On April 16, 2012, Journalist for the Crisis Magazine, Lottie L. Joiner came to my Reporting and writing class at Howard University. When she first arrived with a bright sun dress and even brighter smile, I was initially interested in how this presentation would go. She first began by passing out the latest issue of the magazine in which she worked for, Crisis. Then she told us her personal story. Stating that she was from Jackson, Miss., went to Jackson State University, worked for Upscale magazine for a while then later became the senior editor for Crisis later down the road.
During the presentation, it quickly became a conversation between the Ms. Joiner and the entire class. She asked questions like “who wants to work for a magazine and in what areas?”, “what sets you apart from other journalist?”, and “How do you feel or what is your opinion on Treyvon Martin?” All of the question were centered around her career and how she could be a help to us in whatever way possible.
Finally, as the short but sweet presentation came to an end, the main message she wanted everyone to remember or learn today was to be original.
Lottie L. Joiner.
April 16, 2012
Presentation At Howard University
Known for its provocative photos of young girls in skimpy onesies and thigh-high socks, American Apparel is perhaps one of the most active and aware apparel companies around today. Founder and CEO Dov Charney started the vertically integrated (meaning the company does all the design, advertising, and marketing) business in 1989, and, according to an April 2006 New York Times article, the company is “the single largest garment factory in the United States.” American Apparel has supported a number of socially conscious issues, such as immigration and gay rights, bringing attention to the causes with its campaigns Legalize L.A. and Legalize Gay. The company distributed more than fifty thousand garments to a number of groups providing relief to Haiti just hours after the earthquake there.
BOBS VS. TOMS
This week Skechers copied the concept behind for TOMS shoes by launching BOBS (link no longer available). Just like TOMS, when you buy a pair of BOBS, Skechers would donate another pair to a child in need. Even the shoes were the same. And their name had a similar short, familiar feel. In doing so, they set themselves up for online ridicule, but also drew a powerful distinction between those that do good because of the meaning behind it and those that do it simply for marketing purposes.
Obviously the concept of giving a pair of shoes away has proven effective marketing for TOMS shoes and its founder, Blake Mycoskie. But what drove TOM’s success is not the “how”—the giving away of shoes—but the “why” behind it. As the company website explains, the TOMS concept emerged after a powerful and authentic experience—Mycoskie’s travels in Argentina during which he saw and met countless barefoot children. That powerful direct experience inspired a desire to do good. So Blake and his team took a financial risk by betting their business and philanthropic success on an untested and generous buisness model.
Skechers approach appears to be far more cynical. There is no problem with Skechers or any company copying the TOMS concept. In fact, Blake Mycoskie has stated that he hoped others would copy his business model. But by mirroring the TOM’s concept so blatantly, Skechers not only showed a lack of creativity and originality, but they left themselves wide open to accusations of disingenuous social concern.
This is a great example of where so many brands go wrong. Consumers do not respond to the “how” of what you do but the “why”. That’s because the “why” is emotional and something they can connect to. The “How” is simply the expression of that emotion.
Skechers would have done far better to copy TOMS in a different way. They should have sat down and thought through what they stand for and then acted on that with equal generosity. Then would consumers have a way to connect with the brands that warranted admiration.
Buy Designer and Give Back at the Same Time.
In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.
Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk:
•A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
•Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
•Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.