Authenticity as Loyalty

May 8, 2012

A few weeks ago we referenced Toms Shoes as one of a handful of companies who are proving the value of giving back (we’ll call it “one4one”) as a core business strategy.

The one4one concept made popular by TOMS has popped up in a few good places. When BOBS ripped off the concept by producing shoes almost identical to TOMS, it felt disingenuous and greedy. But there are other companies who are doing it right and they can teach us something.

MiiR, a company that makes BPA-free bottles, popped up on livingsocial this week. The ad read: “Tap into today’s deal for an eco-friendly way to stay original: $10 for $20 to spend on water bottles from MiiR. Through its giving program MIiiR partners with One Day’s Wages to provide clean drinking water to third world people groups who desperately need it.  And lest you think this is a “drop-in-the-ocean” effort, when you purchase just one bottle, MiiR supplies water to one person for an entire year

MiiR offers consumers a 50% savings on a water bottle, a water bottle not unlike the one they can buy at Target. So that’s not what makes it appealing. And they know it. They are offering consumers an opportunity to feel good about the purchase and the people who will be helped by it. They are offering a simple way to do a little good on a couple of levels. First, consumers’ empty water bottles no longer flow to landfills. Second, a purchase brings one person clean drinking water for a year. It seems disproportionate that a small purchase could have such a big impact and that’s why it works.

The bottles come in five colors, but beware: the company is obviously sailing past their projections because of the three sizes—400ml, 600ml, and 800ml—only a few are available immediately. Twelve of them are backordered for over a month.

Its website links to One Day’s Wages website where there is a short bio on MiiR: “In 2009, entrepreneur and outdoor adventurer, Bryan Papé wanted to create a more functional, lifestyle water bottle … In the process of creating MiiR, Bryan learned that nearly a billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Wanting to help, he incorporated an initiative called one4one, directly into the brand.”

Here the one4one concept works because MiiR’s product is directly related to the people it serves. From the beginning, giving to others was intrinsic to owner Bryan Papé’s product. And it doesn’t steal from someone else’s idea; it builds on it. This seems closer to what TOMS’ owner Blake Mycoskie envisioned—not someone edging out his market share with a look-a-like shoe but someone taking the one4one concept to other brands and other causes.

The lesson is that we can encourage loyalty when we’re authentic. People know when a company’s heart is in the right place and they also know when it is not.