baring my soul after baring my sole.
For our integrated marketing communications assignment, my schoolmates and I examined how TOMS Shoes employed cause marketing as their main vehicle of publicity, and how this eventually led to sales.
There was no better way than to actually practise what the company preaches as one of their key annual activities – to go one day without shoes. At least, that’s what it challenges all its existing and potential consumers. TOMS’ business strategy is simple – you buy a pair of shoes from them and they will give another away to an underprivileged child in a third-world country. A remarkable and novel idea, really.
In our detailed analysis of this tactic, we’ve discovered that there are brilliant brains behind TOMS, from its founder Blake Mycoskie, to its sales staff, and to its interns (better known as Agents of Change – ostentatious but unique no doubt). And we’ve observed that they’ve left no stone unturned – everything that can be used has been used and their marketing strategy is one of the best we’ve seen of any footwear company, by far. It’s almost fool-proof and fail-proof; it’s so comprehensive that we’ve struggled to make recommendations to improve it. We take our hats off to TOMS Shoes.
That was until two of us (Melodie Lee and I) actually decided to go barefoot in Singapore for a day. And so it was, our very own one day without shoes. It was then we discovered the few weaknesses of such a tactic. I will share bits of it as I record my thoughts of this radical experience.
Attempting an against-the-norm feat is always easier when you do it with someone else. Melodie and I felt somewhat comforted and empowered by each other’s participation; knowing that we weren’t going to do this alone provided an impetus for the actual deed. I left home excitedly and I was curious to see the different reactions I’d receive from strangers and bystanders alike.
Coincidentally, I left home with my sister and met my mother en-route to the bus terminal; both thought that I was crazy and had my safety at the forefront of their minds. And as expected, my sister wasn’t too keen on walking beside me simply because it was weird. “So paiseh”, she stated. Funnily enough, that actually affirmed my decision more than deterred it.
I tried to behave as normally as I could. Of course I would avoid tough, dirty or wet terrain but I did not walk awkwardly or in embarrassment. I like doing radical things once in a while anyway, as my youths and peers would know, so standing out from the crowd wasn’t something that was all together foreign to me.
I arrived at our meeting point in Forum, drank a small serving of Caramel Latte from Coffeebean and discussed how we were going to capture people’s responses on film. And on my own, I intentionally recorded as many of these steps as I could through Twitter. After all, it was through social media that this campaign spread like a virus. As expected, I received a flurry of responses almost immediately on both Facebook and Twitter, from both friends and acquaintances. And just as I had expected, the attention waned as dramatically as it had built up as the day progressed, despite my regular pictorial updates.
Hence it leaves me to conclude that a wholesale dependence on social media has its own limitations. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a celebrity with an enormous reputation, but isn’t viral marketing all about the word-of-mouth from the man on the ground? It’s short-lived at best; my network’s interest in my adventure sustained for a couple of hours and my own interest was roused for a day at most. My mini-campaign was as current and newsworthy as the next 160-character tweet by a teenager about where he was or what she was doing. How effective could this method be for the long-run then?
I hereby propose that social media is only good for initial awareness but not prolonged interest.
One talking point in my day without shoes was when I nearly lost my right big toe. I am so used to everyday-walking that it slipped my mind the importance of literally watching my next step. It was a near-death experience (haha pardon the drama-mama) and my odynophobia caused me to visualise a severed foot. I still cringe at the thought of that near-mishap and I understood why Crocs encountered a safety issue with their footwear – people are negligent because they take things for granted and when they think they can depend on what they are used to (can’t help but to think of Psalm 119:105).
There are only two retailers in Singapore that sell TOMS Shoes and we had to visit one of course. It was a disappointing experience to say the least. We all thought that this could be one of the greatest flaw in this otherwise great company. A retail shop is quite possibly the most appropriate touch point for a fashion product (to see and touch the actual shoe and try it for sizing) and interacting with the sales staff left a horrible taste in our mouths; they were apathetic, ignorant, uninvolved, not helpful and unnecessarily rude.
While this reflects more badly on the reputation of the shop, it indirectly impacts a consumer’s attitude towards TOMS; you cannot help but think that TOMS did not conduct a meticulous screening of their franchisees or provide them with sufficient product training. Their unacceptable service became a fundamental failure in representing the goodwill that TOMS have existed to create all this while. After all, we’ve observed that intimate interaction with consumers is one of the keys to their outstanding business model.
We started our barefoot adventure at 3pm but by 6pm the novelty of this activity had already worn thin on us. We were no longer amused by people’s stares or consciously thought about what we were doing. I asked Melodie, “Are you even thinking about the children in Africa without shoes to wear?” Our answers to that question was synonymously negative. Perhaps we were inadequately prepared for this activity, throwing ourselves in without much fanfare (like posters or tee shirts) or perhaps we didn’t do it with an entourage. But honestly, the thought of doing this for the less-fortunate and under-privileged probably crossed our minds only once, and for a fleeting moment.
While those kids suffered from inevitable abrasions, we sampled invited attention; while those kids struggled to go to school, we savoured what it felt like to do something cool; while those kids survived on a single pair of shoes for years, we stepped into shops that sold enough shoes to last a village for years. How effective then, is this campaign to actually help those kids?
I began to question the integrity of this apparently fantastic movement and I couldn’t help but to conclude that cause marketing should only be employed for the short-term and not to be exploited for the long-term.
I’ve written these thoughts on my way to school and during lecture itself. Honestly, while going without shoes was fun while it lasted, I cannot be bothered anymore about how this makes me feel or what message it sends out because the only entity that benefits from this seemingly out-of-this-world initiative is the company itself. Based on my experience today, I scribbled down five recommendations that may make TOMS Shoes a tad bit more successful and perhaps, less suspect. We will propose them at our presentation next week.
As with many things in life that the world offers us as a tradeoff for satisfaction, it can feel good at the start but it is still hugely inadequate and empty eventually. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, as King Solomon famously philosophised. The words of the Psalmist Asaph resonates in my head: “You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth!” (Psalm 73:25, The Message Bible.)
Oh, the temporal happiness of earthly pursuits and the heavenly void that we all need God to help us fill!
sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!
First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.
I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm – bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!
- James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
- These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
- People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
- BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
- Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
- He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
- Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
- Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
- Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
- Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
- Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
- Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
- Has a humble attitude (4:10)
- Is connected (5:16)
- We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
- The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
- When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
- People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
- I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
- I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
- Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
- Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
- A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.
I look forward to preaching again next weekend!
top ten personal requests.
Posted by Joey Asher Tan
I’ve been wanting to publish an entry to highlight some housekeeping matters for some time now and so I finally shall do it today. I’m pleased to say that this is the 180th post since this blog incepted last October. I’m still adding value to it so that your navigation is a breeze and your precious time with me in the virtual world is well-spent. In time to come, besides writing new material, I will also be cleaning up categories and tags, adding more pages and updating links. Basically, I want to enhance and improve the user interactivity and experience of my blog.
To make this happen, I need you to get involved. I know, from my previous blogs and from observing other blogs which are miles cooler than mine, that there are definitely more phantom than active readers. I think I have a healthy following on my blog and so I’d love to hear more from more of you. Reading your thoughts and opinions really does make writing a lot more fun I desire to incite responses. So, help me along yeah?
Without further ado, please allow me to present the top ten things you can do on my blog to enhance your experience here – these are also my personal requests as a writer. Yes, I’m shamelessly asking you to walk an extra mile with me. Would you? (:
1. SUBSCRIBE! If you are already checking my blog regularly, why not conveniently receive my new posts in your mailbox at the time of publication? Simply drop your email at the side bar on the right and click on subscribe.
2. RSS! (Trivia: did you know that it stands for “Really Simple Syndication”?) Most mailboxes have this function and most blog readers use this function. You can do that by clicking on the RSS icon on the right, the RSS word on top, or simply just click here.
3. COMMENT! Have I ever mentioned that I love receiving comments? If you are already leaving comments on my Facebook links, could I trouble you to leave your great comments on the blog itself? I request for this because I want to remember the comments. Comments on Facebook disappear into cyber wilderness over time, but comments here are saved and archived accordingly for future recapitulations.
4. RATE! I’ve added the rating system (“Rate This”) at the top of every post for your convenient rating. Ratings are useful indicators; good ratings help me to recognise popular entries that people have enjoyed and poor ratings help me to improve on my writing or selection of topics. It doesn’t matter if it’s one star or five stars. So for my sake, please just rate! (You remain anonymous anyway.)
5. RE-BLOG! Maybe you need ideas for new entries, maybe you have done a little reflection after reading my posts, or maybe your comments are so long it could become a post itself. It’d be my honour if you, from time to time, used my blog as a base for your thoughts and entries. My only request is that you let me know, so that I can check it out and reciprocate the gesture.
6. EXPLORE! Check out my pages, links, categories, tags and archives and search my blog (using the search field on the right)! My desire is to, after a year or two, have written on enough topics that this blog becomes a comprehensive collection of matters which matter to me.
7. CONTACT! It’s always fun to hear from strangers and I’ve “met” a couple of them here already – where I’ve “heard” their voices before I’ve met them face to face. My contact details are virtually everywhere. You could also add me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. I really enjoy meeting new people!
9. SUGGEST! I’d love to write on a topic that people are more interested or inclined to read. So from time to time, I’ll try to share my thoughts on what’s current or frequently-asked. If you could suggest a topic for me, I’d love to take it up for these “challenges” serve to make me a better writer.
10. PUBLICISE! In layman terms, please spread the word for me! If you know someone who may be blessed by or benefit from what I share on this blog, please tell them about it. Also, do link me to your blog – I’ll return the gesture and link yours to mine.
Well, that brings me to the end of my 180th post. I hope you’ve enjoyed your time here for I’ve certainly enjoyed your virtual presence here. I look forward to spilling my brains out on a daily basis and also to seeing my top ten requests as a writer being fulfilled. Thank you for your continuous support; your encouragement really makes a difference and spurs me on to write some more. (:
Posted in Affirming Faithfulness, Extraordinary Mundane, Simple Pleasures, Top Ten & Other Lists
Tags: active readers, archives, blog, categories, comment, comprehensive, contact, current, explore, facebook, frequently-asked, housekeeping, improve, indicators, link, links, meet new people, pages, phantom readers, publicise, rate this, ratings, re-blog, read, reader, Really Simple Syndication, Reflection, RSS, search, spread the word, strangers, subscribe, suggest, tags, twitter, write, writer