Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS Case Study
Over the course of the last 25 years, the Kenneth Cole brand has become synonymous with socially and politically charged issues. Both the man and the company have never let business as usual stand in the way of challenging mainstream perceptions about complex topics. Kenneth Cole was the first company to use a condom in an ad campaign and the first fashion label to make a public commitment to fighting AIDS. Now, with the creation of the AWEARNESS Blog, Kenneth Cole is once again breaking new ground by creating a public dialogue around social issues.
No other fashion brand has embraced the blogging platform like this. The AWEARNESS Blog couldn't have been built for another brand; it is a perfect reflection of what Kenneth Cole stands for.
- Electric Artists CEO Marc Schiller
When Kenneth Cole Productions began exploring the concept of initiating a public dialogue about social and humanitarian issues, they approached New York-based marketing agency Electric Artists for tactical and strategic help.
The challenge? To develop a thoughtful, engaged community where nuanced views and information about social awareness issues could be explored. What they didn't want was a site that served as a thinly veiled attempt to sell more products or a stilted avenue for corporate speak.
Known for their thought leadership in digital brand management, Electric Artists began developing a social media roadmap to match the values of this pioneering company. Led by Electric Artists CEO Marc Schiller, the agency addressed both the opportunities and roadblocks that accompany the social media space.
"The blog platform gives brands like Kenneth Cole the ability to respond almost instantaneously to what is happening in the world," says Marc Schiller. "The media has long been able to do this, but brands previously couldn't respond with immediacy to current events."
Robert Genovese, Vice President Marketing and Media Director for Kenneth Cole Productions, says this about the initial planning: "We were very strategic in that we had a specific objective in mind, but we also weren't calculated - we wanted to grow and learn along with the blog, and allow the feedback from our audience to help inform the direction."
As they began to craft a plan for the new blog, they developed a wish list of functions and features: the ability to allow multiple authors to post, the ability to publish and manage all types of media, from photos to videos to podcasts, the ability to feed content directly to the search engines, and much more.
Robert Genovese sums it up: "What we wanted was to create the best blog out there - from editorial to design to community - and for it to be authentic, timely and relevant."
Electric Artists selected Movable Type 4 as the platform for the AWEARNESS Blog. With previous experience creating Movable Type sites such as The Lobby for Starwood Hotels and Paranormal Insider for A&E Network, the agency was well-versed on the capabilities of the software.
"We didn't take the decision of what platform to use lightly," Electric Artists CEO Marc Schiller says. "It was important for us to choose something that didn't take more time to publish than to create the content itself. For us, Movable Type had the right balance between simplicity and sophistication."
The AWEARNESS Blog is organized into four main content areas: Social Rights, Well-Being, Political Landscape and Hard Times. These four pillars of social awareness form the backbone of the site, and provide readers with avenues to learn, connect and get involved.
A diverse team of writers contribute to the site on a daily basis, providing personal insights into the various ways these issues affect them, and reaching out to readers with thought-provoking questions and valuable links.
"The writers love the publishing interface in Movable Type," says Electric Artists project manager Cynthia Spalding. "Adding a new writer is easy, and you can create profiles with ease."
The site is rich with visuals, from photos to video. The main photograph on the blog header changes frequently, showcasing shots by select photographers; clicking on the blog header leads to a statement by the photographer that explains the background of the shot.
"We've learned that you can do much more with Movable Type than just create blog posts," says Marc Schiller. "It allows us to build best of breed sites, not just to put another blog out in the world."
Kenneth Cole himself is a regular contributor to AWEARNESS. In keeping with the spirit of authenticity, Cole isn't tied to a specific editorial calendar, but rather writes posts whenever he feels passionate about a subject. From a touching tribute to Yves Saint Lauren to an insightful look at what it means to be chairman of the (bill)board, Cole writes directly from the heart.
"Kenneth wanted to build a sense of trust and connection with readers," says Robert Genovese, "and that's exactly what he has done."
Kenneth Cole Productions recently formed partnerships with Sundance Channel and PBS to highlight socially aware programming on AWEARNESS; more plans for collaborations and new types of content are in the works.
Kenneth Cole is currently writing a book, and hopes to develop conversations on the blog about topics from the book in new and interesting ways.
For now, the immediate objectives for the AWEARNESS Blog are being met. "The blog has truly become a community of meaningful ideas," says Robert Genovese, "and we look forward to continuing to diversify the voices."