Have a Purpose, Not a Mission Statement

&THEN, a DMA EventToms Shoes does good business by doing good, says Blake Mycoskie, the brand’s founder and “Chief Shoe-giver.” Keynoting on Monday morning in Boston at &THEN, a Direct Marketing Association Event, he told a crowd of marketers about how he started his company and knew that the purpose behind his company connected with customers.

He was in an airport and noticed a 30-year-old “girl” wearing a red pair of his shoes and he asked her about them. She excitedly told him a mostly accurate version of his brand story, including how for every pair of shoes a customer buys, Toms gives a pair to someone in need.

“She connected with our mission,” Mycoskie says.

If customers understand that a company’s purpose is to do good by doing business, they will emotionally connect with its story, he says.

“Your customers become your greatest marketers,” Mycoskie says.

They’ll spread the story by word of mouth, social media and more, he says.

“Giving, while it feels really good … it also is really good for business,” Mycoskie says. “And there is nothing wrong with that.”

At the same time, marketers have to be ready for painful feedback that can help them build upon that purpose, he says. Mycoskie says listening to customers who were providing negative feedback about the manufacturing process is how he moved to make 40 percent of the “giving shoes” in the countries where Toms donates them.

“Business is all about people,” he says.

At the same time, a company’s purpose that attracts a consumer audience can also attract good business partners, he says. It happened for him.

Do marketers agree with Mycoskie?

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Heather Fletcher is a freelance reporter for Adweek. She covers performance and direct marketing.