The TOMS Mentality

Here it is—my first blog post that is going to make people mad.

Last week I mentioned that 20somethings like the idea of making a difference, but often don’t care enough to be personally involved. In other words, we like to identify ourselves with movements that are making a difference. The best example I can think of is TOMS shoes.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past five years, TOMS is a company that sends a pair of shoes to a child in need every time they sell a pair. I think this is a tremendous idea and, according to their website, TOMS gave away their one-millionth pair of shoes this past September. Since 2006, they have given in over 20 countries and continue to put forth great effort to make sure that children receive the correct size and style that is necessary for their environment.

Get ready, I’m about to question your motives.

The average pair of TOMS costs $54 and you buy them with the thought that you are helping someone else. But did you know that a $10 donation to CommonThreadz or a $7 donation to Shoe4Africa will send a needy child a pair of shoes? Soles4Souls focuses on locations devastated by natural disaster and claims they deliver a pair of shoes to someone in need for every dollar they receive. So why do you buy TOMS when it appears your money could go farther with other organizations? Surely you could buy your own shoes for cheaper than $34 and make a $20 donation to one of these three groups and help even more. Are you just wearing the shoes because it’s trendy?

I think the answer is really simple- we want to be identified with a group that’s making a difference. You see, we were brought up in the world of mass-advertizing. We understand the value of brand recognition and think that identifying ourselves with something positive will help our image while spreading their message. To me, it seems that wearing TOMS is nothing more than peer-pressure directed in a positive way.

When I really think about it, I don’t have a problem with that mentality. Although your dollars could go farther, I don’t see your donations to CommonThreadz or Soles4Souls. I’m not reminded to think of those who need help when you click “Donate” on their website because it is done privately. I do, however, notice your distinct TOMS shoes when you walk into the room and I immediately know that you are a part of a movement that is helping others. We need more positive peer pressure; we need more trends that remind us to do right; and we need to recognize how the quirks of our generation can be used to do a lot of good.

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About Jeff Postlewaite

high school principal since '07, father since '04, teacher since '03, husband since '03, sound tech since '96, UVA fan since '92, gadget junkie since '89, Christian since '88, Giants fan since '84, golfer since '83, brother since '83, human since '81

Posted on June 29, 2011, in Society in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think you hit the bulls-eye. I said something very similar a couple months ago and took some heat. Enjoy the backlash and Jesus Jukes!

  2. I get what you’re saying. It is true that our money could go further if we just donated all of it to a different organization. Certainly the sole reason people buy TOMS isn’t to help kids in other countries, but to be identified as one who does. I have owned two pair of TOMS, but only wear them now to take out the trash in–they’re really cheap and fall apart quickly.

    One thing to be said in favor of the TOMS mentality is that when you buy a pair of TOMS, you not only donate a pair, but as you wear the pair you bought, the marketing that happens will influence many more to do the same. This effect just doesn’t happen with the other organizations you mentioned. Does the branding from people wearing the shoes then influence more people to donate shoes to kids if that branding hadn’t taken place? Just something to consider.

    Also, people are going to buy shoes whether or not a pair is donated when they buy. Why not buy a pair that will help someone else in the process? The pros outweigh the cons IMO on this issue.

  3. David, Thanks for the warning.
    Jacob, I definitely think the “free” marketing is a huge upside to the TOMS mentality. The whole “you have to buy shoes anyway” doesn’t make sense to me because of the high cost of their rather limited shoes.

  4. Thanks for the knowledge. praying for you. you seem to always say the right thing at the right time.

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