Why Leaders Need to be Digitally Fluent: A Lesson from Kenneth Cole

Yesterday Kenneth Cole ignited a small brand firestorm by posting the following Twitter message:

Kenneth Cole tweet

All of the most recent evidence suggests that it was Kenneth himself who posted the message, even though there is a possibility that it was someone else in the company. Any way we slice it though, this is an example of the need for digitally fluent leadership.

Scenario 1: An intern or experienced marketer posted it.

The company’s Twitter page states that all messages followed by “-KC” are from the designer himself:

If this message was not posted by Kenneth, then either the company, or Kenneth, has been dishonest about who is posting messages (not a good idea), or the marketing folks have gone rogue. In either case, there is a good chance that folks on the Internet will catch the error in ethics, judgment or leadership and expose it, or even create a parody out of it, sort of like this one:

Kenneth Cole PR

(link: @KennethColePR)

Scenario 2: Kenneth Cole posted it.

Unless his actions were intended to draw lots of negative attention to the brand–which is at least of questionable taste, if not deplorable, if it is true–Kenneth seems to have misjudged fine line between Internet snark and mercenary opportunism. Blindness to the location of this line can create serious problems for an organization or a brand. Any leader who is participating in digital culture needs to be very well-versed in that culture.

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3 Responses to Why Leaders Need to be Digitally Fluent: A Lesson from Kenneth Cole

  1. Gail McDaniel says:

    I totally agree with the blog and total lack of good taste and proper behavior in the Kenneth Cole tweets. If indeed KC did write the tweet, he should be ashamed for his poor judgement and snarky approach to marketing. But the tone of the tweet sounds like the work of an intern trying to make brownie points with the number of retweets and viral exposure. Either way, the tweet puts a black eye on the Twitter bird.

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  3. christian says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Gail. It will be interesting to find out who actually posted the message.

    By “black eye on the Twitter bird” comment, mean that this incident is injuring Twitter’s perceived viability for marketing, or something else?

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