TOMS: A Case Study in Profitable Cause Marketing


A while ago I had written a plea via this blog to Stop Killing Cause Marketing. The problem was the clash and unintended consequences that consumers had when businesses applied their marketing efforts to profitable ventures while utilizing non-profits or charities to spread the word. Opponents of cause marketing believe that businesses are abusing the charity… and should just give any funding out of the goodness of their heart. My problem with that is sometimes the money is not there to give… but is often available if it’s an investment.

One for One

If you’ve not heard of TOMS, you’ll be amazed at what this for-profit enterprise has accomplished in the world. Since 2006, TOMS has put 10 million pairs shoes on children’s feet in over 60 countries. And since 2011, TOMS has restored the sight of over 150,000 through purchases of TOMS Eyewear. By the end of 2014, more than 35 states here in the US will receive over 1,000,000 pairs of new shoes and sight is being restored in 3 states already.

TOMS gives away 3 types of shoes:

  • Canvas Unisex Slip-Ons – a great all-purpose style (similar to the ones customers buy every day); kids can choose from a variety of colors
  • Sports Shoes – constructed for physical activity; supplements our Giving Partners’ programs targeting childhood obesity
  • Winter Boots – Fleece-lined, waterproof, adjustable fit; built to withstand cold climates.

TOMS community has helped turn a simple idea into a powerful reality. Groups like TOMS Campus Programs gets college students all over the United States involved with events that educate others on conscious consumerism and social entrepreneurism. Our internship program has let other young people become a valuable part of our story.

Their movement is made up of many parts, including One Day Without Shoes and World Sight Day our annual days to raise awareness for the global issues of poverty and avoidable blindness and visual impairment. Ticket to Give gives you an opportunity to join them on a Giving Trip and distribute TOMS Shoes to children in the field. And if you’re looking for other ways to get involved, their Community Team has lots of ideas.

This is the poster child for Cause Marketing. By remaining profitable, TOMS has not just had the opportunity to help, they’ve also expanded their operation. Profitable cause marketing has kept them sustainable.