By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Feb 04, 2011 at 8:02 AM


That's putting it nicely to be honest.

I reacted on social media with a world-wide shout out of boycott to the worst post I've ever seen.

I'm following up with it here as well, and I'll offer some social science and marketing reason behind my response.

On Thursday, the people at Kenneth Cole offered a tweet on Twitter. It read:

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

Now I may not wear the latest fashions, or even pretend to know what handbag to use as the perfect accessory for my puffy vest. But I do know that one should never use instances where people's lives and well-being are on the line to help promote one's products.

It's tacky, it's cheap. It's just plain wrong.

I watched video of people getting pelted by rocks in Egypt. I read accounts of my brother and sister journalists having their equipment taken away when they were trying to cover the incidents in Cairo.

How dare you Kenneth Cole?

In response on Twitter and Facebook, they offered an apology. See it here.

OK, when dealing in advertising, and a best practice in social media, is having borrowed relevance. It is smart, in the big picture of things, to put yourself, your service or your product and attach it with what's going on. That's why Suave signed the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews to an endorsement deal. The timing of the Super Bowl and his long-flowing locks works.

Borrowed relevance is why companies sponsor the Olympics or support a high school theater production. On large and small scales, it associates a brand and image with something else people care about.

With news and events, it gets a bit tricky. Brand image has to work with the item it is borrowing relevance from in some way, even if they aren't directly related -- like a hardware store giving you a free Brewers calendar, or a bank sponsoring an animal at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

But a clothing catalog with a revolution?

Kenneth Cole got this one wrong.

I hope, but I doubt, it will count where it matters the most. The company should go into damage control, make a way to help charities that will help people in Egypt.

The U.S. supports Egypt with aid of more than $1 billion a year. Part of the reason behind their uprising is the economic strife the majority of their population faces.

But my guess is that the company won't even pay attention to this misstep unless the people around the world don't buy their products.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.