Brand risk management for Kenneth Cole

Feb. 3, 2011

Curt Baillie, author of the Security2LP blog, wrote this week about how Taco Bell was handling a brand risk issue. The situation was that a lawsuit had been filed noting that Taco Bell's beef was around 35 or 36 percent beef -- and the rest was a strange filler concoction. Taco Bell retaliated claiming that it's beef is actually 88 percent beef  (which doesn't seem like particularly high ground to me; shouldn't beef be 100 percent beef? But I digress, because I wouldn't touch Taco Bell meat with my worst enemy's tongue whether it's 80-something percent beef or 35 percent beef).

Now, the attention turns to another global brand, which risked its global reputation by what can't be described as anything other than a particularly dumb Twitter message. Kenneth Cole sent out the following message this morning to its 9,400 followers (and deleted it 4 or 5 hours later):

Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC

People are dying; a government is losing its control; the future of Western relations in the Middle East is being shaken, and Kenneth Cole wants to joke about it and humorously take credit for the chaos and violence?

It gets worse for Kenneth Cole. A non-official Kenneth Cole Twitter account called KennethColePR sprung up this afternoon and extend the foot-in-mouth disease for Kenneth Cole some more, writing the following:

People of Australia: Water up to your ankles? We've got your Kenneth Cole capris right here!


People in Moscow are EXPLODING once they hear about our Fall sales


"People from New Orleans are flooding into Kenneth Cole stores!"

In response to a litany of criticism, Kenneth Cole tried to patch the situation back together on his Facebook page, writing:

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

Now, this snafu may be all marketing department and no corporate security (not a single video surveillance recording had to be reviewed for this risk), but it does speak to the potential C-level role of risk management. And considering all vectors of risk could mean protecting employees overseas, defending your locations in hot spots (like Cairo), and, yes, even making sure your company doesn't "step in it" on Twitter.


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