How to get a viral hit with $150. The story behind Dave Carroll

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Last week I was at Social Business Forum. An interesting event in Milan where worldwide speakers talked about social responsibility, innovation and value. In fact the claim was: “Be Social, Get Value!” 🙂

The social and digital transformation is a very fast process and, often, the Big corporations are not able to keep the pace because of their numbers of processes and employees.

In this continuous and fast changing environment, are the startups sometimes to invent and teach new business models to companies such as IBM and Microsoft. Sometimes “elephants must learn how to dance” as Paolo degl’Innocenti, IBM Vice President of Software, suggested during his speech.

But, in this changing and social environment, companies are no longer making the rules. Social media gave us, as customers, the power to decide, talk and sometimes shame. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, anybody can reply directly to a brand and decide if something is fair or not for him.

Before, marketing was up-down, companies was creating ads and nobody was knowing how was the perception of the brand after the ad was live unless you set up a market research. Today, at the time of information and big data, marketing is bottom-up and no matter how big you are. You have to understand and consider your public if you want to earn and keep your reputation.

Today you can fine tune your marketing strategy in real-time and change route if your public doesn’t like it. This is a tremendous add value but at the same time a lethal weapon.

Many marketers are looking for the “viral hit” and they study how they can reach million views with the next Big video on YouTube.


What if this viral wave turned against the brand itself? And what if a single person can create and reach a global audience with a simple video and $150 bucks?

how to get a viral hitThis is the incredible story of Dave Carroll, a Canadian singer. Mr. Carroll, in 2009, claimed United Airlines had broken one of his Taylor guitars while the item was in its custody. Further, he and other passengers claimed they’d seen baggage handlers throwing guitar cases during a layover at Chicago O’Hare.

After nine months of attempts to reconcile with United, Mr. Carroll produced and uploaded a music video called “United Breaks Guitars”. It immediately attracted attention on blogs, Twitter and other websites. This was the beginning to what eventually would become a major media story.

The cost of the video, for him, was just $150 but the cost of it for United was around $180 million! With a stock drop of 10% in that year.

After the story hit mainstream media, it racked up 1,706,988 views (from July 6th to July 10th). Between July 8 and 10, the story appeared in 339 mainstream online news sites and 777 blogs.

During this period, more than 2,000 tweets were also recorded. From those tweets, over 86% linked to either the original video on YouTube or a related website.  Just in the month of July the video hit 4,524,334 views.

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Below, the main issues reported by United the same month

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After that, Dave Carroll created his own company and was invited in many conferences, as the Social Business Forum, to talk about his experience and show how social media can be dangerous or relevant for companies.

Today the video has reached over 14.079.296 views and is one of the significant and first case studies, even for universities. I personally spoke with Mr. Carroll and over his “viral experience” he’s a great singer and talented speaker. During the pitch he involved and engaged naturally and calmly with the audience. Yes, now he’s an expert speaker and show man but his experience underlines two points:

1. Everybody can be the next viral-man

2. Companies must consider social medias as a fundamental branding and customer care channel

Oh, in case you missed it, this is the famous video. Enjoy!

And if you like the post, share it! 🙂

Data source: Mediamiser