Take a Virtual Reality Trip With TOMS Shoes
TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie talks about what giving means in the digital age.
TOMS, the ethical shoe company – known for giving away a pair of shoes for every pair sold – is this year, celebrating ’10 Years of Giving’.
Being “a child of social media” has not only been integral to the success of the businesses, the company makes sure it always keeps up with cutting edge technology.
With virtual reality experiences offered in hundreds of stores around the world, TOMS has shown that it really understands giving in the digital age.
Here is what TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has to say about TOMS digital journey, and what giving means these days…
Kitty Knowles: What does ’10 Years of Giving’ mean to you?
Blake Mycoskie: “Celebrating a milestone like 10 years is a relief, but when I look back I’m most proud of that impact we’ve had on the culture of business.
When I started TOMS it was a radical idea: Why would a business give?
Now people take this for granted because today so many businesses are incorporating giving.”
How has digital been crucial for the growth of TOMS?
Blake Mycoskie: “Facebook went off-campus in 2006 – the same year we started TOMS – and YouTube started the same year as well. We were a child of social media and that’s whats allowed us to spread our story so fast. We’re really a global company now, but it’s hard to act global and think about what’s going on in Latin America or Asia when your main headquarters are in California. If we were to start TOMS 20 years ago without the digital assets we have now, it would have been very hard to get our story out there.”
What technology is helping you to give more today?
Blake Mycoskie: “One of the biggest ways we’re bringing people in is virtual reality. We made an amazing VR short film on one of our giving trips that’s now in over 100 stores around the world. You get to see the children we’re serving, you get to go into their homes and understand the conditions they live in. You get to see the joy on the kids faces and understand why a pair of shoes are so important.
That experience inspires empathy, but it also helps customers to feel empowered that their purchase is really making a difference in someone’s life. If we can take a customer and really give them an immersive experience in giving they’re more likely to be a repeat customer. Hopefully, it will also help to make them curious to go volunteer, or do a mission trip, because they see that it’s not as scary as maybe they thought.”
Who else do you think is using digital in an inspiring way?
Blake Mycoskie: “There are lots of digital companies we’re supporting through the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship Fund. Outside of that we’ve also met cool companies that use apps to link up local volunteer opportunities. A lot of people have a desire to give back, but they don’t want to waste their time.
One company, called DoSomething, uses location-based technology to match you with both the types of people you’d want to volunteer with, and with a local organisation. Not only is the experience of volunteering a gratifying thing to do, but once you’ve had a personal experience with an organisation you often want help more, and give money.”
For you, what’s been the biggest impact of TOMS’ giving?
Blake Mycoskie: “We recently did a study with Mission Measurement and they were able to provide a real analysis of our impact on culture, on business; It’s not just the kids we give shoes to, it’s the jobs we help create, it’s the people that we inspire to start their own businesses. But despite all this, one of the things I find most inspiring is the impact psychologically we have on children when they get a new pair of shoes. We give shoes primarily for practical reasons, but often these are the first new thing they’ve been given – their clothes are hand-me-downs, their pens and books belonged to a student before them.”