TOMS Marketplace – Shopping with a Cause

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TOMS is a familiar brand to many college students. Since the company’s founding in 2006 through its one-for-one program, it has donated more than 10,000,000 pairs of shoes to those in need! In 2011, the company expanded its mission and introduced an additional product line of sunglasses where the sales contribute to eye care, prescription glasses, and medical treatment around the world. And now, just in time for Christmas shopping, TOMS has launched another socially-conscious retail program – called TOMS Marketplace – selling 200 products from 30 different companies.

The products range from $5 to $500 and all products are obtained wholesale by TOMS from the social startups that manufacture them in communities around the globe. The marketplace is a little different from other TOMS offerings – it is focused on emerging companies, products, causes, and the idea that business has a responsibility to improve lives of those in need. Some of the featured products provide jobs and economic opportunities to people who might otherwise not be employed; other products use proceeds to support education, fight hunger, or improve lives.

The main premise of TOMS and its new Marketplace is the company’s belief that everyday purchases can positively impact lives and create sustained change. Customers can choose to shop by product, brand, cause, or region. This puts dollars to work directly in the areas that matter most to the shoppers.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students. How many have heard of TOMS or purchased TOMS shoes?
  2. Of those who have purchased from TOMS, ask why they did so.
  3. Show the video and Web site: http://www.toms.com/marketplace
  4. Have students review the site. What are the main messages, products, and target market?
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team create a marketing campaign for TOMS Marketplace.
  6. Another task for students: take the TOMS business model and adapt it for other companies. What companies could use this? Why? How?

Source:  New York Times, Brandchannel.com, 11/5/13

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