Kenneth Cole's real mistake: Tactics without a strategy

Ian Lurie

Unless you live under a rock, or have a life outside the internet, you’ve heard about Kenneth Cole’s now-infamous Tweet-fuffle:

Kenneth Cole Tweet

Tasteless? Yes. And ill-advised.

Tactically it looks brilliant: Surf on a trending hashtag (#Cairo). By tweeting and including that hashtag in his post, Kenneth Cole ensured his tweet would be seen by the millions of people following the crisis in Egypt.

But, that which is tactically clever can also be strategically dumb. Sort of like starting a land war in Russia: You get the jump on everyone, forge your way in, and then get crushed by the combination of winter and people who don’t like being invaded.

But I digress.

Cole’s error here was not considering the longer-term impact. He grabbed for a bit of quick traffic with what seemed at the time like a light-hearted reference to current events. He forgot that events have participants (in this case, anyone on Twitter), and participants have memories, and unfavorable memories mean unfavorable press.

My advice? Always make sure your marketing tactics fit with your strategy. If they don’t, then no matter how good the short-term potential, re-think your Twitter/article/publicity stunt/PR.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. I’ve always disagreed with the statement “There’s no such thing as bad press,” and this is exactly why. I mean, yes, he got attention with that tweet, but he’s effectively branded his company as being out of touch and seriously insensitive to major political issues.
    Maybe it’ll blow over, and I’m sure that the people who love his brand will be willing to forgive and forget. But for someone like me with only a passing familiarity with his line, I’m guessing that association is going to stick for a lot longer than he’d want it to.

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