you're reading...

Marketing Fail courtesy of Kenneth Cole

If a leading high-end retailer says being insensitive and offensive will lead to better business, should you do it?

The simple answer? No – regardless of what fashion designer Kenneth Cole says.

As the United States Congress debated the possibility of putting “boots on the ground” in a potentially long and deadly conflict in Syria last week, Cole used the debate to market his line of high-end shoes.

Almost immediately after the missive was sent to the tweeting universe, he received a strong backlash to his marketing attempt from hundreds online.

But Cole sees it differently. Defending himself in a Huffington Post article last week, he stated that insensitive tweets like that, and others he has sent in the past are just good business. He points to more Twitter followers, a higher stock price and better e-commerce business on the days of this and other controversial tweets. He then went on to say that he wasn’t sorry about the tweet either.


This sort of social media marketing is wrong – on both a human and marketing level. Paying more attention to what Miley Cyrus did at this year’s VMAs, and ignoring the horrors that are going on in Syria is one thing. But exploiting the suffering of others so your company can sell more shoes? Whether you are a politician or a large company like Kenneth Cole, no one likes to see sad situations like these exploited for benefit. Consumers know what crap smells like and will point it out when they see it.

In a world that is increasingly more concerned with social responsibility, brands that engage in this behaviour are in dangerous waters. Consumers will not only decide to boycott your products, but they will tweet, Facebook, and blog about their hatred for your brand. They will start and sign petitions, post videos and create hilarious memes that will mock you in return. The internet has given the power to the consumer – piss them off and you will get burned – always.

But bad publicity is better than no publicity, right? Wrong. Bad publicity, while garnering attention for a while, will always fade away, changing the public’s attitude about your business forever. I imagine the public view of Kenneth Cole is much more negative than before its CEO’s foray onto Twitter. More importantly, bad publicity isn’t sustainable. This has been tried by the bad boys and girls of Hollywood and the music industry for decades, and have demonstrated that this strategy will not work.

So take a note from Kenneth Cole’s marketing strategy and don’t follow his lead. It is at your peril if you do.

About Greg Markey

Greg is a social media and digital marketing consultant who loves writing about business, technology, innovation and startups. He holds a degree in political science and history from St. Francis Xavier University, as well as a diploma in Journalism from Algonquin College. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and three kids..


2 thoughts on “Marketing Fail courtesy of Kenneth Cole

  1. I see a lot of interesting posts on your blog. You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you
    a lot of work, there is a tool that creates unique,
    google friendly posts in couple of minutes, just type in google – k2 unlimited

    Posted by Jennifer | July 18, 2014, 5:35 am
  2. If at a certain moment in time you have nothing important to say or you cannot help anyone,
    then. It is because your content is different and they cannot get this type
    of valuable content on other websites. Regular users of Twitter post short
    messages on almost anything they wish to let other people know, especially the ones who are following them.

    Stay away from Facebook, however, since you
    think it may be too time intensive means of passing on the great opportunities supplied by the marketing Facebook.

    Posted by Chadwick | October 1, 2014, 9:01 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,398 other followers

%d bloggers like this: