United Sells Guitars

This week’s YouTube sensation is a video complaining about the way United Airlines mistreated a guitar. The video has created a huge marketing opportunity for everyone involved, including United if they play their cards right.

If you haven’t seen it yet, United Breaks Guitars is a brilliant music video by Dave Carroll of Halifax, a bar-band country-folk artist.

In the last week more people have listened to him than the sum total of everyone who’s every heard him over the past 15 years. The last time I checked, there were about 2.5 million views of his YouTube video. In addition to that he has received media coverage on BBC, CBC, CNN, CTV and newspapers from Chicago to LA. He has even been interviewed for Rolling Stone magazine, the dream of every rock performer.

For the record, I like the song, even if it does sound like something written by John Hartford in the 70’s. In the song, Carroll complains that United broke his $3,500 Taylor guitar and refused to pay to have it fixed. Here’s what happened in less than a week;

United offered to “make things right” and pay the $1500 to fix the guitar. In a second YouTube video, Carroll suggested they give the money to a charity of their choice. United choose to donate $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz for music education for kids. They also asked if they could use the video for staff training.

Taylor Guitars, meanwhile, were over the moon. According to Carroll they’re giving him “a guitar or two for my troubles.” By the end of the week, Bob Taylor had a YouTube video of his own, giving tips on how to keep a guitar safe from airline damage and reminding everyone that his company could fix any make of broken guitar (for a fee).

Carroll then put United Breaks Guitars on I-Tunes where it can be downloaded for 99 cents and he assured his public that, despite United’s $3,000 donation and the $7,000 in guitars he’s getting from Taylor, there are two more songs coming about the incident.

And before the social media gurus go hoarse from shouting out a victory over this one, let’s look at some statistics. I first saw the video on YouTube a couple days after it had been posted. There had already been two or three stories in the mainstream media (MSM) and the number of views was just over 300,000.

Then the dam burst in MSM and several national TV and newspaper stories were written. A day later, the views were over a million and two days later they topped two million. Many of the blogs and tweets were directing traffic to MSM sites. Social media is very fast and convenient but this time it was MSM that drove traffic to YouTube.

In my next post, tomorrow, I’ll introduce another company laughing all the way to the bank as a result of the video. And, I’ll explain how it could turn out to be a very good thing for United Airlines.


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Filed under Communication, Media, Messaging

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