Kenneth Cole is known for his outspoken, often political, sometimes controversial and always pun-filled ad campaigns that he writes himself. He also composes his own messages on Twitter (identifying it's him with "-KC") and on Facebook.
This morning he faced a backlash for jumping on Twitter's #Cairo hashtag with a tweet that not only shilled for his brand, but created a bit.ly URL using KCairo (a play on KC and Cairo) pointing to his new collection.
Cole's now-deleted tweet: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”
The uproar that followed prompted this follow-up tweet to apologize: “Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”
He also posted a Facebook apology: "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"
It’s not the first time Cole has made questionably timed comments.
He told the New York Daily News shortly after 9/11: “Important moments like this are a time to reflect… To remind us, sometimes, that it’s not only important what you wear, but it’s also important to be aware.”
A fake account, @KennethColePR, popped up in the Twittersphere shortly after Cole's faux pas, skewering the designer with tweets such as: “Our new slingback pumps would make Anne Frank come out of hiding! #KennethColeTweets.”
So far, the nays have it on the brand's Facebook page:
“Martin Purmensky: you just put your brand forever in marketing textbooks...”
“David Bunting: Most expensive "mistake" you ever made Kenneth. The world is going to boycott your clothes, you selfish mug”
“Mo Sayid Solomon You Make me SICK! i was born in Cairo the scenes i am seeing is incredibly moving! to use this as a marketing tool is vile & low who ever tweeted that should never work again!!!!”
Too little too late — or a gaffe that will be forgiven by a shoot-from-the-lip designer whose mouth (and love of a pun) sometimes gets in the way of his social conscience? Nowadays, the road to hell is tweeted with good intentions and misfired puns.
The 1996 CFDA award-winner for humanitarian excellence also released the following video this week, in support of the Human Rights Coalition gay marriage campaign — and is the author of a book called Awearness, about social issues and making a difference.
What do you think? Should Cole's words — which he now regrets — speak louder than his actions?