Warning: Being Too Clever Can Land You in Bubbling H20!

In today’s marketing world, it’s important to stand out.  And the use of humor or a clever play on words here and there can help a business establish a memorable presence in the minds of their potential customers.

However, there can be a fine line between being a clever marketer and being perceived as a huckster… or worse.  Sometimes clever word plays in your marketing or advertising materials can work, sometimes they can backfire to the point where you lose trust with the one group of people your business can never afford to lose trust with… your customers.  Sometimes they make your customers laugh… but not always in a good way.  And sometimes they simply leave your potential customers dazed and confused.

Here is an excellent of example of “Clever” going very, very, very wrong.

In 2011, Egyptians were rebelling against the nearly 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak and the government corruption associated with his regime.

Kenneth Cole took to Twitter to share their take on the story in what I like to call “That is Terrible News… But You Can Still Buy Shoes”

In early 2011, designer Kenneth Cole attempted to capitalize on the difficult situation in Cairo, Egypt to promote their Spring Collection.

The result: a huge Social Media backlash and the post being called “one of the most offensive marketing moves of 2011”.

Eventually, the team at Kenneth Cole retracted the tweet, stating:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

– Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer

In the end, clever can work.  Clever can be funny. Clever can be memorable. Clever can be something enjoyed by both marketers and consumers alike. But clever is a tightrope that you need to walk carefully to avoid falling into a marketing trap that can be difficult to recover from.

Have other “Clever Gone Wrong” marketing examples?? We’d love to hear about them… let us know in the comments below.

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