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.