Kenneth Cole, Groupon, and…iCarly? A Public Backlash

UPDATE [Feb 11, 2011 at 12:35am]: Groupon Founder and CEO Andrew Mason posted on his blog that he “feels terrible that we [Groupon] made you feel bad.” Consequently, he has decided to pull the controversial Groupon ads from the air. Read more on his blog.

Kenneth Cole, Groupon, and…iCarly? What do these have in common? Controversy. Let’s start with Kenneth Cole:

Last week, American clothing designer Kenneth Cole decided it was appropriate for him to send the following tweet out for the world to see:

The result was a blazing fire of outrage that quickly spread throughout the web. If you haven’t been following the news lately, here’s a quick lowdown on what’s happening in Cairo, Egypt. People are struggling, protesting, and dying as millions of people are fighting for their freedom. You would think it would be distasteful and offensive for someone to make a joke out of it, right? Apparently not. Kenneth Cole is all about making sure you look good…no matter what’s happening. Okay, that last sentence was a joke…courtesy of the fake Twitter account @KennethColePR.

Eventually, Kenneth Cole took down his ill-advised tweet and issued an apology on Facebook. Read some of the comments people posted below his apology. Sorry Kenneth, looks like it was too little too late. Perhaps you should put some effort in recovering from your lapse in judgment. Maybe donate to the Red Cross…I’m sure you can think of something.

I’m a big fan of Groupon; a Chicago-based group-buying website. However, I may have to take a second look at them after they took their controversial ads to the biggest stage in television…the Super Bowl.

Although there were three ads — one featuring actor Cuba Gooding Jr. and the other actress Elizabeth Hurley — the majority of the controversy surrounds the ad that features actor Timothy Hutton.

In the ad, Hutton said “The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry.” Hutton then boasted how he and many others received a 50% discount by using Groupon. Insensitive, offensive, and unnecessary are some words that came to my mind after watching the ad for the first time. And now, it looks like Groupon has another ad in the works that features musician Sheryl Crow.

Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason defended their ad by saying they created these ads to create awareness and support, and to bring more funding to the charitable organizations. However, I found it funny because no where in the ad directed viewers to take action and donate to the organizations. Regardless of their intentions, I commend Groupon for “supporting” the organizations. But I do think they could of found a better way. You can watch all the Groupon ads, and more importantly, donate to the organizations that Groupon suggested that they support, here:

So, where does the popular Nickelodeon program “iCarly” fit into this blog post? The following article should answer that question: ‘iCarly’ Pokes Fun At Homeless, Throws ‘Hobo Party’

Kenneth Cole (the brand), Groupon, and the show iCarly suffered public backlashes caused by the insensitive work they created, which potentially can have drastic effects on their brand image. An executive at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the advertising agency that conceived the Groupon ads and another controversial Super Bowl ad, was quoted in the 2009 issue of AdWeek saying, in regards to controversy:

“We ask ourselves, ‘Would the press write about it?’ We use that as a guide and it’s worked out pretty good for us.”

There’s no such thing as bad publicity. We’ve all heard that phrase before. But is that true? Time will tell whether poor press and public backlash will affect these brands. Pay attention to: Kenneth Cole’s next quarterly sales numbers, Groupon’s future rate of growth, and iCarly’s audience numbers.

What do you think? Was one controversy worse than the others? What were your reactions after hearing about these storylines?

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, mikest.
Tweet image courtesy of LA Times.

3 Responses to “Kenneth Cole, Groupon, and…iCarly? A Public Backlash”
  1. Dave_DelCol says:

    Anthony, first off great post! I think that Kenneth Cole is such a brand name that his comments will be overlooked in due time. I feel as though people are becoming numb and accustomed to outlandish remarks made by celebrities and other important institutions. As sad as it is to say people can get away with almost anything these days as long as they apologize. I think that since social media sites have grown so quickly there are still several grey areas that allow people to say what they want without thinking. In due time I would imagine this will stop and a better etiquette will be followed.

    • Anthony Tham says:

      Thanks for your comments Dave! I agree, eventually the hype over his comment will die down and disappear. Better etiquette in the future? Yes a little, but since social media provides such an open forum, there still will be people, businesses, etc. who will use it as a medium to voice their opinions…for better or worse.

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