The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media
By now, you are surely aware that “United Breaks Guitars.”
And that’s all because of one man, songwriter Dave Carroll.
The full story ahead.
Who Should Read “United Breaks Guitars”? And Why?
In case you don’t know, “United Breaks Guitars” is a trilogy of protest songs by Canadian musician Dave Carroll written soon after United Airlines broke one of his guitars and refused to admit it had been their fault and apologize or reimburse him for the damage.
This book recounts that story, so it’s definitely the one you should read if you are a fan of the songs and want to find out more about the story behind them.
However, despite the subtitle, this book won’t be able to teach you something especially new about the relation between social media and corporate culture.
If you are interested in the theoretical aspects of this relation, then try a book in the vein of “The Art of Social Media.”
About Dave Carroll
Dave Carroll is a Canadian musician.
In 1989, he and his brother Don formed a band called “The Don and Dave Show.” Four years later, in honor of their father, they changed the name of the band to Sons of Maxwell, under which they tour to this day.
A volunteer firefighter in his free time, Dave Carroll has so far written only one book: “United Breaks Guitars.”
“United Breaks Guitars PDF Summary”
In the spring of 2008, Dave Carroll embarked on a trip from his hometown Halifax, Nova Scotia to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was supposed to have a concert with his band, Sons of Maxwell.
Carroll had to change flights in Chicago where the staff of United Airlines wanted him to check both his Taylor guitar and his backup Ovation Elite as baggage.
Which is why Dave’s blood froze when a fellow passenger exclaimed “Oh my God, they’re throwing guitars out there” as the United Airlines’ plane stood parked at O’Hare.
When Dave arrived at Omaha he realized that his worst fears had become true: his beloved Taylor guitar had been broken by the United Airlines baggage handlers.
Naturally, Carroll complained to United, but they refused to compensate him for the damage. In fact, they refused to apologize or even discuss with him the nuances of the matter for six or seven months.
Finally, a certain Ms. Irlweg did, but her final answer was a “no”: even though Dave did nothing wrong, apparently the fact that he hadn’t filed a complaint within 24 hours was enough for his request for compensation to be turned down.
If Michael Moore was a singer-songwriter,” Carroll asked himself sometime around this point, “what would he do?
He would sublimate this negative energy into a creative endeavor.
So Carroll told Mrs. Irlweg that he would compose three songs about his experience with United Airways and that he would share them on YouTube:
My goal of being compensated had evolved into a goal of sharing my story with as many people as were interested in hearing it.
And on July 6, 2008, the first of the three songs was uploaded on YouTube.
The Internet went wild: in just one day, the video had garnered more than 150,000 views and thousands of likes and, soon enough, it became a viral sensation, amassing millions of hits.
In Dave’s opinion, this happened because “United Breaks Guitars” was a catchy country song which recounted his story through relatable, humorous lyrics and an amusing low-budget video.
See for yourself:
United Airlines couldn’t ignore Carroll anymore.
So its representatives approached Dave with a request for a conference call during which Carroll was offered $1,200 in coupons for future flights and $1,200 in cash – the sum he had paid to have his Taylor guitar fixed.
However, by this time, Dave couldn’t care any less for compensation; in fact, he was very much aware that accepting a compensation would damage his integrity. “I changed gears,” he writes, “from someone who wanted something to someone who was going to do something.”
So, he requested that, instead of reimbursing him, United Airlines give the money to someone else and immediately change its policy.
What could have been solved with merely a thousand dollars and an apology turned into a nightmare for United Airlines, whose stock price fell by 10% within 4 weeks of the day Carroll posted the first video online.
What amazed Carroll the most was not United Airlines’ incompetence in dealing with the matter, but its policy that as long as cases such as his are rare, they are statistically insignificant and can be dismissed.
Thankfully, he proved them wrong!
Key Lessons from “United Breaks Guitars”
1. The Story of Dave Carroll and His UBG Trilogy
2. An Apology Worth $180 Million Dollars
3. Marketing Campaigns Shouldn’t Exclude Anyone
The Story of Dave Carroll and His UBG Trilogy
During a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Canadian singer/songwriter Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar was broken by United Airlines baggage handlers back in the spring of 2008.
In July, after spending months unsuccessfully demanding an apology and compensation from the disinterested United Airlines staff, Carroll wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars” (UBG), which became a viral hit and amassed millions of views in just a few days.
Even so, United Airlines refused to change its policy, so things went from bad to worse for them, because soon UBG 2 and 3 appeared.
A PR disaster for the airline giant!
An Apology Worth $180 Million Dollars
“Sometimes saying you’re sorry is not only the right thing to do but also the least expensive” – writes Dave Carroll.
Indeed, if United Airlines had done that effectively, Dave Carroll wouldn’t have written the UBG trilogy, and the company could have even gotten away without reimbursing Carroll.
4 weeks since the first UBG video went viral, United Airlines’ stock price fell by 10%, resulting in losses for its stockholders which have been estimated at about $180 million!
Marketing Campaigns Shouldn’t Exclude Anyone
The message of Dave Carroll’s book is twofold.
First of all – as should be obvious by now – that individuals matter and that the voice of one can be echoed by the hearts of multitudes: “A victory for me,” writes Carroll, “was a victory for everyone who has ever flown and a victory for customers everywhere who have felt disempowered by giant companies performing badly.”
On a slightly different note, Carroll also has great advice for companies as well: “I am suggesting that marketing campaigns not be designed to exclude anyone. Targeting customers is wise. Excluding people you assume would never be your customers is not.”
Because who knows – maybe the excluded guy will be the next Dave Carroll!
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“United Breaks Guitars Quotes”
Our Critical Review
Just like the songs themselves, “United Breaks Guitars” is a charming little book which does tend to grow a bit less and less interesting as it progresses.
The main story, however, is so humble and inspiring that it’s definitely worth the read.
If you ask us, there should be more people like Dave Carroll on this planet.