Have you noticed how many brands utilise a one for one business model these days? Don’t get me wrong, I love them. They’re worthy and wonderful and show a more compassionate side to business: one where it isn’t about purely making money for you, but sharing the love with others who need it, too.
Brands like Toms and Litographs and Warby Parker help share shoes and glasses and books to those in need, which I admire a great deal. But there’s another business who use the one for one business model, and I like it because it’s rather specific about who it serves and who it helps.
Figs sell clothing and apparel to medical professionals (items like scrubs and lab coats). Personally, I’ll never need such an item of clothing unless I decided to dress up as Zach Braff one evening. Chances are you won’t ever need to buy something from Figs, either.
Whereas brands like Warby Parker and Toms and Litographs… they cater for a larger demographic – one where folk like you and me can appreciate and use at some point in our lives, if not for ourselves, for friends or family.
It’s for this reason I love Figs and their one for one business model approach. They cater for a niche (although I imagine a rather large one), but are able to support a large cause at the same time. You see, I may never need a pair of scrubs or care about how they’re made or where they come from, but I appreciate how other people in less developed countries (where healthcare is at a premium) truly do NEED them.
You see, Figs don’t provide people mere clothes, rather help save lives in communities that need our help. They don’t do so in the obvious way most charities do (building hospitals, sending doctors, etc…), rather focus on an overlooked item that DOES matter.
This is why I love Figs’ one for one business model, because it caters for a specific person (and shares a very specific story), but relates to a much larger cause we can all appreciate. This is how you make a difference through cause marketing and social thinking. As such, you have reason to take note…
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH YOUR ONE FOR ONE BUSINESS MODEL
I imagine a lot of businesses and business owners would love to implement a one for one business model of some kind, but say:
“I sell office supplies (or fridges or coaching or app development or whatever…). There’s no way I could make a one for one business model work for me. What would I offer? Who could I help?”
Because it isn’t about what you offer and the tangible thing you provide, rather who you serve, who you can help, or the issue you help overcome. When I follow Figs, I don’t see a company that sells medical clothing, or even one that provides medical clothing to communities in need, rather a brand who helps save lives in countries that need their help, in a manner only they can.
Maybe developing countries don’t need office supplies, but do they need a helping hand with their literacy? You may not send a pen to somewhere in Africa for every pen you sell in the UK, but could you provide books and pencils and notepads to schools so they can start their own book clubs?
Maybe a country in South America don’t need help with app development or software, but could their schools and their children require help with basic coding and the hardware that comes with it?
I think people get too caught up in the one for one business model. They say, “I sell pens so I must give pens too.“
I’d argue it isn’t the actual one-for-one that matters, but the meaning behind it. Figs happen to offer a pair of scrubs for a pair of scrubs, but it isn’t about the scrubs, my friend. It’s about what these scrubs allow medical professionals and hospitals and communities to do.
Just check their thread-for-threads page and you’ll notice patients and children and communities. Because it isn’t the scrubs that save lives; it’s the people behind them that do.
In last week’s post about charity: water, we discussed the importance of empathy in storytelling. The same applies here because Figs produce a one for one business model I can emphasise with. I may never need to buy from Figs, and I may never refer a friend to them either.
They serve a specific person in a specific way, after all.
But those they help… how can I not get behind a cause like this?
I love this compared to most other one for one business models because Figs serve a niche. I appreciate it when a businesses serves a niche. They know their customer. They know what affects them and what keeps them up at night. They don’t try to talk to everyone, rather the right one.
When it comes to brand storytelling, this is what I preach to my clients. I encourage them to take a step back and hone in on who they serve, because if you can get these folk to listen, you’ve won the war.
But through empathy and thinking outside your immediate circle of influence, you can serve a niche whilst inspiring the masses. This is why I love this one for one business model above most. I shouldn’t care about a brand like this, but I do. It makes me question why, because seriously… why should I care what a medical clothing company does and does not do?
CREATE PRIDE IN AN EVERYDAY UNIFORM
Placing my own love and appreciation for Figs to one side, let’s focus on those they actually serve (medical professionals who need scrubs and the like). Again, through empathy, I imagine these people take great pride in their work. Not only do they save lives each day, see painstaking aspects of life, and the miracles that comes with it, but suffer through mass debt, years of medical school, and long-long-long hours – for not nearly enough pay.
And each day they put on this uniform. Maybe it loses its magic after a while, but I imagine when you buy your first pair of scrubs… DAMN that must be a good time!
What an honour, right? It’s a right passage. It’s a badge placed upon your sleeve. It’s a big deal, yet at the same time remains a simple piece of cloth. It’s difficult to glamourise a pair of scrubs or a lab coat, unless you forget the actual thing for a second, and instead focus on what that thing represents.
Compassion… love… the need to help… science… magic…. caring… just a few words that come to mind when I think about doctors and nurses and other medical professionals. What Figs do is focus beyond the thing. A pair of scrubs is a big deal because of what it represents, and by focussing on this, they ensure wearing the uniform remains a big deal.
Combine this with a one for one business model that means you don’t only serve yourself but someone else in similar shoes, only thousands of miles away in a country that offers so little compared to what you’re used to… Well, why would you buy your scrubs from anywhere else?
Not only do Figs make this a big deal for you, they connect you with your far-away brethren who need your help.
KUDOS, FIGS – KEEP UP THE TOP WORK
I suppose not all one for one business models are equal, and in my opinion Figs sets themselves apart. Not only do they serve a niche and speak to a specific person, they help those in need in a way only they can.
They don’t focus on the thing, but the meaning behind it.
They inspire those who wear it by reminding them of what it represents, and connect them with their far-away brothers and sisters who suffer much worse then they.
Not only this, they craft a story that appeals to a mass market because who can’t emphasise with a cause that literally helps save lives within communities in need. I should not know about, nor care about Figs. I am not their customer, and they do not serve me. So… why do I write about them?
Chances are Figs don’t serve you either, yet you’ve just read a 1,500 word article about them. Why?
Because they possess a one for one business model with a difference. You can learn a few things from them, just like I can. You may even have a one for one business model within you, although it might not look like you’d expect. The best ones rarely do, so if you have any thoughts about this, or questions about Figs, reach out to me on FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Let’s keep this convo going, shall we…
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