And the social media world erupts again… this time over a failed attempt at humor by the marketing department at Kenneth Cole. Here is a breakdown on what ensued…

The Kenneth Cole Twitter account sent out a tweet earlier that played off the unrest that is underway in Egypt. The tweet read :

Courtesy of Nancy Myrland

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

Okay… I know… this is completely ridiculous. The communications/marketing/social media department at Kenneth Cole decided to play off the trending hashtag of #Cairo in order to get some publicity for the brand. Bad idea. We know that.

People are pissed and for good reason. There are thousands of tweets, Facebook comments, and forum messages being sent out condemning the brand for insensitivity toward the Egyptian plight. Even more people are calling for massive communication crisis control.

It is completely understandable. Apparently, the head honcho himself wrote an apology on Facebook / Twitter and apologized…. somewhat insincerely… about the mistake.

Here is my issue with the digital marketing outcry.

Is this really going to hurt the brand of Kenneth Cole for more than a week? They deleted the content… sure people are writing about it… but is a negative tweet going to hurt the sales of the company?

I’m not sure. Let’s look at the numbers instead of using emotion to explain a problem.

The best example I can come up with is the Nestle fiasco. For those of you who do not know, Nestle was slow to respond to an outcry from Greenpeace on their Facebook page. The outcry was centered around the use of Palm Oil in its products. At first, Nestle ignored the problem which further fueled the fire and then proceeded to argue with the users…. clearly not the way to go.

Long story short… extremely negative content was shared all over the web.

Yes it was negative… and yes… it did hurt the overall brand in the eyes of social media user. The real question is whether or not the negative publicity hurt sales.

According to a Bloomberg article on Nestle, the chocolate and Purina dog food maker’s revenue rose 6.1% in the last half of 2010. This accounted for $85.4 billion in revenue.

“Nestle remains the epitome of strength and consistency,” Andrew Wood, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note. “Any concerns that Nestle’s strong momentum from the first half would subside have been shown to be unfounded.”

Needless to say… in terms of revenue and volume growth as company… Nestle was not hurt by the outcry on the social web. Their food and product division (which houses Kit Kat) also rose in revenue and volume.

To be fair… Dominoes also had a social media crisis of their own in 2009 on YouTube. Because of the outcry… sales slid 1% – 2% that quarter.

I think it is important to keep brands accountable for their mistakes and make sure the world knows what is really happening behind the walls of the business elite. However, it is important to remember that while social media and negative publicity can be an extremely powerful thing… sometimes it doesn’t hurt the overall health of the brand.

It’s important to always look at the numbers because numbers are everything in the world of business. I’m interested to see if this outcry changes the sales outlook for Kenneth Cole in their first quarter of 2011.

What do you think?