When Toms came to China in 2014, there were very few international brands engaging in corporate social responsibility in China’s fashion industry. The concept of a consumer buying a product to donate to a cause was still fairly new. The cause, which for the California-based shoe brand involves donating a pair of shoes to kids in need for every pair bought, expanded to market to Chinese consumers, and since then, Toms has helped about 650,000 kids without shoes with their help.
Part of Toms’ journey in China was the introduction of its annual, global social media campaign from May 1 through May 10, called “One Day Without Shoes,” in which users submit their photos of their bare feet “so kids don’t have to.” In their second year of the campaign in China, the company created a step-by-step guide using a colorful and musical WeChat HTML5 app to show fans how to participate on Weibo, WeChat, or the Instagram-like photo app Nice, prompting them to hashtag their photos with #withoutshoes or #赤足一日.
In a special effort to attract Chinese consumers, Toms also added a fun new selection of cute cartoon stickers that users can use to decorate their photos. “Almost all of all the photos sent in have the sticker function rather than the bare barefoot photos last year,” said Toms China Brand Director Jen Loong. This year, Toms also has the backing of more KOLs, as well as A-lister Chinese celebrity, former Chanel ambassador Zhou Xun.
Once a day, participants with the most creative photo are eligible to win a voucher for the wellness and beauty brand, Dragonfly, as an incentive. But most importantly, Toms donates a pair of shoes for every unique user who posts a photo, up to 100,000 pairs. In addition to the digital campaign, 200 university students in Beijing joined satellite events around the globe in a barefoot walk, aimed to raise awareness about impoverished communities.
Millennials in China are beginning to expect that companies have CSR initiatives—in 2014, a survey revealed that 92 percent of respondents born between 1984 and 1996 wanted brands to address social issues in the country. The One Day Without Shoes campaign is targeting this growing number of eager and willing shoppers.