You just gotta love TOMS. Their branding is brilliant, and now their branding strategy is driving a new direct mail campaign. Note that I said “branding.” TOMS is not selling shoes in this campaign. In fact, it’s not selling anything at all. It’s letting its customers send postcards...for free.

For those not in the know, TOMS is a shoe manufacturer that built its brand on its One for One program. When you buy a pair of shoes from TOMS, the company donates a pair of shoes to a community in need, generally in a Third World country. In an environment in which consumers, particularly younger ones, want to be good global citizens, this has built an incredibly strong (and profitable) brand. Consumers love their shoes, but they also feel great about doing something good. It’s a powerful combination.

Over time, TOMS has begun supporting other areas of social justice, too. It now works with 90+ global partners in 70+ countries with programs for safe birth care, eye care, clean water, anti-bullying, and now ending gun violence.

This is where the direct mail campaign comes in. Every time an organization wants to mobilize me as part of some kind of movement, they send me a link to sign an email petition. Not TOMS. As soon as you log onto TOMS’ website, you see its call for consumers to stand together to end gun violence by clicking a link to send a postcard to the customer’s representative in Congress, urging them to take action on the issue.  

At the time I clicked, a counter on its site read that TOMS had sent 678,415 postcards and counting. I put in my address, and TOMS automatically sent a postcard to the correct elected official in my name. It cost me nothing, and I felt that I had done something good. TOMS made it easy...and now I feel good about TOMS. That’s great branding.

But TOMS didn’t send postcards because it had a bunch of money sitting around in its marketing budget it didn’t know what to do with. It states right on its website why it chose direct mail: “We've consulted with our impact partners and found this is the most effective way for you to make your voice heard. Your physical postcard will read...“

This is the most effective way—a physical mail piece. This is a company that not only knows how leverage social justice for profitability, but that understands the power of a physical mail piece to motivate people to action over an email. It’s so confident that it’s willing to crank out personalized postcards in order to do it. Nearly 700,000 and counting.

Oh, yes. After the postcard was sent, I got a checkbox saying, “We love what TOMS is doing. Keep me informed.” In sending the postcard, TOMS had gathered my email address. Now all I had to do was leave the box checked and I was automatically enrolled in their customer communications.