Don’t Put a Shoe in Your Mouth

The strong and immediate backlash to today’s tweet by fashion designer Kenneth Cole, attempting to leverage conversations about the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt to promote the brand’s new spring collection, serves as another example of the power of social media – and how brands *must* participate in a sensitive and sensible manner.

It goes without saying that the was completely insensitive and ill-advised. If you missed it, here is the tweet, which Kenneth Cole himself has taken responsibility for:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”

A couple of hours later the tweet was deleted, an apologetic one was sent, and the following apology was posted on Kenneth Cole’s Facebook fan page:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.” – Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer”

Will this fiasco have a negative impact on the Kenneth Cole brand? I doubt it.  Overall the brand has a very solid reputation, and Kenneth Cole is a known philanthropist – on both corporate and personal fronts. Further, the apologetic response was open, very human in tone, and immediate.  Kenneth Cole made a dumb mistake and admitted it.

That said, it’s important to remember – in a world connected by social media, news of a brand’s missteps can reach an awful lot of ears very, very quickly, with potentially damaging consequences. People who represent a company, whether through social media or otherwise, must do so in a responsible and ethical manner – at all levels.

If they don’t, they will be held accountable.