Posted by Abe Sauer on October 30, 2009 12:50 PM
Sometimes a brand just can't catch a break, unless the break in question is one that it causes to one of its customer's goods. Such is the sad case with United Airlines.
When Dave Carroll was refused payment of $1,200 by United for his guitar, which turned up broken after a flight, the Canadian musician write a song, with an accompanying video, called "United Breaks Guitars." To date, nearly 6 million have watched it. The song led to Carroll becoming a speaker (i.e. stunt act) at customer service seminars. It was just such a customer service seminar that Carroll was on his way to when United lost his bag. For three days.
Of his experiences with United, Carroll told the New York Times, "“It crosses all income levels and languages and geographies. We all don’t like feeling disrespected or insignificant.”
But in the end, does this attention damage the United brand? Unlikely. Recent Forrester research shows that 75% of all air passengers "choose the airline they fly most often because of the airports it serves" and that nearly 70% hold convenient schedules to be of the most important criteria. Today, airline brand wars are fought almost solely over price, not branding.
United will take a few lumps; but ultimately, by doing the right thing and making nice with Carroll, the experience could even be a PR boon for the brand.