Friday, September 25, 2015

If Kenneth Cole embraces social causes you care about will you embrace them?

Since its founding 32 years ago, Kenneth Cole has sought to raise awareness of various social causes -- in the early years, it was AIDS awareness, more recently -- gun control.  So, one could say that it is part of the brand's DNA.  But it appears that Millennials don't know that.

So, the company is revamping its brand identity to make themselves relevant to a new generation.

To this end, the company has increased media spending by 25%, and is updating its logo.  The new campaign shot by Glen Luchford, features real social media activists like transgender woman and model Andreja Pejic.  Here's one of the videos.

They also launched a flagship store downtown that's open 24/7 -- by appointment. 

So what do you think?  Will Millennials embrace this brand as their Baby Boomer parents once did?  And what about being able to call and make an appointment to have them open the store for you?  Will this be a hit with consumers?

Monllos, K. (2015, September 24)  Kenneth Cole Is Revamping Its Brand Identity by Embracing Its Activist Past.  Retrieved September 24, 2015, from


  1. Okay, I would like to start with my opinion of Kenneth Cole as a brand. To me, Kenneth Cole has always represented good quality, is reasonably priced, fashionable, and is socially conscious. Kenneth Cole isn’t “high fashion,” but a company that is up-to-date on the latest trend; not too trendy though. The company impressed me because they created awareness on many issues that were not being addressed, such as AIDS. I remember and loved the clever ad poking fun of Imelda Marcos, wife of the former president of the Philippines. “Imelda Marcos bought 2,700 pairs of shoes. She could've at least had the courtesy to buy a pair of ours.” Hilarious!

    Nevertheless, the brand was not only a good brand in terms of quality, but they were genuine in their efforts to bring awareness to social causes and that, in my opinion, made them such a favorite among Baby Boomers as well as my generation – Generation X. With that said, Kenneth Cole’s attempt to revamp their brand appears to me to be a last ditched effort to stay relevant. Honestly, I’m really tired of seeing companies using transgender activists to promote their brand. Even a news show (Melissa Harris-Perry) is using a transgender woman who has NO experience in journalism to fill in as host when she is off. If she was a journalist or had experience in the field, I would not have a problem with it, but not just because she’s transgender. I support transgender people, but feel like they are being exploited. I guess using an image of an impoverished Asian or African child today is so yesterday.

    In any case, the direction Kenneth Cole is going doesn’t seem sincere to me. I think they’re trying to jump on the band wagon. If Kenneth Cole came out at the beginning about transgender issues, it would be true to their brand and their philosophy. KC, I think you’re a too little late to the party.

    I think it’s a prudent move to revamp their logo and increasing their media budget, but perhaps a way to appeal to Millennials could be by reminding and re-educating the public on how they got started. There is a huge story there! The guy had some real chutzpah to change the name of the company in order to get a permit as a production company so he can park his truck in front of the Hilton New York since he couldn’t afford to have a showroom. Brilliant! I think my suggestion would do more to bring brand awareness to Millennials as well as getting them connected to the brand. We know Millennials want to feel and be connected and they don’t have to look very far for the solution. This is a missed opportunity in my book. Basically, Kenneth Cole is just “updating” their old business model.

    Now, regarding their flagship store being opened 24/7 by appointment – ridiculous!!! I’m so over everyday people acting as though they are on some reality show and we’re creating more narcissists by catering to the youth’s every whim. Now we’re going to give them an opportunity to act like spoiled celebrities? What’s wrong with Millennials shopping during normal shopping hours? What would the rationale be for shopping at 3:00 am or 5:00 am? To me, we’re going to be rewarding people who have poor time management.

    Although this will indeed cause a lot of buzz, will it equate to increased sales? Also, how much will all this cost (e.g., overtime salary). I know Millennials have buying power, but do we really think that they have the financial pull to have shopping sprees like the rich and famous? I have my doubts and feel as though this will be a big flop after the initial hype, but I am interested to see how this plays out.

  2. So what do you think? Will Millennials embrace this brand as their Baby Boomer parents once did? And what about being able to call and make an appointment to have them open the store for you? Will this be a hit with consumers?

    I have never been a true fan of Kenneth Cole nor was I aware that they support and raise awareness for social causes. Regardless, I strongly support the idea of social change including those about transgender issues. Because I support many social causes I support and applaud Kenneth Cole for taking the initiative in doing so. The fact that fashion can be open to every different kind of person with all their unique styles and personal lifestyles is amazing. It is a very positive look for Kenneth Cole.

    I don't believe that the flagship store that will be open 24 hours will be such a big hit with consumers. I don't think it will attract more Baby Boomers or Millennials for that matter. I think it would be a waste of resources to keep the store open for that long nor do I think Kenneth Cole is that popular of a fashion brand. If it were a different high-end fashion brand like Chanel, DVF, or Tory Burch I think it may be a good idea.

  3. I heard of many positive comments of Cole from my friends. They especially like Cole's shoes. However, I have never bought any thing from Cole so far. I have a good impression of the company even though I did not know that they were taking so many social responsibilities. Now I would say I like this brand more. I do not know how baby boomers embrace it, but as a Millennial, I will embrace this brand.

    I think opening a flagship store that is open 24/7 by appointment is a great idea. Firstly, this way of shopping makes customers think themselves special. In addition to that, just as what we discussed last week about selling experience. Shopping in Cole's flagship store can be a good experience. Finally, since this shopping experience that the store is providing is so special, customers who shop there will actually feel guilty if they do not buy any thing. I would be embarrassed if I leave the store without buying any thing. This is the effect of reciprocity principle of liking.

  4. I think Millennials will embrace the Kenneth Cole brand for many of the reasons the Baby Boomers did. The style and fit of Kenneth Cole clothing and shoes are a classic one. Everyone can always use a good pair of jeans, white button down shirt, or black suit.
    Millennials are more open to differences and inclusion is important to them, so I do believe that the new ad featuring the transgender model Andreja Pejic will influence them in their purchasing power. Representation is important and if a Millennial consumer is aware of Kenneth Cole’s brands reputation in raising awareness for social issues, I do believe it would persuade that consumer to buy, as it did the Baby Boomer. I do believe using current events regarding gender was a relevant effort in revamping the brands image.
    I’m not sure of how much it will be of hit for the store to be open 24/7. When I think of that I think of the employee who has to sit there. Waiting for an appointment. Then when I think of the people making these appointments at say 2 am, they are either famous or rich. New York is such a stylish city and I’m sure people are always in need of last minute jeans or suits, but I’m not sure how long that would last.

  5. I’m finding it very interesting to read other viewpoints on this topic as well as others. It’s odd how Facebook is so pervasive because I wish there was a “like” buttons so I can “like” someone’s comment.

  6. I know quite little about Kenneth Cole actually, even though I am very interested in fashion. I don't think it has been a brand that has appealed to me that much, and I haven't seen them in e.g. Europe, so I don't think I have been in a store.

    I mean, I think all sorts of campaigns to draw attention to different types of problems, issues, news, and so on are great initiatives. However, I haven't heard about this model before, and I don't think I would have understood from the campaign that she was a transgender person if I didn't read it here in the post before watching it. Therefore, I don't think the commercial was that good, and that is another reason why I feel it's hard to say whether Millennials will embrace the brand or not.

    I think that the new store is a smart short term move, but I doubt that it will work in the long run. I don't really see the point of letting customers shop 24/7. Also, I think it will require so much extra work for them to have the store open by appointment 24/7. The only times I have been shopping in New York city in the middle of the night has been during Black Friday or when I have been here as a tourist and been jet lagged, I have went a few times to Times Square and browsed around in some stores there. So, I think that the typical person that will shop at e.g. 4 am will be a tourist. That kind of shopping is also too spontaneous to me in order for a "by appointment" schedule to work. In addition, if it really is so that it is tourists that would be that kind of customer, I would rather locate the store around Times' Square than downtown.

    Hence, I am just really curious to know about who that "4-am-by-appointment-customer" really is, and how come it seems to be so many of them that they actually want to extend their opening hours for them.

  7. When I think of Kenneth Cole, I think of sophisticated people wearing smart and classic pieces. When I think of certain Millennials, I think of trends and trying to fit in. I don't think that Millennials will embrace this brand the way Baby Boomers once did to the fullest. Personally, if I like a particular clothing item from Cole, then I will purchase it since I like the piece. However, I will not constantly shop from Cole because of their initiatives to embracing social causes. It somehow does not feel genuine as what TOMS Shoes stands for. I understand that brands are jumping on the bandwagon and bringing awareness to social causes, which is great, however, I don't find it authentic of them doing this just because everyone else is doing it. If a brand wants to bring awareness to a social cause, then they have to be genuine and sometimes I find brands bringing awareness to these causes just so that they don't appear to be heartless to the public eye, therefore, having the wrong intentions.

    Honestly, I find this "24/7-shop-whenever-you-want" idea absolutely absurd and unnecessary, especially for brands similar to Kenneth Cole. It would make more sense for brands such as Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent to implement this idea for some of their stores in major cities due to their loyal and somewhat elite customers. I was actually looking through some of the responses that were already posted and I have the agree with Claudine. When brands want to execute an idea like this, they have the consider overtime and everything else that must be considered when stores are open, especially during late hours. If Cole were to go ahead with this idea, then it could attract customers, but I highly doubt that Cole would continue to receive revenue after a month or two.

    -Sweta P.

    1. Sweta, you’re exactly on point about Kenneth Cole not being authentic!!! Kenneth Cole looks as though they’re doing it because a lot of others are and they don’t want to look like they are heartless or they want to be relevant. In Kenneth Cole's defense, I have to give them kudos because they have always in the past brought awareness to social issues when it wasn't "fashionable" for companies to do so.

      However, I’m a bit conflicted about companies who bring awareness to social issues. I’m glad that they are starting the dialogue and bringing awareness, but is it bringing true change? I don’t like when people are exploited whether it’s children with cancer, people who are in third world countries, domestic abuse, etc. How much of the contributions are going directly to the people that need it? I read an article about corrupt charities and a lot of the money goes to overhead (i.e., executive salaries). According to an article in the Harvard Crimson, the American Cancer Society, a multibillion organization, spent only 26 percent on actual medical research. The rest was spent on overhead costs. Unfortunately, many people know someone with cancer or who has died from cancer and this type of information infuriates me. I will change my viewpoint with Kenneth Cole and other companies if their intentions are genuine and I see that they really believe in whatever cause they champion. If they really are genuine about bringing awareness to transgender people, what else are they doing besides doing a commercial? Do they support the transgender community? Are they doing anything to help bring light to the lack of legal protection (prohibiting transgender from using public bathrooms that correspond with our gender identity), identity documents, harassment and stigma, anti-transgender violence, etc.? I’m not going to be impressed and moved by anyone who just “lifts a finger.” If you put your name behind something you claim to be important, than do more than just the basics or the minimum. I don’t expect Kenneth Cole to change the mindset of the world, but if you’re going to put your money where your mouth is, than prove it (e.g., creating a corporate culture that supports transgender people is a great start and example for other companies and people to follow).

      Kenneth Cole’s quality and style has changed from back in the day, but even if they are genuine, I have to agree with Sweta again that it will not motivate me to keep purchasing just because they are for certain social issues that I also believe in.

      Lastly, the point about higher end stores such as Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent staying open 24/7 by appointment is spot on. People who shop at those stores can afford to do some serious shopping and I doubt they will make an appointment without making a purchase that day or in the near future.

  8. The ad is shot beautifully and the message/tagline “Look Good For Good” is in line with Kenneth Cole’s social awareness campaign. I’m glad that they actually used a transgender “model” in their campaign rather than a “celebrity” transgender like Caitlyn Jenner. As a fashion model, Andreja is in the fashion industry and is relevant as a spokesperson for Kenneth Cole. It makes it more authentic for Kenneth Cole to use her, an unknown model (I’ve never heard of her before this campaign) than someone like Caitlyn or Laverne Cox (Orange is a New Black). It doesn’t seem that they are just exploiting or jumping on the bandwagon with the whole transgender issue. Also the fact that raising awareness of various social causes has always been in Kenneth Cole’s DNA, I don’t think that this campaign is disingenuous unlike the H&M campaign.

    Having said that, I don’t think that Millennials will embrace this brand as Boomers did. Mainly because Kenneth Cole style is geared towards the older consumers. Their clothes are more “classic” and “professional” rather than “trendy” and “fashion-forward.” Maybe this is also the reason why that Gen X did not embrace them when they first started out in the 80’s because the clothes weren’t fun and trendy for Gen X but conservative and professional enough for Baby Boomers. If companies like Kenneth Cole want to connect to the youngest generation, they have to change the style of clothes - to fit the lifestyle of their target market- not just their brand/campaign.

    I think having their flagship store open 24hours by appointment is ridiculous. I think it is more of a ploy to generate buzz for Kenneth Cole than anything else. They don’t have the type of clientele that will benefit from this uber-type service. This type of clientele is the rich and famous that shop in high fashion houses like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent or Dior. Kenneth Cole is in the lower ladder of the fashion echelon and doesn’t have the right type of clientele to attract this type of service

    Girlie E. Gaviola

  9. Until now, I was unaware of the social consciousness that has been woven into the identity of the Kenneth Cole brand. Personally, something that always draws me to a company is what they stand for; so knowing the Kenneth Cole stands behind good causes does draw me more to the brand. However, ultimately what will make me want to buy from them is their product. I have to like the clothes if I am going to spend the money on them. I think the advertisement with the transgender woman is very on trend with the times and that this will appeal to Millennials, putting the brand on their radars. But, like I said before, clothes that appeal to Millenials are what will really get people to embrace the brand. In regards to the 24/7 store that is opening, I think that the idea of exclusivity will make this store successful. The idea that the store can be opened at any time of day exclusively for one person will be appealing to consumers. There are plenty of people who love the idea of being able to pick of the phone and have everything at their fingertips at all times of day, including shopping and I think that this is Kenneth Coles way of catering to Millennials.

    Dori G.

  10. I have really strong and fond memories of Kenneth Cole and as I think about it, they are all strongly tied to my baby boomer parents.

    Growing up in the suburbs of New York with a commuter parent, my dad took the West Side Highway to work every morning. I would often join him on the drive, particularly when I was younger and spending the day at work with him. It was on this drive, year after year, that we would pass the Kenneth Cole ad on the West Side Highway and start our mornings a little more conscious, self-aware and relaxed. Kenneth Cole seemed to get us to look at the big picture.

    Now I live in Soho and start my mornings walking past the Kenneth Cole ads on Lafayette Street. I feel nostalgic every time I walk past them. This speaks to the power of brand messaging. I am a fan of Kenneth Cole.

    With that said, I am not a client. This makes me think: does Kenneth Cole's devotion to social issues translate to sales? Is that their motivation?

    For me, what lacks in Kenneth Cole's messaging and products is the "cool" factor. Is it "cool" to wear Kenneth Cole. Who does the Kenneth Cole man or woman look like? That I don't know. What they value, on the other hand, is clear.

    In short, no - I am not enticed by Kenneth Cole's campaign to shop there. The "hit" with customers, is more so in brand values.

  11. I think what Kenneth Cole (KC) is doing is a great attempt to appeal to newer generations. The Internet is open 24/7; why not have a store with similar hours. First, you must understand what is the need of this generation and then apply that knowledge. I believe this is another attempt of Kenneth Cole’s take on corporate social responsibility. (CSR). I cannot tell if the company is being sincere by getting the voice of a supermodel instead of an everyday Jane or Joe, but if KC has done this in the past and seems to keep their issue relevant to the time period, then they might have a chance to “persuade” this generation also.