy a bag of coffee, and TOMS will give one week of clean water to a person in need.

From shoes to coffee?  From a brand extension perspective, it’s a logical step. TOMS staff travels the world gifting shoes to the kids in need.  Why not so bring back some Guatemala or Rwanda coffees as another way of supporting both the local coffee growers, and helping provide clean water to those without.   The shoes are nice and comfy but they don’t last forever and loyal customers are replacing them fairly often at a Whole Foods near you.  Now you can buy a pair of shoes, and a bag of coffee a couple of aisles over.  A real consumable such as coffee, for loyal customers with the social conscience mind set makes sense.

There’s a lesson here beyond the One for One platform that sets TOMS apart.  TOMS gets branding.  TOMS foray into the world of java is a great example of how brand extension should work.  TOMS Roasting brings along the original brand values and voice, and instantly sets its coffee apart from all the others.

TOMS is our hometown brand based in Santa Monica and Venice.  We love the revolution TOMS began with its One for One campaign for shoes.  TOMS social consciousness has spawned a number of copycats (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery).  In this case, the more the merrier since the “give” is tangible and transformative.

Check out my chat with brand innovation whiz Kyle Hermans.  We got together at yogitoes, another local socially conscious brand, where we discussed TOMS. The TOMS business model is indeed the subject of copycats, albeit well intentioned ones.  First there was Warby Parker glasses.  The latest copy cat?  Buy a luxury condo and build a $2500 house in Cambodia.  Fast Company

Whether its shoes, eyeglasses, water or a home in Cambodia, copy that!


[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”brandaide” suffix=””] TOMS Roasting, From shoes to java. Copy that, copycats #branding @brandaide [/inlinetweet]
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”brandaide” suffix=””]TOMS extends its brand. One for One moves from. feet to coffee #consciousness @brandaide [/inlinetweet]
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”brandaide” suffix=””] TOMS Roasting: My coffee gives H20 to a fellow human. Copy that #starbucks @brandaide[/inlinetweet]


Contributors Kyle Hermans and Cheryl Hodgson discuss TOMS Shoes, with its famous Buy One Give One program that captures the social conscience of the customers who wear its shoes. (Transcript provided.)

CH: We’re discussing whether or not brands should stand for something bigger than themselves, whether it’s social responsibility or having a vision beyond what their main product is and we were discussing TOMS Shoes as a great example of that. TOMS shoes and eyeglasses, which is actually founded and based right here in Santa Monica where we are.

KH: Yes, some interesting lessons are (if you take TOMS Shoes as this example) they chose to stand for something more than just shoes. They chose to stand for helping those that could not help themselves.

CH: And they have a brand driver called One for One, correct?

KH: Correct.

CH: …which means for each pair of shoes or eyeglasses that are bought through TOMS Shoes, they donate or give another pair to a child (primarily) in Guatemala, Latin-America, Africa, who might not otherwise have eyeglasses. And they’ve done this through community, haven’t they?

KH: Yes they sure have. And this is a great example for other brands. If you want to be one of those brands to take ownership and ask yourself that question: if I was going to stand for something bigger than just the thing that I’m producing, what would that be? I believe that in this day and age (or right now), that is a critical thing that a brand can really take on for themselves to differentiate themselves as they move forward. If you were going to stand for something bigger, if you were going to apply a service like a one-for-one, what would that be for you? Because here, what that starts to do, is it amasses community. It starts to, well, get more press but at the other side of it as economies and new markets are growing, if you are really helping to stimulate those and actually create growth in those and create awareness in those, you are helping build those communities. You are starting to help build trade, you are bringing different businesses together to make that vision happen. And it goes far beyond just the single product that the consumer ends up with. Sure, it’s answering a huge necessity and need for them but if you stand for something bigger, it’s going to take your brand to a much bigger space, I believe, and access you to a much bigger community.

What was really interesting is companies that are looking to launch or provide, if they are tapping to actually distribute sales to those types of places. We worked with a shoe-polish company Sara Lee (Kiwi shoe polish) and one of the insights that we got there was that it just took 2 cents: the Africans weren’t caring about necessarily a whole new pair of shoes, where they were spending their money was just on their insoles because if they had a good solid pair of shoes they would actually wear their insoles down before the shoes disappeared. So just by having insoles that almost acted like shoes they were able to use their shoes a lot longer. So for them, their mindset was, you know, what can I get for 2 cents? For us, we don’t even think in that way, most companies don’t even think about manufacturing in that way. So one of the interesting needs there, or one of the interesting needs especially  in third world countries is this idea that – especially from first world [countries] – the needs that they have versus ours are far different. The idea of just “I need a pair of shoes”: TOMS has hit that, it really has hit that. And then there are others such as “Well what do we wear shoes for?”  For most of us, TOMS is now a statement accessory.

CH: Absolutely.

KH: For a country, for somebody in Africa, that is something that will actually…

CH: …it’s an essential there, it’s an essential: for us it’s a statement accessory…

KH: …it’s like air and water and food.

CH: That’s great. There’s another aspect of TOMS I’d like to touch on briefly because I’m really amazed at the network of affiliates or companies and partners around the globe that they’ve been able to enlist to help them actually distribute the shoes and the eyeglasses. So it actually speaks to another aspect of what the brand’s broader message/bigger purpose is: it’s not just the actual free shoes, it’s the ability to work in community with global networks of other people, to reach who they’re trying to serve.

KH: That’s another example of standing for something bigger than just your product. If you think about it, they are accessing “doing good”, they are providing a necessity to people that need something that they don’t have, and at the same time, they’re actually unifying a community around an entire thought process. The one-for-one, and what that actually means to be able to get that, there’s a lot of service in that, there’s a lot of charity in that: but I do believe that if you stand for something greater, you will amass that much more support. So I think for them just because of the swell of consumer support around the purchasing of those shoes, that actually allows that one-for-one and that allows what they’re trying to do, the bigger picture – what the bigger things that they’re standing for – that actually sort of amasses to help support that vision. Really the consumer and the shoes just becomes a vehicle for the much bigger purpose here, which is I guess to help people that don’t have the necessities to get what they really need.

CH: Standing for something bigger is an interesting theme, and I think we may explore that in the future, in some future conversations for other brands, because standing for something bigger doesn’t necessarily mean social consciousness. So we’ll see what that something bigger is. Thanks, Kyle.

By Cheryl L.Hodgson

[Originally published: February 5, 2012]

[Updated: March 15, 2014 – TOMS “One for One”-Copy that, Copycats]