Kenneth Cole Says Controversial Tweets Are Great for Business

One man’s PR fail is another man’s business plan…if that other man happens to be “designer with a conscience” Kenneth Cole.

In case you thought some clueless intern was responsible for what seemed like a tactless marketing message playing off the possibility of war in Syria, you’re wrong: Cole writes these controversial tweets himself, and he does it all on purpose. Cue maniacal laugh.

When the designer responded to his latest manufactured controversy by stating that he intended to start a dialogue, he apparently meant “dialogue” as in “a conversation that will help promote my own company.”

So…the joke’s on you!

In case you’ve forgotten, Cole’s brand is no stranger to puns written to offend on both the cultural and editorial levels. After 2011’s Egyptian uprising PR fail, he quickly issued a standard apology via social media:

“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

Don’t expect that sort of follow-up this time, because it seems he’s tired of pretending to apologize.

A few journalists received excerpts from an upcoming interview in Details (aka Maxim for middle-aged gay men) in which the designer lays out his business strategy and lets us know that he’s not sorry. Not even a little bit.

Cole says:

Billions of people read my inappropriate, self-promoting tweet, I got a lot of harsh responses, and we hired a crisis management firm. If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five.

He’s exaggerating, but we never thought of him as a modest guy. There’s more:

…our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe? Within hours, I tweeted an explanation, which had to be vetted by lawyers. I’m not even sure I used the words I’m sorry—because I wasn’t sorry.

So his goal was, and has always been, to gain attention and drive up sales by posting “controversial” statements about the topic of the day, be it AIDS or war or immigration. We might spend some time pondering the implications of his meaningless “social activism”, but we’ll just ask this question: Why did he even bother hiring a crisis management firm in the first place when the retainer was such an obvious waste of money?

If you’re looking for a sincere apology/explanation, the Instagram clip will have to do. And Kenneth Cole couldn’t care less.

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