Welcome to our next method profile! Our previous entry focused on using accountability in social enterprise. In operating any venture, everything flows from your approach, and identifying a proper method helps you effectively fulfill your team’s initiative.
Together, we’ll be profiling interesting social enterprises to discuss an anchor method in their strive for social good. The term “anchor method” is to express the intentional and grounded nature of the approaches propelling a social enterprise forward.
This post is an outside observation of a company for inspiration in social enterprise initiative improvements.
In today’s post, we’ll look into retail brand BANGS Shoes leveraging culture format. In this company, shoes, clothing, and accessories are sold to help invest in entrepreneurs all over the world.
Knowing the company
As the name suggests, the company’s main focus is footwear. BANGS Shoes is inspired by work boots that founder Hannah Davis saw while teaching English in China. The shoes are canvas and come in a variety of high top, low top, or slip-on. Accessories, such as clothing and stickers, are available for purchase as well.
By partnering with a non-profit, the company supports entrepreneurs around the globe. Entrepreneurs are given a loan through the non-profit Kiva, and repay the loan. After the loan is repaid, the money does not return to BANGS Shoes. Instead, the money is reinvested to support a different entrepreneur, creating an almost endless impact cycle. BANG Shoes gives 20% of the company’s net profit to fund the loans.
The company slogan reflects a pay-it-forward mentality, saying “Your adventure helps others find theirs.” Another place you can find this idea is the company’s name. Text on the About page mentions that “BANGS” means “help” in mandarin. Living up to their name and slogan, the company invested into 3,000 entrepreneurs in 70 countries, including the US.
Really encouraging an active and connected lifestyle appears to be part of BANG Shoes branding. The company has an internal community for a select amount of the brand’s supporters. That internal community has a specific culture format worth consideration as a pillar within the company.
Brand Culture Program Hybrid
BANG Shoes created a key component in their company by doing what seems to be an innovative experiment. Looking closely, the program seems to be a combination inspired by an affiliate program and a newsletter. The company calls the hybrid their Ambassador program.
Supporters may apply to be part of the Ambassador program, and if the application is approved they can participate in the Ambassador program culture. Here are a few perks of the Ambassador program:
- Personal Ambassador discount code
- A discount to share with family and friends
- “First dibs” on new releases and promotions
- Campaigns and Challenge Opportunities
- Workshop/ Guest Speaker Panel
- VIP Ambassador Opportunity
From reading personal accounts online, BANGS Shoes usually accepts “influencer” type personalities that have an engaged following and display a similar lifestyle aesthetic to the band. While in the Ambassador program, participants can meet other Ambassadors, and host their own events. Ambassadors take surveys to aid in products development, and VIP Ambassadors may help hand-select the entrepreneurs the company supports. Being an Ambassador also means that participants can say they “work with” or “represent” a brand. The Ambassador program appears to blend the hype of an exclusive group with the strong loyalty of an inclusive community within the exclusive group.
The Ambassador position can be likened to an affiliate, as the participant will be heavily promoting BANGS Shoes. Each Ambassador will promote the brand by wearing the products, sharing discounts codes, and participating in Blitz Days. On these themed days, Ambassadors create and post content on social media wearing BANGS Shoes products. Ambassadors promote like affiliates, but unlike affiliates, Ambassadors are not paid and receive no commission. The Ambassador program is a voluntary position.
Similar to a newsletter, the Ambassador program keeps supporters up-to-date and engaged with the brand. Similar to an affiliate program, the Ambassador program centers on promoting the brand while advertising perks and benefits of participating to supporters.
Marketing and Communicating the Culture
Views on the hybrid program may depend on how the culture format is explained. As we talked about on People Helping People content before, context changes perception. If the perception becomes negative, that of course, will not be good for business.
Ambassador activities primarily revolve around promoting the brand. Among the program activities, a majority of the perks and benefits are directly related to increasing the brand’s reach or increasing the brand’s sales. Ambassadors are able to connect with each other and thrive off the aesthetic, but is this exchange mutual in value? When doing the math of what increasing the brand’s reach and sales would bring, an established influencer might view the Ambassador program negatively. Influencers hold proven impact in marketing, which is why they are able to charge rates for using their social platforms.
Other accounts online were cautious of wondering if BANGS Shoes is an mlm. Supporters must buy the brand’s products to join the Ambassador program, and the enthusiasm surrounding the culture and lifestyle of the brand is similar to mlm companies. However, these cautions are dispelled as Ambassadors do not need to focus on recruitment, and are not paid to begin with. Also, it is understandable that a company would want their Ambassadors to actually use and like the products. The mention of the mlm comparison is just to point out where marketing and communicating the culture format could make or break the perception of BANGS Shoes as a brand.
A few very useful bright sides to consider
- BANG Shoes created BANG Cares where each month they chose 3 community members to receive free shoes based on the member’s current life story
- Buying the Shoes means supporting the cause, and Ambassadors not being paid could make their contributions be viewed as equivalent to making a donation
- Ambassador status can be used for professional reference (check out their Resume Builder tips on the Ambassador breakdown page)
- Access to a community of individuals with similar drive and ambition
Whether you find the Ambassador program mutually valuable or not, we must admit that BANGS Shoes developed an operation to further support the growth of their company and the increase in their impact.
An anchor based on culture format can create great opportunities to scale the initiative. One beneficial experiment is to examine motivations in the culture format you provide to your existing supporters.
BANG Shoes’ hybrid culture format completes this profile.
People Helping People Podcast is seeking methods clearly supporting an effective impact. Observations and discussions on happenings in the social enterprise community is a significant part of our contribution to social good. Continue to check-in for more conversation-starting content.