Kenneth Cole’s Next Steps

Whoa. So that happened yesterday.

Kenneth Cole caused a blizzard of controversy with a tweet that should never have been. And we watched as social media activity ate away at the brand’s reputation like a swarm of feasting piranhas. Now that the dust has settled a bit, it’s time to take a look at where the brand stands. Already the questions that we posed on Twitter are “What’s the next step?” and “Can the brand come back?”

In a time of PR missteps aplenty, it appears the answer to the second question is the majority of brands can make a comeback from the majority of mistakes with the right strategy and tactics. Still, it all starts with the first few steps.

This situation blew up at the speed of light, and a quick apology was definitely a move in the right direction. (Although some question how great that apology was.) A couple of tweets and comments we’ve seen have said the company should make a donation to an appropriate charity with proceeds from the next collection as a way to show how apologetic Kenneth Cole is. And Ogilvy PR suggests that having and adhering to a set of social media guidelines is critical.

This is a brand known for incorporating its namesake company leader and these pithy-and-socially-conscious one-liners into their marketing. According to the bio on the (real) Kenneth Cole Twitter page “Thoughts that end in -KC are from me personally; others are behind the seams insights from my inspiring associates.” Both the original tweet and the apology tweet have the KC signature. (The offending tweet has been removed.)

So do you pull back from using Mr. Cole going forward or do away with the one-liners? The company has drawn criticism for its witticisms in the past, but not with the speed and ferocity of what we saw on social media. So it’ll be interesting to see how they approach their PR and marketing in the future. CNN reports that the company stock wasn’t negatively impacted by the brouhaha. Maybe the only long-term response will be “Think before you tweet.”

Update: @KennethColePR has proposed, via tweet, that Kenneth Cole make a donation to @AmnestyOnline and says he/she is “signing off” the handle.