Toms modernizes brand, introduces new charity model to appeal to Gen Z
After 15 years in business, Toms Shoes is ready for a makeover. And it’s starting with the charity giving program it helped pioneer. The Los Angeles-based company is abandoning its one-for-one model, which donated a pair of shoes for every pair bought, in favor of a commitment of at least one-third of annual net profits to grassroots organizations. The shift is meant to help modernize the aging brand to keep up with younger, more social cause-focused consumers, executives say.
“We are giving the same total amount but in a different way, in a more flexible way, so we can be more responsive to the issues that the world is facing today,” says Amy Smith, chief strategy and impact officer. “We felt it was time for Toms to evolve and innovate and think about how we might do something a little different going forward by addressing some of the issues in our own backyard and some of the issues that are most meaningful to our consumers.”
Those issues include promoting mental health, increasing access to opportunity, ending gun violence and increasing equity for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+ and women. Toms will give to organizations focused on such initiatives. The company, which began testing its new charity model last year while still pursuing a one-for-one model, researched its current customers to find out which issues mattered most to them.
“We’re trying to attract a younger millennial, Gen Z consumer,” says Smith. Indeed, multiple studies have found that younger consumers are more likely to buy from purpose-driven brands that support social causes.
As part of the changes, Toms is also rebranding its website and logo, and adding some new footwear styles. During the pandemic, the company saw e-commerce revenue grow from 50% of total sales to 75%, according to Chief Marketing Officer Ian Stewart, who joined the brand last year.
“We wanted to connect with a younger demographic—that was the impetus for the refresh,” he says. “It was all about our aging consumer and how to reposition to that younger audience.”
The refresh includes more color on the website and diagonal lines on the Toms logo. Toms worked with Red Antler on the new marketing, which will be promoted via email and paid social channels. The company is spending millions on the push, Stewart says, which includes digital media on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok and a heavy influencer program with those who align with Toms’ brand values.
“If we want to be Gen Z-relevant, it’s about having a good set of social values,” says Stewart.
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