Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo courtesy of
Introducing BOBS Shoes, by Skechers. BOBS Shoes are cloth canvas slip-on shoes. For every pair of BOBS Shoes you buy, BOBS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. Sound familiar? Skechers’ newly released BOBS Shoes directly copies the Toms Shoes business model. Even the shoe style is identical.
The response from bloggers has been harsh.
In the shoe knock-off game, Skechers has remained pretty ethical, forgoing many of the wearable runway styles to instead create sneaker-dress shoe hybrids (that, unfortunately, are more eyesores than convenience items… but that’s a whole other post). However, they’ve recently created a new line of canvas slip-ons that are a blatant rip-off of Toms (bold and italics added). BleachBlack pointed out that Bobs not only copies Toms’ shoe shape, but also the individual fabrics, the single-syllable dude name, and the humanitarian component.
Bobs, much like Toms, is a one syllable, generic name. Both shoes are little canvas slip-ons with cute patterns. When you buy a pair of Bobs, they give a pair of shoes to a child in need, which is also exactly what Toms has been doing for years. I’m all for more shoes to children in need, but how about a little originality people. This is absurd. Please don’t reward this insane bit of unoriginality by purchasing them. (bold and italics added for emphasis) They’re only two dollars cheaper than Toms.
Cause Integration Take:
What is most striking about the release of BOBS Shoes is how blatantly they copied the TOMS Shoes business model. It is apparent Skechers did not apply much creative thinking to the concept, both product images and offer demonstrate that they effectively copied the TOMS Shoes product without its own brand innovation or addition.
BOBS Shoes capitalized on the TOMS Shoes’ proven-as-successful business model and advertising strategy. And Cause Integration supports the idea of for-profit companies competing to produce a product whereby consumers and third-party social good recipients win. But their lack of addition of any original insight or idea demonstrates Skechers’ desire to capitalize on a proven model rather than act from an ethos of doing good, leaving doubts behind Skechers’ true social motives in releasing the BOBS Shoes.
Simon Mainwaring, former Worldwide Creative Director for Motorola and author of a blog on the Business of Social Transformation, explains this well:
Skechers approach appears to be far more cynical. There is no problem with Skechers or any company copying the TOMS concept. In fact, Blake Mycoskie has stated that he hoped others would copy his business model. But by mirroring the TOM’s concept so blatantly, Skechers not only showed a lack of creativity and originality, but they left themselves wide open to accusations of disingenuous social concern.
This is a great example of where where so many brands go wrong. Consumers do not respond to the “how” of what you do but the “why”. That’s because the “why” is emotional and something they can connect to. The “How” is simply the expression of that emotion.
TOMS Shoes was founded because of one man’s authentic experience and emotional reaction to seeing countless kids in Argentina in bare feet. Not only did he create the business out of a heart-centered concern, he pioneered a Buy-One-Give-One business model that has rocketed the social entrepreneurship movement towards mainstream acceptance. I have to respect the fact that BOBS Shoes does good. Kids will have shoes on their feet by virtue of BOBS Shoes’ donations after consumer purchases. But I anticipate consumers will have a harder time making an emotional connection to BOBS Shoes by virtue of the fact that the “why”, the rationale for the shoe, appears manufactured. Authenticity and new ideas go hand in hand, but blatant copying does not lend itself to consumer loyalty as an affinity-creating brand.
Editors Note: A search on Skechers for “BOBS Shoes” comes up empty. Perhaps BOBS Shoes experiment was short-lived?

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