You Break It, A Video Makes You Buy It

As an audience member watching Dave Carroll’s music video for “United Breaks Guitars,” I was thoroughly entertained. If I were an Online Reputation Manager for United Airlines, I would be embarrassed that the problem had escalated to this level. Because of this incident, I would not only have to fix the reputation of United Airlines in Carroll’s view, but for the entire audience that also watched the video.

First let’s focus on the most important person in this situation, Dave Carroll. Without even knowing the full story, I would sincerely apologize to him for what he has gone through. I might tell him an anecdote of a less than ideal experience I have had on a plane to let him know that I understand the frustration he is feeling. Then I would reassure him that the next time he flew with United, someone would see to it that his luggage was handled with care when it is loaded onto the plane. I would also try to find out who he spoke to during his request and find out if they acted under the current policy of United Airlines. If not, I would make sure the people in charge were made aware of the situation so they could reprimand the employees who didn’t act properly.

United would gladly reimburse Carroll for the guitar that was damaged or replace it altogether, as well as extra compensation for the year that it took for this problem to be resolved. The compensation can be ethically justified because United was not swift in trying to fix the issue. I would ask Dave Carroll if there was anything else United Airlines could do for him. I might consider asking for his input on how we can handle these types of situations if they were ever to come up again. Finally, I would check in with him via social media occasionally to see if he had received his compensation and if he was satisfied with the outcome of this problem.

As for the United Airlines audience who viewed this video, it might be difficult to salvage the reputation of the airline in their eyes. I would release a public statement on social media, stating that we apologize for the delay, we are working with Carroll to resolve the issue and anyone else having an issue is encouraged to contact us. I would inform the audience that we are training our current and new luggage handlers to be more careful so we can prevent another incident like this in the future. I would not grovel, but I would also say that I hope this incident does not change the minds of the audience to choose United Airlines for their future travels.

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6 thoughts on “You Break It, A Video Makes You Buy It

  1. I think you make a great point about not groveling. Too often companies get worried that they will lose more people and choose to do too much instead of too little. I think by reaching out and compensating Dave Carroll as well as asking him for policy change ideas it should be more than enough to get the ball rolling of looking better in the public eye. Another step might be to reach out to the public through social media and ask for new ideas that way. Granted, a lot may never be implemented, but if every response was answered in some way it would be a good way to make people feel as though the company was now more focused on social media and would be heard. Great post!

    • Thanks for the comment Amanda! United could definitely ask their audience on social about policy changes, but only after the issue with Dave Carroll had blown over in my opinion. Asking the audience about a subject that might be sensitive to a lot of people who have gone through similar things as Dave might not be the greatest idea though. There could be a lot more negative feedback than positive and could weaken United’s reputation even more if they become too overwhelmed with negative responses that go unanswered.

  2. Yeah, always resorting to groveling can actually make brands look kind of pathetic. There are times to grovel, but most of the time a simple apology and a concrete fix for the situation are the best options. I also really like your idea of asking Dave about what he thinks the airline could do both to prevent situations like his and how to handle them when they do happen. In fact, one way to show all the people who saw his video that you’re doing something about it may be a hold a panel (and video or livestream it) with Dave and maybe a few other customers with some airline strategy creators and just talk about what needs to change. How cool would that be? Then putting that video on the company YouTube channel and maybe even on Dave’s if he agreed to it could go a long way in mending your reputation.

    • Thanks for the comment Julie! I really like your panel idea. There are other videos on YouTube with Dave speaking at some conferences about this situation. I don’t think any of them directly involved United though. I doubt Dave would be up for participating in something like that if United were involved because I don’t think he wants anything to do with them anymore. He made it pretty clear in his response to them giving him free flight vouchers that he would not be flying with them anymore. The ethics of whether he should be cutting ties with them is an interesting discussion too. They’re basically the reason he’s famous, should he really be against working with them? Different twist on “biting the hand that feeds you.”

  3. Hi Steven,
    I like that you mentioned that after you take all of your action, you would follow up with Dave Carroll from time to time to see how he’s doing. That’s important, as Justin mentioned in lecture, and something brands don’t engage in often enough. Like I wrote in my blog about United, continually following up with Dave (but not in a sucking-up sort of way) could turn him from a brand hater into a brand evangelist. I also agree with Julie and Amanda that creating new content will help push the “bad” content of Dave’s video down. Instead of letting him steer the conversation, creating that content will put the steering wheel back in your hands. I also agree with you and the ladies about not groveling; it just makes you look bad. It’s about striking the right balance of being sympathetic but not being a doormat.

    • Thanks for the comment Amanda! I think it’s important that they do follow up with Dave after the fact, but I’m not so sure that them reaching out would be received so well. Obviously people can change, but I don’t really see Dave becoming an intentional brand influencer anytime soon. I think I read somewhere that United actually uses Dave’s video in training new employees, so I don’t think they’re worried about pushing down his “bad” content. But I do agree that if they’re going to continue to capitalize on this incident, they need to create their own content rather than jumping on the back of his video. I don’t think he would like that too much. He didn’t make that video so they could spin it in their favor, which they seem to be doing a little bit.

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