Let the 'United Breaks Guitars' Video Be a Cautionary Tale
OK, so I’m admittedly a bit late to the party on this since I was on vacation. With more than 5.3 million people having already watched it, the “United Breaks Guitars” video has become an internet phenomenon. (If you haven’t seen it, click here.)
For the last year I’ve been saying — screaming actually — that companies better have their acts together, otherwise they're sitting ducks in this new age of customer centricity. If your customer service, products and brand image aren't all buttoned up, you risk getting skewered on the internet, i.e., the people's media.
The video I'm referring to is really amazing to see. Here's the story behind it: United Airline's baggage handlers break a passenger’s guitar, and the next thing you know 5.3 million people hear about it in a catchy, four-minute ditty on YouTube. Viralocity at its finest (and scariest).
The song has gone so mainstream that you can now buy it on iTunes. For 99 cents, you too can help spread negative publicity about an airline. I hate to admit it, but I actually feel sorry for United. Well, to a point anyway.
As a marketer and consultant, I've seen every variation of apathetic customer service and crappy products sold by spin and hype alone. As a 30-year student of marketing and advertising — and, of course, firsthand experience — I’ve witnessed brands whose positionings were so far divergent from their actual customer experiences that you have to wonder what the C-level execs were thinking when they were sold hook, line and sinker on some overzealous, over-researched agencies' campaigns. I can just hear it now: “Well, our market research says that if you … ”
But none of that scares me more than the internet and social media, and their power to kill your brand with a song, tweet, Facebook status update, blog post, thumbs down, etc.