Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The power of a great idea

By Jeff Lake, APR

Just imagine what you would do if your most prized possession was damaged by careless airline baggage handlers.

Or imagine what you would do to live in a tropical paradise and be paid $150,000 to do it.

One Halifax musician, Dave Carroll, knew exactly what to do when United Airlines damaged his $4,000 Taylor guitar and refused to compensate him for the broken instrument.

Carroll’s idea was for he and his band, Sons of Maxwell, to write a song and produce a $150 video about the experience called “United Breaks Guitars”. He posted it on YouTube and only a short week later, millions of people across the world were aware of the story through international television and newspaper coverage. To date, almost 3 million people have viewed it on YouTube.

His idea is a runaway hit. He’s received thousands of e-mails from people who have been mistreated by uncaring companies. More than 500 stories have been published and he told Rolling Stone magazine his personal website has gone from 40 to 50 hits a week to more than 50,000.

Sales of Sons of Maxwell’s eight albums and Carroll’s solo disc have increased from “one or two a day online, to probably hundreds.” He told the magazine other airlines have offered him free trips to experience their customer service, and Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars personally telephoned, offering two guitars of his choice and props to use in the second video about the incident.

Carroll’s video demonstrates the incredible power of social media and its ability to influence corporations. Within days of the video’s release, United Airlines said it had seen the error of its ways and made every effort to make good. Now, Carroll and his band are about to release a follow-up video that focuses on the exploits of a corporate spokeswoman at United who steadfastly refused to pay a penny of compensation to the guitar-picking Haligonian.

Then there is the “Best Job in the World”…
The campaign has won the top awards for the best PR, direct marketing and online campaign at the International Cannes Advertising Festival. It’s the first time in the history of the Festival that this has happened.

The accolades and worldwide recognition are a result of a campaign idea developed by a Australian tourism board to promote a small island off the Great Barrier Reef. They had a crazy idea that perhaps people would like to be paid $150,000 to spend six months exploring the island and sharing their adventures with the rest of the world.

This was essentially a well-publicized online job search conducted through social media for a new "caretaker" for Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. Done on a comparatively paltry marketing budget of just $1.7 million dollars and reliant on fortuitous PR and word of mouth, the campaign achieved stunning results, including over 34,000 video entries from applicants in 200 countries, and more than 7 million visitors to the site who generated nearly 500,000 votes.

In Canada, The Globe and Mail ran glowing features on the “Best Job in the World” while television newscasts and entertainment programs breathlessly promoted the campaign. The idea was brilliant. If the Queensland Tourism Board had used traditional methods to attract media attention it likely wouldn’t have worked. Or if it had extended an invitation to The Globe and Mail to send a full-time employee to the area to do a feature, the newspaper would probably have declined the opportunity.

But the campaign was irresistible. It used video to showcase the beauty of Queensland. It appealed to people’s fantasies about living in paradise. And it was open to anyone in the world. The public’s response and overwhelming media coverage says it all.

“United Breaks Guitars” and “The Best Job in the World” struck a chord with our imaginations. They were extremely creative pieces that generated unbelievable results.

That’s the power of a great idea.

1 comment:

  1. Love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.
    Great article and discussion!
    online marketing


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