Welcome Back, TOM’s

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about TOM’s #withoutshoes campaign. This massive display of bare feet from thousands of individuals helped send more than 250,000 pairs of shoes to children who can’t afford them around the world. Because TOM’s is a for-profit company, you might be wondering why they would launch a campaign where non-paying customers can simply use a hashtag and in turn have the company pay for yet another pair of shoes. Of course, the executives at TOM’s want to do good in the world, but “doing good” doesn’t necessarily make a business succeed. This campaign was more than just “doing good” though. There are many business goals that can be achieved through a campaign such as this. Because there is not a published Social Media Strategic Plan for this campaign, I am simply making assumptions here, but if I were Blake Mycoskie (TOM’s founder) and his marketing team, my top goal for this campaign would have been to increase customer interaction with the brand. Many studies have shown that when customers are involved with a business in more ways than just purchasing, they are more likely to have repeated purchases and in turn become long term customers. A study done in 2011 by Averi Ahsmann describes the problem that TOM’s was having with brand awareness and purchasing influence. Her research included a survey sent out to 95 18-24 year olds, a focus group consisting of college students who both were and were not customers at the time, and an observational study of an Urban Outfitters in Syracuse, NY that sold TOM’s shoes. The studies showed that although many people are aware of the brand, only about half of the participants actually made a purchase from the company or interacted with them in any kind of way. This also creates an opportunity for the company to create new promotional strategies to reach the other half of their target market. From here, more research is needed to find out how many people are interacting with the company already, whether that be through purchasing, social media or traditional media. From that information, TOM’s would have reevaluated their target audience- did their current communication strategies align with their current customers? They also learned what drives their audience to interact with the customers, which based on Ahsmann’s research, is the more charitable aspects of their company rather than the product itself. This information about their market also helped narrow down which platforms will best support their efforts because traditional media engages a different segment than social media, and even within social media, Instagram attracts a different group than Facebook. They then also conducted secondary research about what their competitors are doing to drive customer interaction. Eventually, TOM’s realized that they needed to move their efforts to the Internet and the social media sphere. After running the #withoutshoes campaign, follow up research showed an increase in interaction online, which if measured now, would also show an increase in sales because of the relationships the customers now feel that they have with the brand. Overall, even without published research about this campaign, I can see its success. Through sheer word of mouth, I have seen so many more of my peers reposition TOM’s in their minds. Now thought less as a footwear company, and more as a way to save the world, something I think every Millennial wants to do but doesn’t know how to, TOM’s is back in the forefront of people’s minds, which is exactly what the company needs to remain successful.


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