Last month, Canadian musician Dave Carroll gave United
Airlines a gift. After battling with
their complaints department for 9 months he gathered his band and created a
catchy video entitled "United Breaks Guitars." It was an instant YouTube hit,
attracting over 5.2 million views. For perspective that’s more views than Obama
received for his presidential acceptance speech. In response, United gave Carroll a quiet $3000 (which he had them re-route to
charity) and issued a few feeble tweets on Twitter about “making things
Carroll and his band promised they would write two more songs about the incident, and last week they delivered.
"United Breaks Guitars Song 2" has already gathered ¼ million views. Both
songs combined have attracted the equivalent of the entire population of Chicago, United's home city, twice over.
Millions of people laughing, sharing, and rallying around a relatively minor complaint? This is a golden opportunity for United Airlines. It’s a lighthearted song or two about mishandled baggage and poor customer service, not a frightening video of an in-flight fuel leak or a crash investigation. This is not the time for formal apologies, small donations or inaction. It’s time to fight social media with social media.
What if United collaborated with Carroll on Song 3? What if they engaged the public and asked
their millions of viewers to submit and vote on new lyrics or song titles
through Twitter or YouTube? What if the
winners were flown to Chicago
to appear in the video? What if they put
their best baggage handlers on drums -- chosen through an uplifting 'United’s
Best Baggage Handler' contest -- and had their best customer service reps on the
tambourine? What if Glenn
Tilton, United Airlines’ CEO, had a cameo?
If they really wanted to capture our hearts they could have their in-house
legal counsel singing backup.
United Airlines: embrace the enemy. Engage the masses. Turn this into a hilarious and powerful
success story while the world is still watching.
Follow Andrew Cherwenka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cherwenka