In 2008, Canadian musician David Carroll was traveling on United Airlines. United Airlines must rue that day because Carroll's guitar arrived with a broken neck. After nearly a year of being stonewalled by the airline on compensation for their mishandling of his instrument, Carroll struck a chord for dissatisfied customers everywhere. He and his band recorded a protest song, aptly named "United Breaks Guitars," and uploaded it to YouTube. The tune went viral on the web (over 6.5 million viewings at this writing); was picked up by news networks and rapidly morphed into a public relations nightmare for United.
It's a simple, but telling illustration of how the world of brand manage- ment has been turned on its head in the past few years. Today, customers are not passive "consumers." They are broadcasters and mobilizers. They can reach millions quickly. And the impact can be world changing. Just ask Barack Obama.