Most girls will admit they have a weakness for shoes. I, however, am not one of these girls. I’d rather shop at Payless and I avoid wearing heels at all cost. But then I learned about TOMS and everything changed. Not only are TOMS Shoes adorable and comfortable, their business model is “one for one” – meaning for every pair of shoes I buy, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in a third world country. What’s better than buying a great product with the knowledge that you are helping out a needy kid?
Over the past few years, the company has developed a cult-like following thanks to grassroots marketing and strong word-of-mouth recommendations from people like me. Whether or not you have a closet full of TOMS shoes, I recommend taking a look at its latest social media campaign, which true fans will appreciate.
As part of its ongoing online presence, the company features a community photo wall on its corporate website where consumers can upload pictures of their favorite moments wearing the shoes. Now that warm weather is upon us, the marketing folks at TOMS noticed a trend in recent posts they now call “TOMS tans,” which result after spending too much time in the sun while wearing the very distinctly shaped shoes.
To capitalize off of this trend, TOMS launched a call for “TOMS tans” photos and stories, which will be “judged based on general awesomeness of the picture and how other TOMS fans rate your photo.” Winners will receive a $75 gift card (which will buy four pairs of shoes – two for the winner and two for kids in need!). Through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube engagement, the program has resulted in hundreds of contributed posts and online mentions.
What I appreciate most about this campaign is not the fact that the company is expanding its brand awareness – although that is an added bonus. Rather, it is the fact that this trend originated from the true brand loyalists, which is why it has resonated with this niche online audience. I counsel clients to embrace the “open source mentality,” meaning you need to relinquish control of the online discussion and embrace that topics, trends and issues that matter most to your core audience. In this case, TOMS provides an excellent case study in supporting organic discussion online.