Revisiting Misguided Social Sentiment: Cairo & Beyond

Kimberly Surico |
 10/08/18 |
4 min read

Who can forget when Kenneth Cole thought a country’s uprising would make a great promotional tool to sell shoes? Maybe you’ve already forgotten! Or maybe you just never knew about it at all. Either way, it’s a good example of why understanding social sentiment and social listening – informed social listening – is so important to brands.

Offensive Tweets as a Long-term Strategy?

If you ask Kenneth Cole what he was thinking when he exploited the violent Cairo uprising to promote his new footwear line, his answer would be simple: “If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”

And the fact that we’re writing about him five years later says something – but what, exactly?

The social sentiment, on the surface, seems to support his thinking, as people apparently love him/his brand:

Immediately following the backlash he created, Cole posted this video to Instagram sharing his intent to “start a conversation” as the reason for the tweet:

Most people didn’t buy it. And they were less understanding the next time he did it.

His saving grace though, was that he had been active in HIV discussions and fundraising capacities to at least make his claim possible. And since then, Cole has moved his brand forward as something of social activist/fashion fusion. It’s been enough to keep people happy, and although he’s wildly successful, the move may have lost him money in the big picture. We’ll explore why that is in a moment.

Social Sentiment Circus

Cole obviously had a pivot in mind, albeit a lame one, but it worked. Other brands attempting to hijack happenings – even those attempting a humorous approach to sporting events, have not been as lucky. Just ask Royal Dutch Airlines/KLM.

It came under fire for misreading the virtual room and bidding a not so fond farewell to the Mexican team after the Netherlands beat them, winning the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

It’s a dangerous game, for sure, as we see what happens when one even unintentionally shares a “super-positive tweet for the day the results of a major political event are announced” as Dorothy Perkins, the multinational women’s fashion retailer based in the United Kingdom found out by tweeting the day the passage of Brexit was announced:

That tweet was auto-scheduled (a post topic for another day!), but the result was swift and angry.

But wait – there’s something to be said for controversial, in-the-moment advertising, right? There sure is, and it goes like this:

  • It’s a very dangerous move for any brand to make. And ill-advised unless you have the stomach for it, as you need to commit and see it through or it will backfire, and it’s a very fine line one has to walk to pull it off.
  • Even if you do have a nerve to see it through and have a similar pivot play in place and can pull it off (and few can, unless you’re a Kenneth Cole unicorn-type), that negative sentiment can stick to a brand like a bad smell and affect long-term earnings.

Intentionally generating negative sentiment online is like creating a cat circus and expecting to not get scratched. And we all know herding cats is nearly impossible. Understanding sentiment can be equally tricky if you’re not using the correct tool for the job. And it costs lots more long-term when you aren’t monitoring it appropriately.

For That CEO Who Has It All . . . And Doesn’t Listen

If your CEO is like Cole and isn’t very worried about public image, s/he will undoubtedly pay attention to the effect a shoddy social sentiment score can have on your brand’s bottom line. As Credit Suisse has shown. They monitor social conversations and sentiment for the sake of offering their clients real-time information about investment trends – and its paid off.

Because it’s not just what they say, of course – it’s how passionate they are about it. And this is why the NetBase Brand Passion Index looks at two values:

  • Net Sentiment – whether an emotion is positive or negative, on a scale from -100 to +100
  • Passion Intensity – the strength of those emotions, on a scale from -100 to +100

This tells us whether consumers like a brand, or are obsessed with it; whether they’re ambivalent, or truly despise a brand. This, in turn, reveals which data is actionable.

Beyond monitoring your brand’s health and guarding its reputation with alerts (including being alerted to your CEO’s slip-ups), sentiment analysis can also help you gather social proof for your marketing campaigns, perform competitive intelligence analyses and making hiring decisions! To say that it’s valuable to have in place in any enterprise would be an understatement.

Shouldn’t your brand be doing the same? Contact us and we’ll show you how!

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