Tag Archive: Defeat Software


This is an upsetting event for all of us at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” –PR Week’s “Communicator of the Year,” United CEO Oscar Munoz

Do you really think so, Oscar?

Last Sunday morning, United Continental Holdings, Inc., or more commonly known as United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) positioned its brand as a global airline with the tagline “The Friendly Skies” and backed by the music of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

By Sunday evening the airline’s brand was radically changed, maybe even permanently altered, by what happened on a commuter flight (United Express #3411) from Chicago’s horrible O’Hare Airport to the home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville.

Note that horses are treated better than United’s overbooked passengers, one in particular.

Almost DailyBrett has researched and written extensively about the loss of branding control. With social media and easy-to-use and outstanding-quality smart-phone cameras and recorders, everybody is a potential reporter, even one sitting in an aisle seat on United.

Just as BP is no longer seen as an oil and gas company, but rather one that caused the massive Deepwater Horizon “spill,” United is now linked to inexplicable violence against one of its own paying customers, whose only crime was wanting to fly home to treat his patients.

The inexcusable exercise of violence and brutality against a 69-year-old Vietnamese refugee, Dr. David Dao, including losing two front teeth, sustaining a concussion, and suffering a broken nose — all because he committed the cardinal sin of refusing to leave a seat he purchased on an overbooked flight to accommodate a United employee — is now a viral social and legacy media legend.

Most likely, this horror video could also be the topic of a heavily covered jury trial (United will try to avoid this scenario at all costs by attempting to settle out of court), and possibly a congressional investigation (United probably will have to respond to a subpoena). There is very little chance United could prevail before any jury regardless of venue.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has repeatedly told students at Central Washington University that company, non-profit, agency, government, politician brands are now “traded” on social media and blogging exchanges every second of every day.

These brands can soar (e.g., Tesla and Elon Musk) on glowing reports (and company common stock usually moves in tandem). They can also plunge into binary code oblivion triggered by a game-changing incident (i.e., Chipotle and E. coli; Volkswagen and “defeat software”; Wells Fargo, phony accounts; Anthony Weiner and his tweeted wiener).

So far, United investors and employees have lost an estimated $1.5 billion in market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). On the social media stock exchange, the company has lost even more as millions around the world are shocked and appalled by about 60 seconds of gratitous violence video.

In China as well as other countries in East Asia that serve as United destinations, the bloody treatment of Dr. Dao is seen as a racist act. Is United racist? The answer really doesn’t matter when the perception in the Asian community (and other ethnic communities) is that United perpetrated a racially motivated attack.

Does PR Week rescind Oscar Munoz’ “Communicator of the Year” Award just as the Heisman Trust recalled the famous statue from Reggie Bush? The call seems easy.

What’s Next For United?

“I think corporate America needs to understand that we all want to be treated in the same manner with the same respect and the same dignity that they would treat their own family members. If they do that, wouldn’t it be great? So, will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably.” — Attorney Thomas Demetrio

United knows as evidenced by the live coverage of today’s Chicago news conference by Dr. Dao’s lawyers on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business and others, this story has “legs.” Just as BP found that out every day the Deepwater Horizon well was leaking, United will also realize this public relations nightmare will endure for weeks and months.

So what should United’s PR team do in the interim?

  1. The “service” company needs to dramatically alter its way of doing business. Literally thousands upon thousands are justifiably angry at United and other carriers for their well-documented and long-endured arrogance and disregard for their customers, the passengers.
  2. United needs to forever foreswear the use of violence on its aircraft except in the rare circumstances in which a passenger is a threat to themselves or others.
  3. The days of “overbooked flights” need to come to an end. If someone buys a ticket to a football game that person is entitled to that seat on the 30-yard line. If a passenger buys a ticket for a plane that passenger is entitled to seat 9C.
  4. The airlines need to enshrine this simple notion as a new policy and champion it. If they don’t, one suspects that Congress will do exactly that. Don’t try to lobby against this change. Be a part of the solution.
  5. Be nice. United, American and Delta – the so-called legacy carriers – need to shed their well-earned image of being rude, arrogant, un-empathetic and uncaring. For once an attorney is right: We all deserve respect and dignity.
  6. The lawyers will have a field day, starting with the discovery process. Sell-side analysts will downgrade the stock. Congressional committees will beat up Oscar Munoz. For United’s PR team, this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.
  7. Time can heal. Keep in mind, United’s brand will never be the same and will literally take years to turn the corner. One suspects United will somehow move forward. A little humility and the willingness to admit wrong, to learn and become change agents on behalf of customers and not just the bottom line, may one day lead to a better tomorrow.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/04/12/united-ceo-oscar-munoz-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-communicator-of-the-year/?utm_term=.c0660d2cfa9b&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/loss-of-control-how-to-safeguard-reputations-and-brands-in-a-digital-world/

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/13/attorney-for-united-airlines-passenger-dao-says-there-will-probably-be-a-lawsuit.html

 

 

 

 

Glad we got that all cleared up.

Vielen Dank VW CEO Herr Matthias Müller (many thanks, Matthias).

We can now rest assured that Volkswagen is not a criminal brand.mueller

Richard Nixon told us he was not a crook.

And Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

What is it with chief executives and their repeated association with the permanent stigma of a negative declaration with super-charged adjectives?

Criminal? Crook? Sex?

These are notorious words that stand the test of time. They are ominous and eternal. And once they are uttered, there is simply no way to take them back.

And yet this mistake happens again and again to the best and the brightest.

Words That Make You Wince

“We are not a criminal brand or group. We haven’t been that. We have made a huge default, technical default, but there was no intention against customers or authorities.” – Volkswagen AG Vorsitzende Matthias Müllervolkswagan

As Almost DailyBrett can attest, PR folks certainly love our metaphors:

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

You can un-ring the bell.

You can’t put the bullet back in the chamber.

And sometimes we are guilty of drinking our own bath water.

And now you can’t separate German auto designer/manufacturer, “Volkswagen,” with the extremely unfortunate phrase, “criminal brand.” Thought those two words apply to the Mafia and North Korea, not a car conglomerate (e.g., VW, Audi, Porsche …) long associated with legendary German engineering.

The VW PR team accompanying Müller to Detroit for his first exchange with American media since the company’s “defeat” emissions-standards software scandal broke had to be cringing when he uttered these infamous words.

Müller also said: “We didn’t lie,” another negative declaration attached to a super-charged word.

Hopefully, he did not beat his wife … Please don’t ask him that specific question.

Was he coached to not repeat loaded, supercharged words contained in reporter queries?

Was he told to respond always in a positive vain, and to never use incendiary words?

Remember: When it doubt, declare victory.

For example, how about the following for Volkswagen: “We are a firm that will always be dedicated to observing all rules and regulations. We will overly comply. We will cooperate with authorities.”

Here’s another answer: “We are sorry. We pledge to adhere to all environmental regulations and standards, including those passed by the United States, European Union and other governing bodies. It will be hard to regain public trust, but we are beginning our quest to do just that.”

Americans are a forgiving people. We will give those, who deserve it, a second chance … but only one second chance.

To be fair to Matthias Müller, this debacle is not of his doing. He was the head of Porsche, when his predecessor Martin Winterkorn was shown die Tur. The media, regulators and lawyers are circling like a pack of vultures, looking to pick apart the legendary Volkswagen brand.

There will be even more screaming headlines in the coming weeks and months for Volkswagen as recalls start, lawsuits are adjudicated and fines are levied. Volkswagen will most likely survive, but the unfortunate linkage to a “criminal brand” will ensue.

“This Is the Worst Disaster Since My Election” — Pat Brown

Former California Governor Pat Brown (Jerry’s dad) was touring the flooding of the Eel River near the Northern California coastline in 1965.

We all know what he was trying to say, but the words didn’t come out quite right … worst disaster since his election. Was the Eel River flooding the disaster or his election?pat-brown

In some respects the late-Pat Brown can be excused even though those words haunted him for the rest of his governorship and life.

Volkswagen’s Müller is more of an engineer, who made an eternal mistake, forever attaching “criminal brand” to VW. He deserves his share of blame, but the same applies to his undoubtedly well-compensated PR, marketing and reputation management teams.

These are words that should never have been spoken.

Alas, they will live in infamy.

.http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/01/10/volkswagen-detroit-auto-show-naias-matthias-mueller-emissions-scandal/78603744/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthias_M%C3%BCller_(businessman)

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/11344/1120/In_the_C_Suite_Scandals_at_VW_and_Takata_Highlight?spMailingID=12579553&spUserID=ODkxMDgzMDgwMTkS1&spJobID=663351066&spReportId=NjYzMzUxMDY2S0#.VpaMhPkrLIU

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/11/462682378/we-didnt-lie-volkswagen-ceo-says-of-emissions-scandal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Winterkorn

http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/investor_relations.html

http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-19/news/mn-13310_1_human-suffering

 

 

 

 

 

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