Doing Good on Digital: How TOMS inspired FairWinds alum Vincent Ko and his partners to start Panda Sunglasses

Zane Bundy ⬥ 29 April

This past Christmas was my first at FairWinds. I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a grinch – and I was not prepared for how seriously the founding partners and my coworkers would take the holidays.  In addition to the company holiday dinner, Secret Santa exchange, and awesome tech gifts from Phil & Josh, we each received a bamboo tube containing conspicuously hip black sunglasses.

I must have had a bewildered look on my face upon opening the gift, because Phil Lodico explained that a former employee, Vincent Ko, had started eco-friendly Panda Sunglasses in the spirit of TOMS shoes “buy one, get one” model and that FairWinds wanted to support this socially-conscious start-up by buying everyone in the office a pair.

I was reminded of this conversation when I read a BrandChannel article today on TOMS shoes and the other, similar brands inspired by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie’s model:

“What Mycoskie may not have bargained for was the amazing race he started for companies to become socially conscious. For example, the TOMS model directly inspired Vincent Ko, Luke Lagera, and Michael Mills to start Panda Sunglasses. Making their sunglasses from sustainable bamboo, the trio also help fund eye exams and free eyeglasses through the TOMA Foundation. Ko told USA Today, ‘We figured if we could make a fraction of the impact that Blake Mycoskie made with a different item, we’d be doing a good job.’”

But the Christmas gift of Panda sunglasses was not the only experience I thought of when I read the BrandChannel article. I also thought of Georgetown University’s participation in “One Day Without Shoes.” You can watch a brief video on the event here. I also reviewed the TOMS campaign in my digital strategies class, which I am taking as a graduate student in Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, and my program also participated (the following post is to the Facebook page for the Masters in P.R. and Corporate Communications):

How does TOMS get people so engaged to the point that they would take off their shoes and allow their bare feet to be photographed!?

In addition to fulfilling the desire of many to “do good”, these companies are thoroughly and strategically digital. Take a look at the pages of photos on the One Day Without Shoes photo wall, the website space devoted to the winner of the Barefoot Challenge (Sweet Peas Boutique – which can now boast about this on its social media platforms), and the offer of a “tool kit” for those who want to drive participation.

Perhaps following TOMS’s lead, Panda’s website,, engages fans, customers, and interested users through videos, photos, and Twitter (#wearpanda).

One company has gone so far as to become the digital platform for companies and individuals “doing good” through their products: This website cleverly takes advantage of Iceland’s ccTLD, .IS (you can find out more about this trick here).

TOMS, Panda Sunglasses, and all demonstrate how powerful digital strategy can be, especially when there is a socially responsible offering involved. I think that the TOMS website has worked its magic on me, too. I’m thinking FairWinds should start participating in TOMS One Day – after all, nothing looks better with eco-friendly sunglasses than bare feet.

Tags: “One Day Without Shoes”, Barefoot Challenge, Blake Mycoskie, Brandchannel, ccTLDs, Christmas, Facebook, FairWinds, Georgetown University, Panda Sunglasses, Phil Lodico, Social Media, TOMS, Twitter, USA Today, Vincent Ko

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