The notion that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and that just as long as the press is talking about you, it doesn’t matter what they say, is just plain wrong when it comes to branding your business through story. Unless, of course, your business IS defined by a tasteless story.
A lot of the cool kids tell bloggers and social media wannabes that the most important thing today is “don’t be boring.” Take risks. Stir the pot. Be controversial. Be edgy. Be a bad ass.
OK, I get it. Shock jocks like Howard Stern get the ratings. But do you want your business to have a Howard Stern image? I guess it depends on what you’re selling.
Personally, I don’t. And I don’t work with brands that do. It’s just not my bag. I want to spend my brief time on earth making a positive impact if I can. I’m not opposed to taking a stand or being controversial — when doing so will make things better — but not just for shock value.
Case in point: last week designer Kenneth Cole tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at (link) KC.” (The KC is Cole’s trademark signature to show that he is actually tweeting and not an employee.)
Did he think this was funny? Clever? Is this supposed to be the kind of cool that, several years ago, brought us the hollow-eyed, sunken-cheeked models who looked like they were in the midst of heroin withdrawal? Did Cole think his comment would sell shoes?
Understandably, there was an enormous backlash to Cole’s insensitive and flip tweet about such a serious world event, resulting in a spoof Twitter page full of shocking one-liners from past world events such as: “People are looking at our sales girls in Chernobyl like they have three eyes. It’s just our insane markdowns!” and “The Final Solution: My new spring collection!” Wow.
After hundreds of negative comments, Cole eventually made a lukewarm apology: “Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”
But the public wasn’t buying it. Finally Cole apologized full-out on his Facebook page: “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.”
Why would someone who has spent his life raising awareness about serious social issues and building a luxury brand risk it all on one insensitive tweet? I don’t know if Mr. Cole came up with this gem of an idea himself or if he is relying on marketing counsel who suggested it to him, but it really should not take an expert to understand the folly of such a tactic.
As one man commented on Cole’s Facebook page, “I still can’t get over how you could even think of making jokes about Egypt/Cairo when people are dying in the streets.” And another said: “Common Sense 101 indicates that making light of a serious social situation for commercial purposes is probably not a good idea.”
Common sense … what a novelty!