An article posted by AARP this week talked about a business that had found a way to connect consumers with a social conscience to a wonderful product. I had been aware of this small company for several years, but up until its commercial-within-a-commercial TV campaign, I had not been aware of the concept. It was pure genius on the part of some advertising agency.
AT&T partnered with a small shoemaker, Website informationTom’s Shoes, which provided free shoes to children around the world. The young Blake Mycoskie saw a need for children’s shoes in poverty-stricken communities and he was looking for a product he could sell. So he started a business based on this need and found a way to do it profitably. As I remember the business plan, he hired people in third world countries to make the shoes and marketed them with a tag line telling the consumer that every pair of shoes sold also included a pair of Tom’s shoes for a barefoot child in a third-world community—a sort of two for one sale. Enter me, a lover of children, and you have a senior with a social conscience who is wearing a pair of Tom’s shoes! That was back in 2009 and I still wear that original pair.
Blake Mycoskie is the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, and the man behind the growing One for One movement. As of April 2010, TOMS has given over 600,000 pairs of new shoes to children in need through giving partners around the world.
This commercial-within-a-commercial tactic worked for both AT&T and Tom’s Shoes, which has since flourishedm with stores throughout the country that sell Tom’s Shoes exclusively. Social conscience had found the perfect business partner. AND it made AT&T look very responsible too. Everyone was a winner.
When the commercial-within-a-commercial involves a whole city, the number of people who benefit cannot be measured in any concrete way. Still, the feel-good-about-my-city factor has to be a good thing. It is even better when that commercial features a young man who grew up in a part of town not known for its successes. When that positive image in flashed on TV screens throughout the city, young men surely pay attention.
I’m talking about Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” series of Super Bowl commercials. Here in Portland we are being shown a local boy, Ndamukong Suh, a Grant High School graduate, star football player at Nebraska, University of Nebraska College of Engineering graduate, and pro football player for the Detroit Lions. He was Rookie of the Year in 2010 and one of the few linebackers to be picked up in a first round NFL draft. The commercial has a larger-than-life feel about it. I am not a football fan but that commercial certainly made me take notice.
In the commercial, Suh drives a Chrysler through Portland passing young men sitting on curbs in middle and lower class neighborhoods. The woman he hugs is probably his mother and the house is pure eastside Portland. I doubt the commercial agency even thought about the “social conscience” aspect of this hometown-boy-makes-it commercial. Still, I see it as an example of how these kinds of images can change our perceptions about people and the neighborhoods where they live.
Suh’s parents are immigrants, his mother from Jamaica and his father from Cameroon. The mother is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and his father attended a trade school in Portland. They met right here in Portland and were married in 1982.
When a 6’4” pro linebacker’s father is 5’8″ tall, you might wonder where the very big, tall son came from. It seems that Suh’s grandfather back in Cameroon was 7’2”. The family name means “House of Spears” in Suh’s father’s native language. How cool is that?