Don’t make light of big world events

Kenneth Cole, the fashion house famous for its shoes (at least in my closet!), really put foot in mouth during the Arab Spring. At the height of the demonstrations in Egypt in 2011, the twitter account credited to the designer posted this:

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You might remember how important Twitter was during those demonstrations, when internet access was often blocked and organizers used the #Cairo hashtag to connect with supporters. Maybe not so much to shop for shoes.

Needless to say, the internet masses turned on Kenneth Cole. Those who had been using the #Cairo hashtag outside of Egypt to keep up to date on news were pretty vicious.

  • WTF is wrong with you, @KennethCole ? http://twitter.com/#!/KennethCole/status/33177584262971393
  • @KennethCole Totally poor taste. People are dying in the streets and you want to advertise your fashions? #boycottKennethCole
  • I have to say the #Kennethcole tweet made me giggle; they had to know there would be backlash.. They are now in a PR nightmare. Intended???

And within minutes, a parody @kennethcolepr account was created, and the #KennethColeTweets hashtag took off.

  • “People from New Orleans are flooding into Kenneth Cole stores!”#KennethColeTweets
  • Hey #Mubarak: Perhaps it’d be easier to step down with a pair of ultra-comfy loafers from our spring collection! #KennethColeTweets
  • Going to a cross burning? You’ll hate cutting eye holes in our 600 thread count cotton sheets. #KennethColeTweets
  • Horrified by the discarded shoes at Auschwitz? You’ll never part with anything from our new line—not over your dead body! #KennethColeTweets
  • Don’t be a slave to bad fashion – Celebrate Black History Month with our new Spring line! #KennethColeTweets

Kenneth Cole did post a kind-of apology:

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But still, not the kind of PR you really want, is it? Despite the apology, the tweet generated negative coverage for weeks. Just goes to show that just because you’re fashionable doesn’t mean you exhibit good taste. 😉

Don’t get outed for a bad tweet, or another reason why letting the young staff handle social media is a bad idea

Poor Durex, the famous condom manufacturer. Here’s a cautious tale out of South Africa about them. One tweet and they had egg on their faces (I’m going to try and avoid bad condom-types puns in this blog post — wish me luck!!).

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Someone told a young Durex employee in South Africa that it would be okay to make up their own tweets and blast them out via social media. Mistake #1, giving the 20-something control of social media.  Mistake #2, assuming one tweet wouldn’t really matter. Boy, did it matter to Durex. Here’s the tweet:

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Of course the twitterverse rose up in outrage over this misogynistic comment. And then the same twitter account out of South Africa tried to defend itself, saying it was just a joke. And then more bad-taste (ooh, where did your mind just go?!) jokes were posted. Eventually Durex corporate stepped in and removed the offensive tweets and apologized. But the damage was already done.

A South African blogger seems to have summed up the problem nicely, saying it seems that the PR company responsible for managing Durex’s tweets may have

“placed a young tweeter at the helm of their twitter account and this is a problem many companies face. Placing someone you think will translate your brand at the level at which you are trying to target is a good idea. Having no-one monitor it is a mistake. Young, mid-life or old – we all need moderation.”

Well that was a cock up, wasn’t it?