As you (hopefully) know, the streets of Cairo have been flooded with protestors for the past several weeks. Citizens are in an uproar over the refusal to resign by their corrupt President Mubarak. This turmoil in Egypt sparked a social media controversy, which I will examine for this week’s Linky Love selected by Kelli Matthews.
Fashionistas and news-lovers alike had reason to join forces in anger on February 3, 2011. Kenneth Cole, a brand well known for its corporate social responsibility, published an extremely offensive tweet regarding the protests in Cairo. The tweet read as follows:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”
After a whiplash of negative feedback, the tweet was removed—but not before the damage had been done. The following day, someone had placed a life-sized decal of the tweet on the Kenneth Cole storefront in San Francisco. Needless to say, audiences were not pleased.
According to Ad Age, Kenneth Cole is one of the top 10 companies that places corporate social responsibility at its core. With programs such as the Awareness Fund, Kenneth Cole dedicates a portion of its profits to fighting HIV and AIDS. Twitter users across the globe were shocked to see such an esteemed and seemingly aware company publish such a tactless tweet.
This issue poses a question that was not relevant pre-Twitter days: How does Twitter redefine branding? Kenneth Cole has now essentially ruined its good name in the social responsibility realm, and despite a swift apology and an abundance of new followers, (3,000 to be exact), KC has a long way to go in its fight for social validity. With messages of 140 characters being instantly and permanently published, companies must be careful to consider their missions and identities before they tweet.