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The One-for-One Business Model - Social Entrepreneurship or Just Marketing? 

The world was thrilled when Blake Mycoskie introduced the one-for-one business model with TOMS shoes in 2007. Both customers and marketers were equally inspired by the powerful concept of ‘Buy One, Give One.’ However, when TOMS failed to disintegrate themselves from their ‘hero’ product’, the classic Alpargatas, they faced severe problems in marketing their whole product line instead of just a specific product.

This was one and a half decades ago. Since then, many businesses have experimented with this social entrepreneurship model. Some adopted it successfully, while others learnt what not to do, the hard way. Gradually, it has evolved as an inbound marketing technique that helps brands to provide proactive assistance to several communities around the globe.

The one-for-one business approach has become more important than ever after COVID-19. Millions of people across the globe have been left helpless due to the global pandemic. So, there is no better time for brands to implement the one-for-one model and create a social impact in these challenging times. However, a good understanding of the model and its implementation is vital to optimize lead conversions, social impact and industry dominance.

What is the One-For-One Business Model?

The 'one for one' business model is a direct form of social entrepreneurship to create commercial and social values. It is also known as ‘buy-one give-one’ as it works on the principle of giving one needed item on every purchase. A philanthropic initiative by nature, it excels as an effective marketing technique for brands looking to make a conscious social impact. Consumers and prospects feel more connected with one-for-one brands as they get a chance to help others through a simple initiative. 

Some of the prime examples of one-for-one business model include TOMS, Warby Parker, Two Degrees Food and Soapbox Soaps. ‘Buy one, give one’ was introduced as an innovative enterprise solution to poverty and has transformed into a key marketing technique for brands across the globe. One of the easiest ways to make the world a better place, the model is a delight for businesses, customers and the unprivileged people alike.

Why is the Buy One, Give One Model a Success for Businesses?

According to a research conducted during COVID-19, 68% of all respondents said they wanted brands to donate to programs that provide direct support for medical workers on the frontline. This is a stat that explains how customers are moved when they can relate to the problem. Better World Books is a socially responsible bookstore that aims to bring education to as many homes around the globe.

They witnessed instant success with their ‘Book for Book’ campaign that offered a book donation for every book they sold. Consumers were excited as they could donate and read books simultaneously without spending anything extra. The brand was happy as they could gain traction in the industry and differentiate itself from its competitors. A solution where everyone benefits. The ‘buy one, give one’ model is a success as it has the following advantages. 

Works Seamlessly for All Industries

The best thing about the one-for-one business model is that it can be approached in multiple ways. A business can club various products and services with different initiatives to target specific audiences. The list of things that companies can donate is enormous. It can be modified easily as per business size, type, and audience. 

When applying the buy one, give one model for the first time, it is recommended to go with simpler routes like donating a certain portion of the profits directly to specific charities. Once these initiatives attain a steady flow, only then should a brand move toward complex models like clean water or better living conditions.

Drives Customer Advocacy and Brand Reputation

Nothing is more valuable for a business than loyal customers. When customers know what they buy has a tangible impact on society, it makes them feel special. As customers are aware that their funds are to help those in need, it facilitates a better relationship between the business and its customers. Customers are even ready to pay more than the usual price for a cause they can relate. 

The one-for-one model is extremely helpful for businesses that have frequent service requests or multiple support services. Even irate customers show forgiveness to philanthropic brands in case things go wrong with your product. ‘Buy one, give one’ model excels at customer loyalty and advocacy because customers look at their purchase as an investment rather than an expenditure.

Makes Giving Back to Community Easier

Donations have the power to create miracles in the life of a person who needs help. Think of a child who needs education and an adult who needs food. Effective implementation of the one-for-one model ensures customers and businesses become powerful to provide them with necessities. Once a broken person receives help, it does wonders to their confidence and motivates them for a lifetime. 

People and businesses that give back to the community make the world worth living. Even better, this work can be undertaken with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative followed by most businesses. CSR is an international private business self-regulation aimed at fulfilling societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature. So, it is time to do some good and balance our plates.

Helps Gain Competitive Advantage

Even though the one-for-one model is a proven prodigy, not all companies are sure of how to adopt it. So, the number of businesses successfully running different variations of this model is less even after fewer business barriers. This is an asset as all brands can use their social entrepreneurship skills to topple competitors and rise to the top of their industry. 

The buy one, give model seeks a simple approach to business needs and combines them to fight social stigmas. When customers, competitors and the whole industry is aware of what a particular brand has brought to the table, it is an unchallenging ride to shine brighter than your competitors.

Criticism Received by the One-for-One Business Model

The one-for-one model has always been considered a revolutionary idea that changed how brands market. It is one of those rare concepts that came and conquered. So, the power behind this philanthropic concept was never in question. However, some experts accuse the model of creating a weak social impact. This is primarily because most brands focus more on inciting customer emotions rather than delivering helpful solutions for the community. 

A short-term ‘buy one, give one’ approach is not enough to manipulate customer decisions. Brands need a more detailed one-for-one business strategy that focuses on long-term solutions. For instance, gifting a product like a comfortable pair of shoes might help kids temporarily but ensuring that they go to school might secure their future. When marketers are aware of business needs, intentions, strategy and the implementation process, one-for-one model becomes a miracle for everyone involved in the process.

Is One-For-One Business Model Equitable for Your Brand?

One of the biggest advantages of adopting a one-for-one business model is that it fluidly works across different verticals and teams. So, there is no business or brand that cannot take advantage of this business model to grow. However, before taking the decision to implement ‘buy one, give one’ model to their brands, top leaders need to be careful of their target audience. A targeted demographic allows brands to resonate better with audiences and deliver personalized messages accurately. This further helps to improve the brand voice, image, and reputation with a single move. 

The one-for-one model is a diverse marketing technique that enables businesses to win both financially and socially. With the rise in social issues over the last few years, corporates need to stand up for the underserved or underrepresented. When a business is not vocal about its surroundings, customers fall off as the connect does not remain. So, businesses need to ensure that they have a platform or voice in the community to make the social entrepreneurship model equitable for their business.

Charity Begins at Home

Long time ago, Anne Frank said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”. This is equally true for the one-for-one business model. So, there’s no doubt that the concept is viable for everyone but like most strategies, it is not planning but the implementation, that makes process execution tricky for businesses. Some of the obstacles that businesses may face while its implementation include bureaucratic red tape, unverified NGO partners, and donation management.

Brands need to counterbalance idealism against practicality for the one-for-one business model to work seamlessly. So, it becomes important for businesses to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of the social entrepreneurship model.

Remember, you can capitalize on this golden marketing opportunity only when your campaign aids needy people around the globe. Otherwise, this great model for businesses, customers and the people who need help can soon turn into a nightmare for all three categories.

Questions?