How One YouTube Sensation Spurs Entrepreneurs to Create Follow-On Videos

Case XtremeNot long ago I wrote about the YouTube video sensation called “United Breaks Guitars.”  It’s a creative customer complaint in the form of a music video by a professional musician against United Airlines.  (See “YouTube: Where Customers Get the Last Word.”)

The interesting side note about this video is how it has set the stage for entrepreneurs pursuing business opportunities.

First of all, it has given the musician involved more publicity than he probably ever dreamed of.

But on top of that, several enterprising entrepreneurs have created their own “related” videos in response. They’ve obviously spotted business opportunities. They are building off of the interest in the original video, to get some visibility for their own businesses.

We’ll take a look at some of these follow-on videos.

First, Some Background

For those of you not familiar with the original “United Breaks Guitars” video, professional musician Dave Carroll’s beloved $3,500 Taylor guitar was broken by baggage handlers on a United flight from Nova Scotia to Nebraska.  Months of frustrating attempts to get compensation followed.  Eventually the final word came down from a Ms. Irlweg at United.  It was “no.”

Dave Carroll then decided to do what musicians do best.  He wrote and performed a song — and a mighty good song it is.  It’s a country song with a catchy tune and even catchier lyrics.  A video of him performing the song was professionally filmed, incorporating some nicely-done humor. Then it was put up on YouTube.  As of this writing (just shy of 3 weeks after being uploaded), it has had over 4 Million views.

What professional musician, hoping to just make a modest go of it with 1000 true fans, wouldn’t kill for an audience of millions?  By channeling his creativity, Dave Carroll managed to sow the seeds for his own “big break.” If you read the comments posted on YouTube, many viewers had never before heard of Dave or his band, Sons of Maxwell.  Now they have.  Even though he says he never imagined the video would get so many views, his misfortune has brought him and his band much publicity and name recognition.

The Follow-on Videos

But just as interesting in a different way are the other businesses that seized opportunities.  I am all for free enterprise, so when I talk about this subject, I mean it mostly in a positive sense.  The way I look at it, United Airlines may be helping out a slew of entrepreneurs by their action in denying Dave Carroll’s claim, because they set the stage for his video and then the follow-on videos.

I think there’s a lot to be learned here by any entrepreneur about how to use video to effectively catch a ride off a sensational hit and publicize your own business.  Here are some of the follow-on videos I’d like to point out and the techniques they used:

1. — In the tradition of Bill Mays and pitchmen everywhere comes this entertaining infomercial by the inventor of the Clam CaseXtreme, a flight case to protect musical instruments.  In the video the inventor beats the case with a hammer and even jumps on it.  When speaking about the strap to close the case, he uses lines like this: “It takes the same licking, keeps on clicking.”  A title superimposed over part of the video says “United should rent these to customers.”  It’s just campy enough to make you smile, but not so corny that it loses credibility.  So if the infomercial approach appeals to you, you might check this one out — it’s embedded here:


2. — Someone named Steven at, a music lessons company, filmed a video in which he said that in solidarity, his business would cancel flights on United.  And then he offers  to let Dave Carroll use his Taylor guitar any time he is in the San Diego area.  It’s an understated approach from a marketing perspective, but the video has gotten close to 45,000 views so far.  What this one does particularly well is make the URL of their website very very visible next to their video.

3. Taylor Guitars — Taylor Guitars, the manufacturer of the guitar that was broken by United baggage handlers, got a lot of unexpected publicity, too.  I’m not sure I had ever heard of Taylor Guitars before — now it’s the first guitar brand name I think of.  Taylor Guitars invited Dave Carroll to their factory for a tour, and set up media interviews for him while he was there — a practical gesture and “thank you” to help him get even more publicity.  But on top of that, Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars put out a nice, one-to-one video on YouTube with helpful tips for air travel, with a low-key pitch for their guitar repair services.  Very effective, in my opinion, for any service-based business.

4. Latriciawhiteagain — Latricia is a comedian with her own YouTube channel.  She does a funny, stand-up comedy routine where she plays “Ms. Irlweg,” the United employee mentioned in the original video.  Some notable lines from her routine are “That’s it!  Put the blame on Irlweg!” and “Who do you think baggage handlers are?  They’re people from the Olympics – the shotput team.”  For a comedian, this is a good way to advertise your capabilities.  I hope Latricia gets a gig or two out of her video.

5. Cessna154 — Cessna154 is the handle of an aviation enthusiast who filmed a simple verbal response.  It appears as if his revenue model is to make money from Google AdSense ads embedded at the bottom of his video and elsewhere on his YouTube channel.  For an Internet entrepreneur, this suggests some possibilities for making money online.

6. A motley crew of the remainder — There are several other videos that launched off of the original video.  There’s the improv actor whose handle is jeebee25 with over 95,000 views of his improv routine called “Inside response from United Airlines.”

Then there’s the video pitching the United Breaks Guitars T-shirts (it’s not affiliated with the Sons of Maxwell band).  I won’t link to it or the website it directs you to, because the website looks suspect.  It’s not clear that if you pay your $14.95 a T-shirt will actually be forthcoming (hey, scams are a form of “business” too, I guess).

And finally, there are some rather pointless videos including one that shows nothing but the lyrics to the song.  Another features painfully-slow scrolling text suggesting you create a country line dance — making it clear that some people have way too much time on their hands.

The Bottom Line

What does all this mean to you?  Well, if you run a business or are aspiring to grow your profession, and you spot a similar viral marketing sensation like “United Breaks Guitars” in the future, remember that it just might be an opportunity for you to create your own “related” video and build off of the visibility.  Study the examples above.  Learn from them.  Incorporate the things that strike a positive chord with you as a viewer.  Avoid anything that comes across as cheesy, too blatantly commercial or just annoying.  And let the creativity flow ….


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

12 Reactions


    And lastly… A quick Dave Carroll update… he would really like it if you laid off of Ms. Irlweg… he says that she is really nice and doesn’t deserve the negative talk everyone is giving her.
    I think Dave has a bit of a secret crush on dear ol’ Ms. Irlweg.

  2. homewealthbizsecret

    Great post, it’s very interesting to read.

  3. Anita,

    Thanks for your post. Now I got an answer to my question: “I wonder about the sales of Taylor guitars nowadays”

  4. Great post Anita. So much focus is always put on the viral video itself, but no one ever thinks of the opportunities that arise for entrepreneurs and businesses as a result of them. I think the best example above is Taylor – they got some unexpected publicity, and instead of quietly thanking Dave they reached out to him, offered him some perks, and in the process now has an even bigger fan (I’m guessing). Companies like this, that are on the ball and seize opportunities when they come their way, will be the ones who thrive using social media.

  5. When a viral video makes a big splash (as this obviously has) there is an opportunity to “ride the wave”. Great post demonstrating the diverse ways this can be approached. Now all you small business owners need to get out there and act, because the window of opportunity doesn’t last long for viral hits.

  6. Wow, who would have thought one simple video would cause the ripple effect that it evidently has. I guess you just never know the effect you’re going to have on viewers. It obviously pays to just take the chance that you just may have the next big thing that may get you thousands of new fans.

  7. Very humorous video. I agree with Martin in wondering if Taylor has seen an uptick in sales due to the original video?

  8. Hi Tony, thanks for that link. I had seen the News Freak’s video too — yet another follow-on video riding the coattails of United Breaks Guitars.

    Hi Martin and Justin, I don’t know if Taylor Guitars has seen an uptick in sales. I’ll find out.

    — Anita

  9. Thanks, Erin. Yes, the Taylor video struck me as being the most tasteful and helpful to people. And they are certainly doing something to turn a fan into a “raving fan”.


  10. Hey Anita
    This is a great follow-on post. I went through all of the links you shared and got some good laughs and some cool insights.

    I agree with Robert — you have to be ready for the wave. Always opportunity out there!

    Also, I went to Dave Carroll’s website where he tells the whole story in print. I then went to the store where I was glad to see him selling the song for an iTunes like price.

    We should collect the United responses for a post, too.
    It may be filled with more lessons of what not to do…

  11. RedHotFranchises

    These are nice cases! I wonder if it would be possible to make a container to fit photographic equipment? I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories regarding airlines trashing photographic gear, from light units, to super telephoto lenses, and laptops. I’m very impressed with this case for guitars.

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