A Better Feeling for Making the World Better? TOMS’s Tropes and the Buy-One-Give-One Mode
Abstract: This essay asks how social enterprises like TOMS generate so much consumer affective investment in an age whose cause-related messaging fatigues shoppers. I find one answer in the energizing buy-one-give-one mode in which TOMS participates and to which it gives collective access. The mode expresses an increasingly widespread sensibility that company growth cannot proceed indefinitely without constraint by company largesse: gathering and growth must be countered by expenditure and even a kind of waste. Modal analysis of metonymic tropes within TOMS’s discourse (by chief executive officer Blake Mycoskie) shows how the company gives a feel for connecting the apparently opposed concerns of self-interested acquisition and “wasteful” expenditure—doing good and doing well—without collapsing one into the other. Unfortunately, other social enterprise rhetorics have failed not only to acquire but also to “waste” consumer enthusiasm in similarly generative fashion, thereby deactivating at times the significance of social enterprise’s projects. This essay concludes by discussing why modal reading of affective investments matters for rhetorical scholarship in this historical moment.