The Seven Stages of Committing a Social-Media Sin

Kenneth Cole's Cringe-Worthy Tweet on Egypt Offers a Case Study

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Kenneth Cole probably regrets using a political revolution in Egypt and widespread unrest in North Africa as a way to promote his Spring Collection on Twitter. But, luckily for him, the whole event was basically concluded within 10 hours.

The Gulf Oil Spill's spurring of the @BPGlobalPR parody Twitter account this past summer set the tone and has formed a template for how companies' mistakes are treated in the social-media world. It happened when Gap changed its logo and birthed @GapLogo; it happened when the world decided it hated the latest ITunes icon, and @ITunes10Icon started; and it happened on Thursday when someone out there set up @KennethColePR.

In each case, the cycle of how consumers react to a brand is generally the same, but what's changing is that the cycle is speeding up. Each time a brand experiences a social-media blunder, the event blows up and moves through the seven stages below faster and faster before the whole thing vanishes in a puff of smoke.

While some out there are dubbing blunders like the one Kenneth Cole made brand suicide, it seems brands are having an easier time returning to everyday life than they did before.

Why? Largely because those folks who are out there looking to yuk it up with a parody account on Twitter quickly distract folks from the distasteful mistake that made people mad in the first place. We don't suspect a marketer has yet been smart enough to set one up themselves, but going forward, you never know.

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