Designer's Cairo tweet offends

GEORGINA ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2011
Kenneth Cole
Reuters
FOOT IN MOUTH: Designer Kenneth Cole quickly issued an apology after his Cairo tweet caused an online uproar.

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If ever proof was needed that fashion designers live in a parallel universe, Kenneth Cole has delivered it.

The American shoe and clothing designer attracted the ire of the Twitterverse after trying to parlay international fascination with the crisis in Egypt into marketing buzz for his latest collection.

Cole tweeted on Thursday afternoon: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC".

Retribution was swift.

Michael Arrington, founder of technology news website TechCrunch and an influential online pundit, struck early with the following reprimand: "WTF (what the f---k) is wrong with you, @KennethCole?".

Thousands more followed, outraged that Cole had hijacked the Cairo hashtag - normally used to aggregate conversation on a particular topic - in order to promote his brand.

Cole quickly deleted the tweet and published an apology on Facebook.

"I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt," he wrote.

"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."

James Griffin, consultant with Australian social media monitoring group SR7, said research by partner company Aon showed that attracting negative attention on social media platforms could cause long-term brand damage to companies and businesses.

"Whether this offensive tweet from Kenneth Cole is an example of this is yet to be determined," Mr Griffin said.

"They have a history of what perhaps some would consider as being 'witty' Tweets, but unlike previous marketing mediums, the social media world bites back."

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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