Globalization: Toms a Commodity Fetish

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Alysa Sharp
12/12/12
Carla Jones
Final Project

TOMS: A Commodity Fetish
Globalization is the international influence, change, and interaction within or between countries and or nations. This creates an idea of connectedness between the facilitating nation and the nation being influenced. Within this interaction and influence on another nation there becomes this desire to become a “trendsetter” through the use of products and other various commodities throughout the world. One such example can be seen through the United States which is associated with so many different types of brands such as Coca-Cola or Nike. These influences and trends though cannot be simply placed anywhere, rather they are developed and strategically thought of where they would be best placed and as well alternated to fit within a new environment for optimum consumption. These changes can either hinder a product or can help it through the way in which it is advertised and accepted into the local market. Such an example can be seen through TOMS shoe company where their goal is “to show how together, we can create a better tomorrow by taking compassionate action today” (Toms.com). TOMS’ business model of buy a pair give a pair is marketed to the U.S. in a way that plays with people’s emotions so that their product becomes a fetish through the idea that once a pair of shoes is bought people are doing good for another person; in particular children in other countries without shoes. This correlates with both Marx’s commodity fetish theory, the cultural imperialism theory and Mazzarella’s idea of the impact of imagery through the direct way TOMS is directed to the consumer and as well how there is an indirect influence from the TOMS shoe company onto the other various countries that they take their shoes to through the positive imagery that is created through the global impact that the company is trying to make.

TOMS was started by founder Blake Mycoskie in 2006 after he had gone to Argentina in 2002 and saw the extreme poverty and health conditions and in particular children without shoes (toms.com). The original product came from an Argentine shoe called an alpargata which was worn by the local farmers in the region; it’s a canvas or fabric material with rubber soles. Mycoskie took the alpargata to the U.S. but changed and reinvented it for the American market so that there could be a product that made a positive impact, which ultimately translates to the “One for One” campaign, where with every one pair of shoes bought another pair would be given to a child in need (toms.com). The reason for the production and business of shoes is due to two reasons first many children in impoverished places live in areas that have unsafe terrains, such as a lack of unpaved roads. Second, there are also health concerns that are transmitted from the soil which is caused by not wearing shoes. Lastly TOMS did some research and found that many schools require children to wear shoes to the classroom and without shoes or even the right color of shoes that child would not be able to go into the classroom (Daniel:2011:2). With this Mycoskie was able to start a business that now has manufacturing sites in China, Argentina, and Ethiopia (Daniel:2011:4). These production factories are divided up into two “departments” where the Argentinean and Ethiopian factories are where the donated shoes are produced only and the China factory is where the shoes that go to the United States are produced (toms.com). Because TOMS is a private company meaning that they are “a business company owned either by non-governmental organizations or by a relatively small number of shareholders or company members which does not offer or trade its company shares to the general public on the stock market exchanges, but rather the company's stock is offered, owned and traded or exchanged privately” (businessnow.com). This then allows TOMS to be more private and less in the open about what is going...
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