What you can learn from a brand called TOMS
I read a lot and sometimes I read business books. The ones that I most enjoy just tell me the story of what they did and why. I just finished one that fits that bill from TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie called “Start Something that Matters.”
Full disclosure here, TOMS Shoes is one of my favourite brands at the moment and there are many reasons for that, but today I want to share five – each one has a good takeaway for your own organisation.
But before I get to the list there is one point to make. TOMS Shoes is a social business, in other words they are for profit but have also built into the business model a way to give back to society. In this case for every pair of shoes they sell they give a pair of shoes to a child who doesn’t have any. It’s a great idea and an admirable one, but while it is a reason to love TOMS, it’s not the main reason I love them.
The number one reason I love TOMS is the way they show all along the line, how I am helping them keep their promises. For example, when I purchase a pair of TOMS online, throughout the process they remind me that my purchase can help put a pair of shoes on a child in need, right up to and including once I’ve completed my purchase when the message thanks me for doing it.
They also take customers with them on shoe drop trips each year so they can have a first-hand experience of giving a pair of shoes to a child in need.
You may not have a social message, but there is nothing stopping any company from showing the customer why and how their purchase is important, saying thank you and meaning it.
The number two reason I love TOMS is because they are ridiculously comfortable shoes with cool details (such as unexpected patterns on the lining) that you will want to tell your friends about. All the social purpose in world wouldn’t matter if they were ugly and uncomfortable.
Take some time and give the design of your products and services the care and attention they deserve – what detail could you add or enhance to make it a bit unique and worth talking about. It might not be the product, it might be the packaging, or the way it’s sold. The possibilities are myriad.
Which leads to...
The third reason I love TOMS is because they are not just a product, they are a story. I’ve lost count of the number of people who I’ve told about TOMS and what they do in response to the comment “cool shoes”.
When the story is built in, the product or service markets itself. We all know word-of-mouth is the very best advertising, but not many organisations look at ways to build a story that people will want to tell. It’s worth thinking about because when you do, they will.
The fourth reason I love TOMS is because they keep it simple. From their business model to their product, it’s a simple idea, incredibly well executed.
I see too many organisations add layers and complexity without stopping to consider the ramifications down the line and then find themselves unable to get out from under it and with a confused brand that no one understands.
Simple doesn’t mean have to be boring and it isn’t easy or lazy. It takes enormous focus and discipline to connect a simple clear purpose to the product to the outcome. TOMS aren’t for everyone, but the simplicity makes it easy to figure out if they are for you.
The fifth reason I love TOMS is because they don’t have regular business titles. Blake is Chief Shoe Giver, others in the company are Shoe Dog, Director of Giving, Shoe Dude, Shoe-per-woman. It’s a talking point but also means that people who deal with company have to show everyone equal respect – after all with crazy titles like that you never know who you are dealing with!
This is much more than “dotcom” style nonsense that can’t work in a “regular” company. It is a frontline demonstration of respect for the people in the company who frame their own titles and in doing so stake their claim of ownership and contribution. And I can say from personal experience that it does indeed force people outside to deal honestly with the person in front of them. It can also be a talking point and that’s never a bad thing.
The list could easily run to 10, but better you check TOMS out and grab a copy of Blake’s book. I guarantee no matter what your organisation does you will take away at least one great idea that you can apply to help you build a better brand.
See you next week.
Michel Hogan is an independent Brand adviser and advocate. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia and in the United States she helps organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make, with a strong sustainable brand as the result. She also publishes the Brand thought leadership blog - Brand Alignment. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.