About 40 people will post pictures of their barefeet in the time it will take you to read this sentence. Read to the end of this article, and another 200-300 will post pictures. By tomorrow, I'm expecting several thousand more will show us their feet without any shoes. You'd think there was a global movement underway.
That's right, Toms Shoes is at it again. And by the way--there is a global movement. It turns out that kids in other countries do not have shoes or proper apparel for school. People are willing to help, which is a pretty big deal.
Starting today, the company is donating a pair of shoes to someone overseas, but they have "dropped" the other shoe. You don't need to buy anything. You just have to post a picture of your barefeet on Instagram and use #withoutshoes in the post.
That's it. Free shoes for needy people.
It's amazing to watch (and see) how people are responding. I just checked, and in the time it took me to write up to this point, about 140 people have posted.
You could argue that Toms Shoes started the age of social entrepreneurship just under ten years ago. Their business model is well-known. Buy a pair of shoes and the company donates a second pair to someone overseas. What's remarkable about this new "shoeless" campaign is that it is creating an incredible outpouring of awareness, which in turn brings the Toms Shoes brand to mind for hundreds and thousands of people.
My guess is that this is not a marketing play. The company is legit in that they really do want to help impoverished people groups all over the world. They really do want to make a difference. It's a byproduct of this kind of honest philanthropy that people will probably go ahead and buy the shoes (and other products). The campaign ends on May 21, but many of the people who participate may end up buying a pair of shoes.
I've written before about how your values should determine your career choice and how having a strong motivator to start a company is incredibly important. The #withoutshoes campaign really goes a big (ahem) step further because it's about building up a legitimate brand. Toms Shoes has over 2 million followers on Twitter right now, or about the same as Adidas. That company started in 1929. Toms started in 2006. Do the math on where they might be in 50 years from now.
It's a good lesson for any small company. Find a cause. Promote the cause. Create awareness. Have people fall in love with your brand. Be honest about it. Success will follow as a natural outpouring. They will join the cause (and, oh yeah, buy the product).
The campaign just started. Go ahead and jump in with both feet.