News flash: self-inflicted PR controversies are effective

A Tweet by Kenneth Cole.

It’s a tale as old as time: prominent figure uses social media to reference controversial topic in promotion of his own product, subsequently creating a controversial storm of his own. Sometimes this tale ends with a careful apology from said figure.

Other times, said figure admits he did it on purpose.

Kenneth Cole issued a statement (video via PRNewser) addressing what was arguably last week’s top self-inflicted PR controversy (and our #PRfail of the Week), saying his words were meant to “create dialogue about important issues.” Read: “I was piggybacking on a current issue to promote my fabulous shoe line.”

While Cole’s Tweet (written by him!) was met with general disdain, it seems that calculated PR ruses pay off for the company. According to an excerpt obtained by AdWeek from an upcoming interview with Details magazine, Cole revealed that similar 2011 comments he made via Twitter regarding the conflict in Egypt resulted in notable financial gains for the company.

Another controversial success case comes to mind in the Chick-Fil-A controversy of 2012, where company President Dan Cathy gave an interview expressing his disapproval of gay marriage in America. Like Cole, he was on the receiving end of a Twitter storm of disapproval (and in this case, several LGBT boycotts of the company). And, like Cole, Chick-Fil-A saw significant sale increases for 2012.

Likewise, sales soared for the fashion brand American Apparel after it came under fire for promoting an online sale for customers “bored” during Hurricane Sandy’s 2012 impact.

These are but three of countless examples of controversies yielding positive results for corporations — and it suggests that it’s a trend unlikely to go away any time soon.

It begs the question: Are corporations above reprieve when it comes to controversy?

Follow us on Twitter @ruse_pr


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