Social Media Lesson: United Airlines Breaks Guitars

I love this story.

I was driving along in the car one day, listening to the radio. The host was interviewing a guy from Halifax named Dave Carroll, frontman for the Atlantic Canadian group Sons of Maxwell.

Dave was talking about a song he wrote that was quickly gaining popularity. The tune was a tongue-in-cheek account of a bad experience the band had with United Airlines in 2008, where they witnessed Dave’s Taylor guitar being tossed around by a baggage handler.

Sons of Maxwell were on their way to Nebraska for a one-week tour – arriving only to discover that the $3,500.00 guitar had been ‘severely damaged’. After nine months of trying to resolve the situation, Dave was informed that United refused to compensate him for the damage.

Dave promised the last United rep that he would write three songs about the experience and create videos for everyone to see. Dave immediately wrote United: Song 1 and released its associated video on YouTube.

Arriving back at home, I saw that the video had more than 48,000 views.

I watched the video and I think it’s great. There’s a catchy tune, it’s funny, and it definitely accomplished what Dave set out to do: It has the potential to become a serious public relations disaster for United Airlines.

Within a couple of weeks, the hits climbed to more than 4,500,000, with 30,000+ ratings and close to 20,000 comments. If you search the exact phrase "United Breaks Guitars" on Google, you’ll be presented with 4,380,000 pages.

Even the major news broadcasters have covered the story, like CNN and Fox. The song packs a punch, with the Daily Mail reporting a 10% drop in United’ Airlines stock following its release that equaled $180,000,000.

That’s one powerful tune.

As Arlene pointed out, this whole experience may have been a valuable one for United by making them more aware of the power of the Internet. And it’s not just United; I would expect more companies to pay closer attention from here on out.

The lyrics are straightforward with a humorous tone, which only adds to its appeal. As the song says, " broke it, you should fix it. You're libel just admit it."

Dave has also since confirmed that the second installment is underway and the third song will follow.


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