TOMS Shoes: Love Child of Brand & Cause

toms-shoes-blake-w-kidsA collaborative study of “charity as fashion” and its role in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Over the last seven years, TOMS Shoes has gone from a small, cause-based startup company to a global corporation that has given away over 1,000,000 shoes —and made millions of dollars in the process. Their “One for One” business model — in which a pair of shoes is given to a child in need for every pair a consumer purchases — has set the company apart in the fashion industry, the business world and the charity sphere.

This in-depth case study explored and explained TOMS’ success and differentiation in the market. Our hypothesis — that TOMS is not just selling shoes; they are selling charity as fashion — was proven over the course of several weeks as we conducted an extensive lit review, surveys and participatory workshops. Facets of our research included: the philanthropical motives of both giver and recipient, how charitable motives are influenced by internal and environmental factors, how TOMS facilitates and overcomes skepticism toward charitable giving, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the needs being met by purchasing TOMS, the ethical implications of the TOMS business model to society and the effect of this business model on new charitable organizations.

Full PDF available on request.