Is Irreverence A Social Media Strategy?

Observations September 5, 2013 3:06 pm

Once is a mistake, twice is foolish, and multiple times is a strategy.

And Kenneth Cole’s is irreverence. The designer made waves in 2011 after using the riots in Cairo as a promotional strategy:

And then again in April of this year when he tied ‘bare feet’ to the hotly debated gun control issue:

And then again, today, to sell footwear in light of the crisis of Syria:

While we’ve seen a rash of ill-executed tweets from brands lately in an effort to capitalize on the ‘real-time’ marketing trend (here’s looking at you, Golf Channel), Kenneth Cole’s tweets go deeper than the efforts of a mis-guided community manager hoping to go viral. To give him credit, he’s clearly following a strategy that permeates the brand– one of irreverence and ‘pushing the boundaries of convention.’ If you haven’t read the story about the start of the brand, Cole launched Kenneth Cole from a truck since he didn’t have money for a showroom. Creative, and convention pushing, yes. But deceptive, too. In trying to get a parking permit for his truck, he learned that only production companies could get one… so he changed the name of the company to ‘Kenneth Cole Productions’ so he could sell shoes, not make films.

So are his tweets ‘on brand?’ Technically, yes. But it’s not a good strategy to have– there’s a difference between pushing boundaries and being completely insensitive and irreverent. The hype and publicity the brand will receive for the tweet is a double-edged sword, as he risks alienating customers and partners.

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