Gini Dietrich

Kenneth Cole Demonstrates How Not to Use Twitter

By: Gini Dietrich | February 4, 2011 | 
160

We interrupt your regularly scheduled #FollowFriday to bring you the Kenneth Cole Twitter fiasco. Typically I would wait until Monday to write about it, but it’s unfolding as I write this and it’s too important to wait. Plus…it’s a PR nightmare and you all know how much I love a good crisis!

But, first. Allow me to tell you a story about Habitat, the furniture company based in the U.K.

In July 2009, they hired an intern to help them with their social media efforts. And the intern, rightfully so, thought he/she would look at the trending topics to see if there was something he/she could use in tweets.

Turns out there was. And it was big!

The company began tweeting a chance to win a gift card (worth about $2,000) with a link to some pretty juicy news… the deadly protests in Iran after the disputed presidential election. Bad enough in its own right. But they used the hashtag #mousavi, so when people were searching for information on the protests, they instead found the Habitat contest. To say people were angry is putting it mildly. And Habitat was put on serious defense.

Now. Fast forward 18 months and another well-known brand has made the same mistake.

Yesterday morning we had a Project Jack Bauer team meeting and, when I got back to my desk, Sean McGinnis had DM’d me a tweet from Kenneth Cole. Thinking he was trying to get on my good side and sending me a shoe sale, I clicked on it (he called me Gumby on Facebook and I threatened to egg his house – don’t ask).

What I found, instead, is the tweet below.

Um. What? Using what’s happening in Egypt to promote your new spring collection? Seriously?

I know a lot of people will argue that this did exactly what the company intended – to get us all talking. And others will say I’m playing into that strategy by blogging about it. And others will say there is no such thing as bad PR.

But there is such a thing as bad PR. Even if Kenneth Cole, himself, posts a mea culpa.

This is a perfect example of why Spin Sucks. People have a horrible perception of the PR industry because of crap like this. And that’s what it is. C-R-A-P.

Public relations is meant to build awareness that drives sales. It is not meant to build awareness for the sake of people saying your name. Or blogging about you. Bad PR is BAD PR. It’s not good.

Maybe it won’t hurt sales. Maybe some people will be grateful to be reminded of how much they love his shoes and clothes. Maybe it won’t bother people outside the social media bubble one bit. But maybe it will create boycotts. And maybe it will decrease sales. And that, folks, is BAD PR.

Anytime you have to issue an apology and interrupt your work growing your business, that is bad PR. No matter how many people are talking about you.

I’m not going to give Kenneth Cole a lesson in crisis driven by something stupid said on Twitter. Lots of people have already done that. Instead I recommend doing your flipping research so you don’t make the same mistakes as an intern did 18 months ago.

Update: 8:14 a.m. on Friday, February 4: Someone found a window decal in a Kenneth Cole store of the tweet. It seems Dino Dogan is correct…this was planned and I have now lost all faith in humanity. Bad PR sucks. Spin Sucks. And Kenneth Cole sucks.

Update: 8:19 a.m. on Friday, February 4 (I’m obsessed): Jeremiah Owyang is asking some intelligent questions and not getting a response from anyone, including Kenneth Cole. They might return his call – he’s a big deal. They’d just ignore me. So go, Jeremiah, go!

Can you help confirm how this was done? I’m having a hard time believing they would do this for a few reasons:

1) why would they put campaign copy on a window with the Twitter chrome?

2) The corporate website didn’t reflect the Cario language.

3) I’m not seeing any other images online that confirm this.

4) in the second picture (see top right) the copy interferes with visualization of the product display –advertising-wise, it just doesn’t make sense for the store front.

5) Given the trauma to the brand, no chance the store would have kept this up for a full day and into the night.

This could be: A decal someone slapped on the window (the coloring is a bit off from the KC logo) or a photoshop (per Hugger below), or a real KC campaign (which I doubt)

(I’m often wrong, but just want to double check before drawing conclusions)

Update: 12:18 p.m. on Friday, February 4: Decal is Photoshopped on to the store window. My view of humanity is beginning to be restored…a bit.

Update: 5:37 p.m. on Friday, February 4: Turns out the decal was NOT Photoshopped and this seems to be an intentional campaign to get people talking. Now I have an entirely different blog post to write. It’s going to be titled: Dear Kenneth Cole, SPIN SUCKS and so do you.

Update: 6:22 p.m. on Friday, February 4: The photos were real, but pranksters put them up, not Kenneth Cole. My head hurts now.

P.S. I’ll do this week’s #FollowFriday at noon today and the Top Five tomorrow for your weekend reading.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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160 Comments on "Kenneth Cole Demonstrates How Not to Use Twitter"

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JaimieField
JaimieField
5 years 7 months ago

Anyone who says even bad PR is good is an idiot! The sad thing, Gini is that KC’s stock went up 2.5% yesterday after this.

kkryski
kkryski
5 years 7 months ago

Great post!

johnfalchetto
5 years 7 months ago
Interesting these PR fiascos. I am going to play devil’s advocate and ask how much does bad PR really hurt these brands?Is there a way to really measure the direct impact on sales?Is the new collection going to fall flat on its face?Yes, it’s a communication SNAFU but did it really create a loss of revenue for KC? I think we need to really contrast these SM blunders with real life brand disasters (BP oil spill, Tiger Wood’s extraconjugal affairs) which do no go away and truly affect the trust people show towards the brand and the bottom line. Just… Read more »
johnfalchetto
5 years 7 months ago
nteresting these PR fiascos. I am going to play devil’s advocate and ask how much does bad PR really hurt these brands? Is there a way to really measure the direct impact on sales? Is the new collection going to fall flat on its face? Yes, it’s a communication SNAFU but did it really create a loss of revenue for KC?I think we need to really contrast these SM blunders with real life brand disasters (BP oil spill, Tiger Wood’s extraconjugal affairs) which do no go away and truly affect the trust people show towards the brand and the bottom… Read more »
ParkRidgeDDS
ParkRidgeDDS
5 years 7 months ago

Excellent. I often worry after I have pushed send that I might have “said” the wrong thing….it is difficult even for a small business to engage and yet always remain appropriate and not offend anyone…a balancing act for sure. I have had “senders remorse” on several occasions and I can only hope that the minute KC pushed send, that icy chill of “senders remorse” ran down his spine. Maybe…

dino_dogan
dino_dogan
5 years 7 months ago

@JaimieField Unn Freaking Believable

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@dino_dogan @JaimieField Did it really go up after this? There is something wrong in this world.

Hi Dino! And….happy birthday, Jaimie!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@kkryski Thanks! I’m waiting for the, “But Gini, you did exactly what they wanted you to do” comments.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago
@johnfalchetto I definitely think we live in our own bubble and get riled up about this kind of stuff. And, typically, I would ignore it. But yesterday I got so mad about these people who think any PR is good. It’s EXACTLY why I write this blog so I couldn’t let it go. And…I hope his sales do decrease. It would serve him right and then maybe we wouldn’t have clients say, “I don’t know why you won’t do this for us? Kenneth Cole did it and their sales increased.” Because then I have to have the ethical conversation instead… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@ParkRidgeDDS I’ve had senders remorse twice and, I’m with you, it’s not a fun feeling. I can only hope this wasn’t actually him sending the tweet, but some inexperienced pro who didn’t know better.

dino_dogan
dino_dogan
5 years 7 months ago
I dont think for a second that the apology wasnt pre planned. All measurements of good/bad/indifferent PR are tenuous at best, so the only way to measure the impact is the number of mouths saying/writing KenethCole in the social blogosphere. And from the PR firm’s perspective. mission accomplished. The new thing in communications is the CEO apology. Dominos CEO is promising us to learn how to make a better pizza. Really? Dominos hasnt figured it out yet? #GTFOH Dont get me started on BP’s CEO apology. When CEO take the “responsibility” it makes them appear “human”. “oh..we make mistakes, guys..Im… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@dino_dogan LMAO on Dominos! My poor naive eyes! I really hope you’re wrong. I really, really do. This Utah-born girl really wants to believe the best in people and that this was a mistake by some inexperienced pro who didn’t know better. But, if you’re right, my faith in humanity has dropped again and I, also, will never buy anything from them again. It won’t even be hard to walk past their Michigan Avenue store without stopping. I may even flip them the bird.

johnfalchetto
5 years 7 months ago
@ginidietrich Yep I agree it has more to do with CSR then sales or marketing.But what is your social responsibility when you sell overpriced clothes? Could you be an insensitive snob marketing your product by using anorexic teenage girls as models? As a sales technique it seemed to have worked, the stock went up. The stunt also created a lot of talk (here we are) but in a way you can look at it as ‘PR terrorism.’ You hit an ethical weak spot to further your cause. Do the means justify the ends? Oh how far we are from handbags… Read more »
johnfalchetto
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich
Yep I agree it has more to do with CSR then sales or marketing. But what is your social responsibility when you sell overpriced clothes? Could you be an insensitive snob marketing your product by using anorexic teenage girls as models?
As a sales technique it seemed to have worked, the stock went up. The stunt also created a lot of talk (here we are) but in a way you can look at it as ‘PR terrorism.’
You hit an ethical weak spot to further your cause. Does the end justify the means? Oh! how far we are from handbags and shoes.

kkryski
kkryski
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich I don’t think you’ll get much of that. My guess, it was an error in judgement rather than a PR stunt. Perhaps not, though.

As for their stock increasing… that may have just been unfortunate timing rather than as a result of his twitter post. Maybe I just have too much hope for humanity? haha

Area224
Area224
5 years 7 months ago

I, however, have faith in humanity. After recent brand stupidity, the people spoke with their wallets: Amazon and Etsy both came to their senses after lots of pressure. And scores of people will no doubt stop buying from Kenneth.

Note: it is considered an insult in the Arab world to remove your shoes and wave them in the air. It happened earlier this week in Egypt, and now it’s virtually happening to KC himself.

Humanity 1, Ken 0.

MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone
5 years 7 months ago

Confusing that you say things that aren’t true, at least, in my case…. Unless of course, I am attempting to sell something, in which case, I’m doing it wrong.

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
5 years 7 months ago

I’m still amazed. Speechless actually. Anyway, some of the comments below talked about sender’s remorse. I was at a conference last October. One of the things that has stuck with me from it was, “Eat it before you tweet it.” Think about what you’re going to post before hitting enter!

Now my question to you and your readers…how do you mitigate bad PR when a fake twitter account is set up? http://twitter.com/#!/KennethColePR

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
5 years 7 months ago

AND…have you seen the comments on the wall of the Kenneth Cole facebook page? Yikes!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@patrickreyes Look at my updates (just posted). If this was planned, as it seems it was now, the fake Twitter account and bad PR surrounding is deserved.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@Area224 I really, really hope their sales are affected by this insanity. I just posted some updates. It’s really beginning to look like they planned this.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@MatchesMalone What do you mean? Now I’m confused. 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@MatchesMalone OH wait. I see…”you” as in Kenneth Cole (I thought you meant me).

EricaAllison
5 years 7 months ago

Unbelievable! And I completely agree…Bad PR is BAD PR!!! I’ve often had to correct client perceptions about that one. “Well at least they’re talking about us, right? ” Heck, NO. They’re talking to their friends about how awful you are and why they should not buy your shoes, eat your food, or buy your gas. Come on, KC! What gives? I’ll be back later as this progresses…

pacebutlercorp
pacebutlercorp
5 years 7 months ago
Great stuff as usual Gini. I don’t shop solely (pun intended) by brand so I can’t say I’ve actually ever purchased KC shoes, but I probably won’t now. I kind of feel like this might be equated the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I hope not, but if their stock went up 2.5% @JaimieField who knows. I don’t know if this will keep people from buying his shoes or not, but I do think people just think he’s an idiot for saying what he did. He just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that I would want to have lunch with.
forfeng
forfeng
5 years 7 months ago

That decal is VERY clearly photoshopped, I don’t even need to look hard, Go to large or original view and look, you don’t have to look hard to see the inconsistencies.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich @patrickreyes The fake Twitter account is run by someone. Yes it’s bad now but like the fake BP PR account, interest will eventually fade and the tweets will slow down, people will turn their attention elsewhere.. to the next PR flub.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela
5 years 7 months ago

Gini, this has been some week for DA POSSE. This Kenneth Cole story reeks of typical old media approach to new media. I have been so busy with TOP GEAR BBC story (thank you, BBC, for your errors, love, my blog) that I missed this story. 2011 is going to be some year!

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela
5 years 7 months ago

This is key:

Anytime you have to issue an apology and interrupt your work growing your business, that is bad PR. No matter how many people are talking about you.

Yup. The BBC did the same thing with TOP GEAR and missed the boat. This is going to be a fun weekend!

Love,
Julito

MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich No, actually, the you is you. Unless he wrote the article above.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 7 months ago
You hit some great points because I commented yetserday on Nancy Myrland’s blog that you covered here. And we had an exchange about how little communication out of the worlds volume happens on Social Media. In fact chances are with only 6-10mil US daily users of Twitter most people going into a KC store are clueless about what happened. HuffPost has zero on this which would be one of the first places I would see it if it hit mainstream. Without rehashing anything aside from that fact that Gumby is cool and I hate eggs BLECHH From a PR Pro’s… Read more »
JohnAkerson
5 years 7 months ago
So – that picture is a photoshop and the twitter account “KennethColePR” is easy to spot as a fake, but it is so very, very negative. Kenneth Cole opened the door for that nightmare to drive through. Kenneth Cole (or a rep) setup the URL on Bit.ly http://www.bit.ly/KCairo (which still works) and Kenneth Cole wrote on his twitter account, long ago, that “Thoughts that are end in -KC are from me personally.” That information is STILL on *his* twitter account. That tweet ended in -KC. It is fine to have humor, and be a bit snarky, but that ends where… Read more »
ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer
5 years 7 months ago

Gini, totally photoshopped! I wrote a post about it this this morning, but pulled it when I realized it was a fake. But great thoughts here, nonetheless :))

MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone
5 years 7 months ago

@patrickreyes I don’t have any firsthand experience with this, so, I wouldn’t know how to handle it. When someone figures out who I am, then it might be an issue. If not an entire subscription 😉

Adrian_Dayton
Adrian_Dayton
5 years 7 months ago

I’ll be honest, when I first saw the Keneth Cole tweet, I thought it was pretty funny. I don’t see the big deal.

Clearly many people were very offended by the joke, but I don’t see it.

wabbitoid
5 years 7 months ago

I would like to ask you to revist this later to see what the long-term fallout is. Yesterday this drove me to look up Cook’s Source to see what’s happened with them – and there has been zero follow-up on that disaster. Cole will get theirs, no doubt, but I think the long-term is where we find out what this kind of too-clever-by-more-than-half mistake really costs.

pacebutlercorp
pacebutlercorp
5 years 7 months ago

@Adrian_Dayton I understand where you are coming from as that was my first initial reaction. After realizing the gravity of the situation (an entire country trying to liberate itself from an oppressive regime) it angered me as an American just as much as it was a bad PR choice. The entire rest of the world reads things like that and thinks, “Typical Americans”. I would urge you to go read more about the situation as I think you might be a bit uniformed.

dustinasmith
dustinasmith
5 years 7 months ago
As I wrote about on my personal blog, I’m afraid that people and organizations do not understand that social media sites like Twitter do the same thing that a traditional press release would do. Before, press releases would be sent out that have been labored over, but now with social media sites, messages are left up to 140 characters that can often come off as extremely unprofessional and mis-guiding for the organization. We need to see social media as something more than just those 140 characters. We need to realize that those 140 characters can make or break an organization… Read more »
NationRanch
NationRanch
5 years 7 months ago

I view this as a case of gaming the system to drive chatter, which is something our friends in the “news” business have been doing for years. Too bad it’s leaked into our profession. Paul Farhi of the American Journalism Review http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4900 published an article on the practice of placing titilating headlines to drive eyeballs (and ad revenues), while burying the “real news” elsewhere on their Websites. The very fact that we’re using up so much oxygen talking about KC unfortunately justifies this sort of thing in the eyes of misguided marketers. The apocalypse is nigh.

Debra_Ellis
5 years 7 months ago

Gini,

I’m glad you decided to post. Using the tweet (campaign???) as a teaching opportunity is helpful. (As compared to all of the Kenneth Cole you’re @#$% commentary out there.)

We need more teaching, less ugliness.

Thank you.

ginidietrich (Gini Dietrich)
5 years 7 months ago

Kenneth Cole demonstrates how NOT to use Twitter http://bit.ly/gLJz5C

AndrewLowther (Andrew Lowther)
5 years 7 months ago

RT @ginidietrich: Kenneth Cole demonstrates how NOT to use Twitter http://bit.ly/gLJz5C

2ftfromfreedom (Ben)
5 years 7 months ago

All I have to say about KC right now is #fail RT @ginidietrich: Kenneth Cole demonstrates how NOT to use Twitter http://bit.ly/gLJz5C

JoshfromMaine (Josh Morris)
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich: Kenneth Cole demonstrates how NOT to use Twitter http://bit.ly/gLJz5C” Great post! The window decal changed things. #KCPR

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@Debra_Ellis Oh yeah. I would never call them names (except maybe dummies). My issue is in what it does to the perception of the PR industry. THAT gets me fired up!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@NationRanch I agree. It really is unfortunate it’s leaked into our profession. I’m a little sick to my stomach.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@dustinasmith SUCH a good point! Releases go through serious review and even the legal department reviews it. If you have a campaign that you really want to promote through social media, the same care should be taken. Smart, smart, smart.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@wabbitoid Really great point about Cook’s Source (didn’t they close their doors?). I will definitely do a follow-up post about it. I’m really angry.

VeronicaLudwig (Veronica Ludwig)

Wow. RT @ginidietrich: Kenneth Cole demonstrates how NOT to use Twitter http://bit.ly/gLJz5C

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@pacebutlercorp @Adrian_Dayton That was my initial reaction, too. I mean, I clicked on the link to see if there was a shoe sale! But when I realized what they had hashtagged with, my PR crisis brain went into overload. Now it sounds like it may have been planned. That makes me sick.

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