September 2013: The Worst Video Media Disaster

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 29, 2013 – 6:02 am

Clothing designer Kenneth Cole has a nasty little habit of newsjacking world events for his own benefit.

You may remember that he tried to get publicity for his new clothing line in 2011 by using the Egyptian Revolution that killed more than 800 people as a marketing hook:

At the time, Cole issued an 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.”

It turns out he didn’t mean his apology. Earlier this month, Cole repeated the stunt as the threat of war in Syria loomed:

Kenneth Cole Syria

I can’t even imagine how families with children serving in the armed forces must have reacted to Cole’s callous tweet. When faced with the inevitable social media backlash this time, however, Cole turned defiant.

 

Let’s be clear here: His insistence that he was trying to “provoke a dialogue about important issues” is either knowingly false or downright delusional. His tweets had nothing to do with substance. It appears that they were both intended to promote his products.

Even the phoned-in quality of the video reinforces his flip attitude. This controversy is worth addressing, but barely, the overly casual aesthetic seems to say.

But at least he kind of apologized, right?

Nope. According to an upcoming interview in the October issue of Details Magazine (as reported by The Huffington Post), Cole said:

“If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But 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,” he added. “I’m not even sure I used the words I’m sorry — because I wasn’t sorry.”

Got that? Cole apologized after the 2011 incident, but he didn’t mean it. And now he’s claiming he was just trying to “provoke a conversation” when it seems clear that profit was his motive.

All of this makes Cole the most insidious kind of marketer—one that uses tragedy and war to sell products. And based on his shifting explanations, it appears to make him a dishonest one, too.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

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    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

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