It all started with a guitar…

My previous post dealt with the topic of just how much we listen to our clients - that which gives life to our brand.

Part of my message was that now, more than ever, it is clear that customers want their voice to be heard. They want companies to listen to them.  Just like the customer said in "The Break Up" video: "You SAY that you love me, but you don't BEHAVE like you love me... It's not genuine!"

I was discussing this topic with my friend Ivan, who drew to my attention the following case:

The year was 2008. Canadian musician David Caroll boarded a flight with United Airlines travelling from Nova Scotia to Nebraska with his fellow band mates, Sons of Maxwell. They noticed how the baggage-handling crew handled the guitars as they threw them on the plane. Upon arriving to his destination, he finds his $3,500 Taylor Guitar with a broken neck. Caroll filed a complaint but was informed that he was not eligible for compensation due to the fact that he had not proceeded to do so within the 24 hour time-frame of the airline. Despite endless requests, negotiations lasted nine months.

And then there was a thing called Youtube.

The year is 2009. The month July to be exact.  And the day, the 6th. Caroll writes a song called "United Breaks Guitars" and posts the music video on Youtube about his experience. 150,000 views within a day. Three days later, more than 500,000 views. 5 million by mid-August 2009. Today? 9,312,175 views.


Time Magazine named the video as #7 in the list of Top Ten Viral Videos of 2009.  According to Upi.com and CBS News, United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski "even asked Carroll for permission to use the video internally to amend its corporate culture." Since then, he has acted as a speaker on customer service. The irony? On one of his trips, United lost his luggage. (Apparently the message has not gotten through to him yet...)

The Times newspaper reported that "...within 4 days of the video being posted online, United Airline's stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value..."

Consumers have never been as empowered as they are today, and the Internet has been very much responsible for that. Forget consumer protection agencies. The middle-man is being whipped off the chart. People can now say what they need to say in less time and to a bigger audience. And you know what? They can say it right to your face. They are getting used to the ability of expressing their emotions and communicating their experiences with brands on a greater scope than before, consequently having a bigger impact on positioning and brand image. The power of the sum "word-of-mouth + Internet" should never be underestimated.

"The ability of social media to quickly connect one person to the world makes it easier for invested people to create change without a bureaucracy to back them up." (Sarah Kessler, "Why Social Media Is Reinventing Activism" )

As I write this, I notice that I've been humming the song the entire time. But all my attempts to get it off my mind have been to no avail. It's just too funny...

Have a great Saturday, folks!

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