What Kenneth Cole Teaches Us About Making Inappropriate Jokes

I’ve talked at length on this blog about the dangers that lurk for brands on Twitter. I’ve also mentioned that PR, even aside from Twitter, is a 24/7 task. Simply put, Twitter is like a loaded gun, just waiting to go off. All it takes is 140 characters or less of indiscretion for you to do serious damage to your brand or, at the very least, make a total ass of yourself.

Our most recent example of a Twitter FAIL comes from fashion designer Kenneth Cole. Last week, Cole Tweeted a promotion that joked about the violent protests in Egypt. He Tweeted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…”He also included a link to his company’s online store.

Almost immediately after this joke, the Twitterverse went bonkers. Twitter users called Cole “repulsive” and said his joke was in poor taste. The Tweet landed the Kenneth Cole brand all over the news, which forced Cole to take to Twitter and apologize for his inappropriate joke.

Now, we can debate all day long about whether or not people are too sensitive and can’t take a joke. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think society is too politically correct; they aren’t going to change. And as someone representing your brand, you can’t make jokes that your customers might be offended by.

Need more proof?

The BBC had to offer a public apology after the hosts on their show Top Gear made a joke about Mexicans, saying “Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.”  The joke sparked numerous online petitions from groups urging people to boycott BBC.

Then there was national security adviser Jim Jones’ recent joke about a Jewish merchant. He made an inappropriate joke during a live speech, and the public became incensed over the joke’s inappropriate content. Jones had to make a public apology for his remarks.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t have fun. There’s nothing wrong with having a great personality and bringing some humor to your brand. But you have to stay away from topics that could possibly be offensive to your customers. People don’t want to give money to companies that offend and insult them. That’s just how it is.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here:

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