Powering Social Impact

A Kenneth Cole Collaboration

Today’s consumers expect more from brands. And “more” extends beyond just seasonal sales and celebrity collaborations. Shoppers want brands to actually stand for something—and are more likely to make a purchase from a retailer that is closely aligned with their values.

In fact, according to a survey by Edelman, 65% of shoppers said they would not buy from a brand because it stayed silent on an issue, and 60% said brands should make it easier for buyers to know their positions on important issues.

So, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen brands like Nike and Adidas take a stand in recent years on everything from social to environmental justice.

But they’re not the only ones.

Other retailers, like Kenneth Cole, are utilizing digital media to broadcast their company values to their customers and amplify their impact.

At this year’s WWD Men’s Wear Summit in New York, T.J. Papp, Vice President of Digital & eCommerce at Kenneth Cole, sat down with Wunderkind’s Jack Riker to discuss how brands can work with technology to supercharge the reach of social impact campaigns.

Here are a few things we learned from their discussion:

1. What you stand for is more important than what you stand in.

Retail is no longer just about style. It’s about values. And those values guide both brands’ marketing campaigns and their partnerships with other retailers, nonprofits and vendors. Kenneth Cole, explained Papp, is fueled by the desire to provide a more enriched experience that elevates, inspires, connects and drives community value.

“We’re very clear about our value structure, which allows consumers to decide if they align with our brand ethos,” Papp said. “That structure manifests itself in our brand collaborations with other organizations that share that ethos.”

Kenneth Cole specifically has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, and the retailer has worked on major social impact campaigns with nonprofits and groups like the Human Rights Campaign, Broadway musical The Prom, UN Free & Equal and OUT Magazine, amongst others.

2. Digital media is the key to modern impact campaigns.

One of Kenneth Cole’s most impactful campaigns to date is “Tied With Pride,” which included a major rainbow-detailed Pride clothing and shoe collection, a fundraising component and a social and digital campaign that featured imagery, videos and interviews with a diverse group of LGBTQ+ advocates.

“Kenneth Cole has traditionally been focused on print. We love a billboard. But a campaign like this is a 100% digital strategy. It’s definitely digital first. If fact, it’s really digital only,” Papp explained at WWD.

Tied With PRIDE is an example of using digital media to tell a narrative and to connect with customers on a deeper level outside of just transactions. As a digital-first strategy, both Kenneth Cole and their partners could use brand advocates to extend the audience reach beyond what each could do on their own.

But focusing on digital pushes has not always been the brand’s bread and butter.

3. Brands have an opportunity to expand their reach by partnering with tech providers.

Despite being one of the brand’s first major pushes into the digital realm, Tied With Pride earned over 6.1 million impressions, garnered 338K+ new back-links and drove 4K sweepstakes entries.

How did Kenneth Cole make the most of the campaign so it wasn’t just a blip on the radar?

Working as partners, Wunderkind and Kenneth Cole were able to take “Tied With Pride” and supercharge it by offering dynamic and reactive experiences to make the website the most interesting in can be for each individual.

Using Wunderkind’s identification, onsite and email technology, the brand to kick-started connections with their shoppers that lasted beyond just the scope of the campaign.

“We use those touch-points to build lifelong relationships with the consumer,” Papp elaborated.

Additionally, Wunderkind’s ability to recognize customers consistently and accurately throughout that relationship allowed Kenneth Cole to keep messaging consistent and relevant to each individual.

“Brands have to think of the pillars that connect with that collaboration and then have those pillars build deep roots in the rest of their experience,” Papp explained.

Tech partners can take these ideas and desired relationships and turn them into a reality for brands.

“We have great ideas, but all of a sudden we’re a week out, and we can’t execute and that does a disservice to the idea,” Papp said. “[Wunderkind] executes the ‘how.’”

With Wunderkind focused on amplifying the message onsite and via email and acquiring and retaining customers, Kenneth Cole could focus on creating great products, campaigns and brand stories, turning messages like “Tied With Pride,” from a moment to a movement.


Author Profile Image

Lucy Leonard

Lucy is Wunderkind’s Content Marketing Manager. She is a fan of the em dash, a connoisseur of 140 characters, a creator of content and a lover of words. She also hates the Oxford Comma… a lot.

  • LinkedIn Icon