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Companies who have turned a disaster into a social media disaster: American Apparel, Celeb Boutique, Kenneth Cole

Never mind Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel was dealing with a storm of a different kind today after the brand promoted a ‘Hurricane Sandy sale’, suggesting people should visit the website ‘in case you’re bored during the storm’.

American Apparel

The sale is only available in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, according to the email which has now gone viral; urging customers to ‘Just Enter SANDYSALE at Checkout’.This isn’t the only time that retailers have decided to jump on a disaster bandwagon: here, we look at some of the others.

Celeb Boutique

When 12 people were killed and 59 injured in an attack by a gunman at a screening of Batman in Aurora, Colorado, it was no surprise that #Aurora began to trend on Twitter.It was more of a surprise when Celeb Boutique cheerily tweeted that the reason #Aurora must be trending was because of its Kim Kardashian style dress, which was named the same thing.After a whiplash of scathing responses, Celeb Boutique apologised, saying it ‘didn't check what the trend was about’, adding that its PR was not US based and ‘was totally UNAWARE of the situation and simply thought it was another trending topic’.

Kenneth Cole

Think back to February last year and the uprising in Egypt. What does it make you think of?For Kenneth Cole, the answer was selling clothes. He tweeted jokily ‘Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online’.Cole was accused of having hijacked the #Cairo hashtag, and later apologised for ‘making light of a serious situation’.However, this didn’t come before a spoof @KennethColePR account was set up, sending tweets such as ‘"People from New Orleans are flooding into Kenneth Cole stores!" #KennethColeTweets’ and ‘One thing the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement can agree on? Our hot new looks! #Darfubulous #KennethColeTweets’


It’s not only fashion firms that have such a problem. Last year, Bing urged that the public help #supportJapan after the earthquake.Fair enough, right? But how did it suggest helping the poor people who had lost their homes or family members? By re-tweeting.The company promised to donate $1 for each re-tweet, with a maximum of $100,000 to be given.When accused that this was a big marketing scheme for Bing, the Microsoft-owned company insisted it just wanted to provide an easy way for the public to help Japan. It went on to debate the full $100,000.


Habitat famously got itself into hot water in 2009 when it decided the best way to go about making its tweets heard was to hijack all the trending hashtags…including #Iran and #Mousavi.Habitat quickly pulled the tweets, which included ‘#MOUSAVI Join the database for free to win a £1,000 gift card’, following the backlash. Habitat said: “The top ten trending topics were pasted into hashtags without checking with us and apparently without verifying what all of the tags referred to. This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat. We were shocked when we discovered what happened.”An intern was later blamed for the error, and fired.

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