Kenneth Cole Returns to Activist Roots in Brand Reboot Aimed at Millennials


Kenneth Cole has plenty of brand awareness but it is going through a reboot anyway to help it collect more eyeballs from the group everybody seems to covet these days: millennials.

To do so, Cole is pushing itself more digitally and bending over backwards so far that it will open up its new flagship store within three hours of someone calling or texting a particular number—as long as they are in New York City’s five boroughs. This seems to lend itself to endless store pranks but Cole sounded into it when the store first opened its doors in lower Manhattan.

“This is the new model of how we’re going to reposition the brand and the business,” he said, according to Women’s Wear Daily. “The store is a fully immersive digital experience. When you come in, you get a very curated presentation of product that isn’t available in most places.” This could serve as the blueprint for future Kenneth Cole stores.

The new campaign features such folks as transgender model Andreja Pejic, hip-hop artist/humanitarian Rhymefest, model/activist Topaz Page-Green, deaf pro soccer player Jamie Clarke and pro surfer/activist Jon Rose as members of what Cole calls “The Courageous Class.” Or, as he told WWD, they are: “People who have overcome personal obstacles and challenges, and gone on to become the person they wanted to be.”

Cole has often fought for underdogs of one sort of another. When the brand got going in the ’80s, it was all about raising AIDs awareness. Its most recent political statements have been against gun violence. Earlier this month, the American Psychiatric Association got upset over the brand’s Manhattan billboard, which read, “Over 40M Americans suffer from mental illness. Some can access care … All can access guns.” The APA felt this suggested the mentally ill are the reason there is so much gun violence in the US.

Kenneth Cole

Cole is certainly ready to spend big bucks to attract those millenials, upping its media spend 25 percent this year over last, Adweek reports. It will run digital spots nationally on Undertone, The New York Times, New York Magazine and Instagram.

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