Friday, February 4, 2011

Three Things That #KennethColeTweets Teaches Us

Clothing designer shot himself in his well-clad foot yesterday with a tweet that was quickly deemed inappropriate:
Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KCless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®
He quickly got condemned for being insensitive. And then, in what appears to be a now-standard response on Twitter, someone establish a mock Twitter ID, KennethColePR, posting some amusing tweets the way BPGlobalPR did after the BP oil spill. Today, KennethColePR has more than six thousand followers.

Kenneth Cole later did apologize -- six hours later.

So here's the first lesson: if you have a crisis
  1. Be prepared: Register account names that can be used as mock accounts. Yeah, they'll still be able to find an account to mock your corporate response, but you might as well make it more difficult for them.
  2. Respond quickly. Companies need to monitor the response any edgy tweets quickly. Fifteen years ago, apologizing just six hours after the fact might have been fast enough to deflate a story. Not anymore. Twitter moves too fast, so that six hours turns out to be a too looong a time. Two hours might be too long to wait and defuse the situation.
  3. Context matters. What works in advertising might not work on Twitter. Kenneth Cole has used edgy ads for years --"Regardless of the right to bear arms, we condemn the right to bare feet" and Women have the right to be pregnant, but not barefoot" or an AIDS-prevention ad featured a condom along with the tagline: "Shoes aren't the only thing we encourage you to wear." So his edgy comment on Twitter was not without precedent. What's interesting, though, is the gap between what's appropriate for an ad and what's appropriate on Twitter.
People expect ads to entertain, intrigue, persuade, annoy or bore them. Even targeted ads are a bit impersonal (which is not to say some ads don't offend -- as some Super Bowl ads demonstrate each year).

Twitter, however, is different. It seems more personal. We're using it for news and commentary. What might have worked in an ad clearly did not work on Twitter.

The question for Kenneth Cole is what affect this tweet will have on his sales. I tend to think it won't have leave much of a long-term impact on his core customers.

What do you think? Are there other lessons?


Unknown said...

All very good points in your article. My sense is that this could be beneficial in the long run because it has generated a lot of top-of-mind awareness. Granted much of it is negative and tarnishes the brand. However, this isn't a BP oil spill and although the comment was in poor taste (considering people's lives are being lost) one can't discount the hilarity that ensued with the comments on #KennethColeTweets and #KennethColePR which were definitely entertaining.
And since Kenneth Cole does have a sordid history of controversial ads, this tweet may be another way to test the resilience of the brand. Risky yes, and for most brands it would be devastating, but controversy does have an odd appeal to many consumers. The next few days and weeks to follow at the cash register will be the real test.

mamaseekinginspiration said...

Whether as a tweet or if it had been an ad, I think that the Cairo reference was insensitive and crass. Obviously ads go through a much more rigorous creative, approval and production process than a tweet. I'm sure there will be many more corporate tweet blunders. It really makes you wonder who is writing the corporate PR tweets?!

Norman Birnbach said...

I agree -- the @kennethcole tweet was insensitive and crass. Corporate tweets do seem to go through a less rigorous review process than ads -- they're free, after all, and must be timely. I think we will see more blunders. So the question is: will a greater number of blunders limit the impact of a single blunder. In other words, will mistweets stop being seen as a crisis, even as the company apologizes for it?