Kenneth Cole: Offensive or Good Strategy?

Jul 29, 2020 | Digital

What do you get when you have 57,220 followers on Twitter? Well, for one, you make thousands of impressions with every tweet, but at the expense of an equal number of headaches and controversies. Social media can sometimes be the sharpest of double-edged swords; just ask Kenneth Cole.

Kenneth Cole is no stranger to “offensive” (as described by the media and some followers) tweets in order to inspire engagement and discussion. And you’d think that if this were a reoccurring theme in Cole’s social media activity that he would change his tactics or apologize to those he may offend. Well, you are wrong. Cole admits that it is his intentions to stir the pot and “exploit the public desire for controversy.”

His latest tweet included the phrase “boots on the ground,” which had been recently used by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in regards to the ongoing and serious conflict in Syria. Cole made light of this situation and used the phrase as a way to push his shoe lines and footwear products, a decision that was not well received by the Twitter world. Cole stated, “We’re clearly bolder with our social messages than we are with our fashion messages, and that’s by design.”

This is not the first time Cole has done something like this and do you know why he continues? He gets results. For example, after the public uproar over his last tweet that was deemed offensive by many followers, Kenneth Cole’s stock went up that day, their e-commerce was better, business at every store improved, and he gained 3,000 new followers on Twitter. Cole knows how to create buzz and if you are wondering if it works or not, just take a look at what the topic of this very conversation is. People talk about it. How’s that for a successful strategy?

Cole recently made a response to the critics on his Instagram. While it was unapologetic, the message provided some reasoning and crisis control over the issue:  “I’ve always used my platform to provoke dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war and homelessness,” he said on Instagram. “I’m well aware of the risks that come with this approach, and if this encourages further awareness and discussion of critical issues, then all the better.”

As consumers of these social strategies, we must ask ourselves where the line between offensive and strategic is drawn. Where is your line?