We're all competitive by nature. We like to win - especially in business. But is capitalizing on your competitor's failures the right way to build your brand? Maybe. Maybe Not.
United Airlines provided some fantastic fodder for social media memes this week. In case you missed it, here is the short version: United overbooked their flight and passengers had already boarded when they decided they needed seats for four of their own crew. They offered up a few hundred dollars, asking for volunteers to give up their seats, and nobody jumped at the offer. So then they hand-picked certain passengers based on discount fares to give up their seats, and that is when things took a turn for the ugly.
After one passenger refuses to give up his seat - because, really why should you have to at that point? - he ends up like this:
Regardless of whether you believe United or the passenger was in the wrong, nobody can deny the ensuing social media frenzy wasn't entertaining. Here are just a few of my personal favorites:
But how did competitors handle the situation? Did they shamelessly self-promote, jump in on the bashing, or attempt to remain detached from the fiasco?
Southwest: Dragged Into the Fight
Despite their efforts to stay uninvolved in the situation, with their social media accounts making no mention of the debacle, this meme hit newsfeeds around the world, causing speculation as to whether Southwest had released this new slogan.
For the record, they did not.
American & Delta: Just Thankful It Was Not Them
Memes were floating around about both American and Delta, but both stayed silent on the social front.
Not All Took the High Road
While most American airlines kept quiet, not all followed suit.
Royal Jordanian Airlines took a direct stab at United. As did Emirates Airlines:
How to Handle a Competitor Fail
When your competitor flops, how should you handle the desire to jump on board with the social media smackdown?
If you choose to mock them, you take the risk of complete and abject failure and potentially putting your own brand at risk, especially when many of the issues your competitor faces are yours as well. After all, we know United is not the only airline that overbooks seats. As a whole, all American airlines took a hit this week and adding fuel to the fire would just hurt them all.
In a highly competitive space, mocking another brand, especially if they are a behemoth in your industry, can have a positive impact but must be done strategically - not in reaction to a trending PR crisis.
What are some examples you've seen where mocking a brand has worked? Or not? Share them below!