Mystery Box Mania

Jun 13, 2011 12:11 PM ET

What Do You Stand For?

Which consumer brand has the power to sell a new line of merchandise to retailers sight-unseen? Or, to drum up a viral frenzy for a new product before it’s even revealed? If you answered Nike or Apple, it would be understandable – but this week, you’d be wrong. If you said TOMS, you were probably clicking “refresh” on the brand’s website right alongside us Wednesday as TOMS and its slip-on shoes strode into the ranks of America’s power brands.

“What’s inside?” was the question on everyone’s mind leading up to the “Next Chapter” unveiling of TOMS new one-for-one effort. TOMS, known for its buy one, give one shoe model, announced at this year’s South by Southwest conference that the brand would move beyond shoes to become a broader one-for-one company by introducing a new product line. The buzz has been building since.

TOMS-branded mystery capsules started popping up in stores across the nation from Nordstrom to Neiman Marcus, bolted with a hefty lock and only to be opened on June 7 during a simultaneous worldwide reveal. Retailers had such faith in the TOMS brand they bought the secret products sight-unseen, waiting like the rest of us to find out what was inside. Twitter lit up with the hashtag #TOMSnextchapter and eyes were glued to the brand’s website and Facebook page when founder Blake Mycoskie finally announced his latest project: eyewear. Now, for every pair of TOMS glasses sold, the company will give sight to one person through medical treatment, sight-saving surgery or prescription glasses. A flurry of blog posts, Tweets, Facebook statuses and news stories ensued, and the TOMS reveal YouTube video has garnered over 65,000 views since Wednesday.

Why all the hype? TOMS already had a cult following and was a consumer and media darling for its steadfast one-to-one commitment. The brand extension is an exciting new chapter in the brand’s story. But, the “Next Chapter” campaign was also a carefully orchestrated effort. TOMS spent five years perfecting its one-for-one shoe campaign, achieving high brand recognition as a legitimate social enterprise before extending its efforts. The strategic move builds upon the company’s years of experience in both retail and philanthropy with a product that complements its existing product line and its social aim.

Now the question is, what’s the company’s next “Next Chapter”? Will it wait another five years before innovating once again or will new products become more prevalent as the brand moves to shake its shoe company image? We just hope TOMS doesn’t over-extend itself and stays fixed on what it does best – creating trendy consumer goods that also fulfill fundamental human needs (and proving that social business really does work).