Social media erupts over Kenneth Cole tweet—but what is the real fallout?

Yesterday’s tweet was the talk of PR and crisis managers everywhere. But was it really a crisis? In the age of the attention-deficit, will anyone remember this in a week?


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He tweeted. He offended. He apologized.

It took only a few hours for the fashion designer and retailer Kenneth Cole to enrage Twitter and Facebook followers yesterday with this tweet:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

Though Cole quickly apologized for insensitivity, the damage had already been done … Or had it been?

Is it time to take a closer look at the so-called missteps brands make on Twitter and other social media sites?

Do we as PR and marketing people exaggerate the “brandicide” caused by such blunders, including the writers and editors at Ragan.com? After all, our story yesterday afternoon carried the headline, “Did Kenneth Cole commit brand suicide on Twitter?

Is it possible that all of yesterday’s attention, all of the media coverage, all of the buzz created around the Kenneth Cole tweet may have actually benefited the company?

While it’s true that Twitter erupted with predictable furor over the tweet and followers pummeled Cole with criticism, it’s dead on certain that traffic to the retailer’s shopping cart skyrocketed.

Why didn’t Cole take down the tweet, along with the link to the spring collection immediately? The fallout was instant, so why wasn’t the reaction by the company? It took two hours before the tweet and the link were removed.

Here is a sampling of media sites carrying stories about incident, which included a link to the spring collection page.

  • The Business Insider
  • PR Newser
  • The Huffington Post
  • Salon.com
  • CBS Money Watch
  • Forbes
  • CNET
  • New York Daily News
  • Advertising Age

In each case, the website displayed the tweet and the link to Kenneth Cole’s website.

It’s unlikely that the tweet was a calculated attempt by Kenneth Cole to whip up traffic to its shopping cart, but there is one undeniable reality, one that we’ve witnessed during multiple social media firestorms over the past two years—people quickly forget your blunder and move on.

Here’s my somewhat cynical prediction: Over the coming years, we’ll see many more companies commit horrible gaffes on Facebook and Twitter, apologize and then pull the offending content down.

Then they’ll sit back watch hits to their website soar?

“I don’t care what you say about me,” said the congressman to the political reporter. “Just spell my name right.”

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