Purpose At Work: Lessons From TOMS On How To Lead With Purpose
Brands that build a reputation around social impact foster lasting impressions among today’s conscious consumers.
Rather than simply looking for products that meet their needs, consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact companies have on social and environmental systems. Studies show that companies that promote purposeful initiatives carve out a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.
Vancouver, Canada — Close-up of a new pair of Toms Shoes on a white background. Toms Shoes were founded in 2006 on the foundation that with every pair of shoes sold, a pair will be donated to someone in need.GETTY
TOMS is an excellent example of a brand that’s built a reputation around doing good. The company is well known for its One for One model, which mandates it give a pair of shoes away to someone in need for every pair sold.
TOMS’s purpose-driven business plan has led the brand to critical acclaim and financial success, selling over 86 million pairs of shoes as of 2018.
Founder Blake Mycoskie is building on TOMS’s purposeful foundation and expanding the brand’s impact focus areas, which have primarily been concentrated on poverty alleviation thus far.
After the November 7, 2018 Thousand Oaks shooting, Blake’s wife, Heather Lang, didn’t feel comfortable taking their son to school.
The continuing national atrocities hit close to home for the Mycoskies, and Blake decided it was time to do something about it.
To address gun safety, Mycoskie has pledged $5 million to nonprofits working to support universal background checks and other gun safety measures.
What’s more, TOMS is using owned media resources like its website, social media networks and connections to promote gun safety.
TOMS’s purpose-driven actions provide valuable lessons for brands looking to build a reputation as social impact leaders.
Here are key lessons from TOMS on how to lead with purpose:
- Join cultural conversations:
Brands that tap into cultural issues in an authentic fashion connect with consumers in more meaningful ways.
As of December, there have been over 330 mass shootings in the United States in 2018.
What’s more, momentum to address gun violence is building with support from the Parkland shooting survivors as well as companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and other companies committing to end the sale of assault rifles in their stores.
In other words, gun violence has caused too many tragedies and the population is dedicated to finding a solution.
By taking a stand for gun safety, TOMS is joining a conversation that’s impacting families and communities across the nation.
By addressing something bigger than its brand or industry, TOMS is able to expand media storytelling and connect with consumers around things that matter.
What’s more, TOMS has gained earned media and the attention of millions of Americans with coverage such as Mycoskie’s interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon as well as stories in outlets like Rolling Stone, Huffington Post and more.
The lesson here is that leveraging your brand to contribute to conversations affecting society is an excellent way to gain earned media and foster meaningful connections with stakeholders.
- Leverage owned media:
An excellent way to spread the word about causes your brand supports is to use owned media channels. This means posting purposeful content on social media and other branded outlets.
Since Mycoskie’s commitment, TOMS has been posting content about gun safety on Instagram with over 900 thousand followers, as well as other social networks.
The brand is also using its website to promote collective actions against gun violence.
- Invite consumers to scale impact:
Consumers want to feel like they’re actively contributing to causes they believe in. Brands that connect consumers with ways they can help build a better world foster memorable ties that go beyond product sales.
TOMS is actively inviting consumers to take part in the fight to end gun violence. As part of an activation strategy, the shoemaker is using its website as a hub for people to send letters to their congressmen in support of universal background checks. To date, consumers have sent over 680,000 letters to politicians via TOMS.com.
By making it easy for consumers to take action, TOMS has positioned itself as a leader in the movement to end gun violence. What’s more, the company has given consumers a purposeful reason to visit their website, which increases traffic and sales.
Ultimately, by connecting consumers with issues they are passionate about, you can foster emotional connections with your customers, gain word-of-mouth advertising and increase interest in your brand and mission.
- Make partnerships:
Partnerships are crucial to scaling impact, media reach and profits. It’s important to tap into your network to not only expand your business, but also promote your social impact initiatives. And essentially, promoting purpose-driven work is also good marketing because people learn more about both your brand and what you stand for.
TOMS is doing a great job making partnerships to address gun violence. The company has joined nonprofits such as Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and March For our Lives to amplify the message for gun safety. What’s more, TOMS commissioned artists to create branded murals to raise awareness about the issue.
TOMS also tapped into its network to get influencers like Tyler Hubbard, a member of the country music band Florida Georgia Line, to post about TOMS’s stance on social media. Hubbard also signed the letter on TOMS’s website and personally encouraged other country stars to do the same.
It’s crucial to partner with other organizations and individuals dedicated to the same cause as you. Not only do partnerships help effectively tackle impact initiatives, they can also scale organic reach of branded content.
The takeaway here is that brands that lead with purpose are able to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. As TOMS demonstrates, purpose-driven companies are able to connect with consumers around issues that matter, sparking consumer advocacy, loyalty and purchases. By using your brand to actively work toward a social mission, you can create new partnerships, gain earned media and scale your impact as well as your bottom line.