Just when you thought you had seen a brand doing something so distasteful that it makes you cringe, low and behold, another one does something even more horrific. Pepsi’s latest ad campaign blunder is now taking a backseat, and I bet my money that their marketing and advertisement team is thanking the PR Gods for the United Airlines fiasco.
Brand genocide could be described as an act of epic failure proportions by a brand that nothing could save them. To make matters worse, said brand then tries to rationalize their actions by putting out media statements that only digs their hole deeper, and deeper and deeper thus killing the way the brand is viewed as a a whole, and hurting their market value. That, my friends, is exactly what United Airlines did.
If you haven’t heard about this, let me briefly explain. Apparently United Airlines thought that, after having what was originally thought to be an “overbooked” flight, and offering no good enough incentives to produce volunteers to take another flight, they would take it a step further by involuntarily and forcefully removing a passenger. Unfortunately for United, the incident was captured on video and uploaded to social media platforms. Since the incident It has come to light that the reason for all of this was not really an overbooked flight, but a desire to accommodate 4 flight crew members who needed to get to their destination. So, a paying customer, who happens to be a doctor, who specifically said he needed to see patients the next day, is treated in an imaginable manner by violently being dragged off the plane. And Twitter was here for all of it.
You can see the video captured by a witness and posted to social media below:
People reacted with utter disgust, anger and in disbelief:
— Daniel (@FLSURFR) April 10, 2017
— Christina (@auntytrue) April 11, 2017
— Pink Freud (@alaskarebel) April 11, 2017
— Marcus Dawson (@MarcusDawson8) April 11, 2017
The pseudo apology from the CEO didn’t help one bit. Not only did he release a deaf-tone statement, he then followed with an internal email to employees commending them for following proper procedure. The email of course was leaked. A PR’s nightmare is now upon United. Bye-bye.
His public statement was this…
— Ryan Ruggiero (@RyanRuggiero) April 10, 2017
But then his internal email said this…
— Ryan Ruggiero (@RyanRuggiero) April 10, 2017
United CEO: What a PR disaster
VP: What can we do?
CEO: Get me the team behind the brilliant Kendall/Pepsi ad #United
— Harper’s Closet (@ClosetHarper) April 11, 2017
Of course, the memes followed:
— pilot (@UAVPILOT07) April 11, 2017
— Aviation Memes (@Aviation_Memes) April 11, 2017
— FlipSide13 (@FlipSide_13) April 11, 2017
— The DeFEMirates (@deFEMirates) April 11, 2017
Tell me this isn’t hilarious…
— Phil Thomas (@PhillipKCK) April 10, 2017
— The Maruca Group (@TheMarucaGroup) April 11, 2017
— Motivation (@motivation0907) April 11, 2017
— Saucy Seesaw (@ShomahKhoobi) April 11, 2017
— Sansa (@Queen_inD_north) April 11, 2017
— nicole (@IkoIhIl) April 11, 2017
— Resistance Xyxox (@Xyxox) April 10, 2017
And then the #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos hashtag was born…
We Treat You Like a King…Rodney King. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Travis Keys (@thewritetbkeys) April 11, 2017
Note to self…next time we will confiscate all phones before we assault our passengers pic.twitter.com/kp4lKOG1Ea
— Bean P-way 98 (@Bean_Pway98) April 11, 2017
We put the “Hospital in Hospitality #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— AltCalebPlummer (@PlummerCaleb) April 11, 2017
— Business Chief (@business_chief) April 11, 2017
Board as a doctor, leave as a patient.
— Sue Fergy (@SueFergy3562) April 11, 2017
— Ethan (@Warbot2003) April 11, 2017
But the brand is now living with the harsh consequences – today, the Tuesday following Sunday’s incident, they woke up to this:
— David Shuster (@DavidShuster) April 11, 2017
— Daniel Cronin (@cronindanielj) April 11, 2017
— vamshi kasubagha (@vamshikasubagha) April 10, 2017
— Gizmo (@al_gizmo) April 10, 2017
It is easy for a brand to commit genocide in this day and age with social media around, but this…this was genocide guillotine style. Not only did the CEO’s statement lack the slightest bit of compassion for the man who suffered the now humiliating dragging out of an airplane, but it almost sounded like he placed the blame on him. This puts into question the policies that United Airlines has in place and whether they even care about their customers. Then the internal email, which was, perhaps, the icing on the cake. How dare you commend your employees and their actions surrounding this incident?
To wrap up, I have also read about how not one single person jumped in to help the man. There are reports suggesting that there were indeed passengers willing to volunteer to take the Doctor’s place and unboard the plane. My personal opinion is that passengers were probably in shock, scared, and did not know what to do. According to reports, it said that there were also children crying while this was happening. As a parent, your first instinct is to protect your child and yourself – the passengers had no idea what was happening and we cannot blame them for not jumping into what appeared to be a situation that could have escalated even more very quickly.
What do you guys think?
UPDATE (4/11/17): There are some newly released reports stating that the doctor who was removed from the flight had a troubled past. Are we surprised that these reports are out putting his character into question? I’m not.