Tag Archives: promotion

How to Not Handle a Crisis: United Airlines

While companies plan for success and upbeat public relations stories, most companies do not plan for crisis situations or public relations snafus. But, they all should do so, as was recently experienced by United Airlines.

First, there was a ‘leggings scandal’ when the airline refused to seat “pass travelers” (employees and dependents traveling free on a standby status) who were wearing leggings, and thus not judged to be dressed appropriately. This one was noteworthy on social media, but not troublesome.  Puma jumped on the social media trend and offered 20% off leggings at its U.S. stores to anyone who brought in a United Airline ticket!

However, the next situation was much more serious as United Airlines had a man dragged off a flight when he refused to give up his seat (due to overbooking), so that a United employee could fly instead of him. The man suffered a broken nose, concussion, and lost two front teeth, according to lawyers representing him in a lawsuit against United Airlines. There was no transparency into how customers were selected to be bumped off the flight.

The company was slow to apologize to the man, and the entirety of the plane’s passengers. It now faces a crisis communications situation. What should it do?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role of public relations and crisis communications in a brand’s promotional mix.
  2. Discuss the problem that United Airlines faced. Various videos of the event are available online: https://youtu.be/VrDWY6C1178
  3. What are the student opinions of this incident? Are these actions legal, or ethical?
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a crisis communication plan for the above situation.
  5. What elements and needed in the plan?
  6. Teams can also research other public relations disasters to see how each was handled. (Remember Chipotle, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Wells Fargo?)

Source:  New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, other news sources   

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A Year after Super Bowl Ad: Death Wish Coffee

In the 2016 Super Bowl, small business Death Wish Coffee beat out 15,000 other small businesses to win a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, funded by Intuit QuickBooks. Before the commercial, the company had days where it sold low amounts of coffee each day from its Web site and New York coffee shop. What would happen to the business after the Super Bowl?

Before the Super Bowl, the company’s Web site had a resting count of approximately 500 visitors. By the time the ad finished running, there were more than 147,000 unique visitors on its Web site, and almost all were from mobile devices. And, during the Super Bowl game time, Death Wish Coffee sold more than $250,000 of coffee.

Today, the company is doing great and is still growing by leaps and bounds. In 2015, Death Wish Coffee had approximately $3 million in revenue, and their estimate for 2016 was an optimistic $10 million in revenue. But of course, that was BEFORE the Super Bowl ad. By the time last year ended, Death Wish Coffee revenue had doubled its estimates to $20 million!

“Super Bowl commercials work!”

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the risks and benefits of advertising at the Super Bowl.
  2. Show the Ad Age’s recent interview with the company: http://adage.com/article/special-section-super-bowl/death-coffee-s-year-long-super-bowl-high/308371/?utm_source=daily_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage&ttl=1490741042&utm_visit=226837
  1. For backstory about how this ad was developed, show the video “Anatomy of an Ad”:  http://adage.com/videos/a-super-bowl-death-wish-part-3/493 (Note: There are three videos in total that explain the process of developing the commercial. Students will find these behind-the-scenes interesting.)
  2. View the company’s Web site: http://www.deathwishcoffee.com/.
  3. Discuss why this ad and company have been so successful.

Source:  Ad Age Daily

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Fun with Transit Ads

Marketers constantly face a challenge to be both strategic and creative. It can be difficult to define the target market and then work out how to set your message apart from the thousands of competing messages. Sure, we all know how effective Super Bowl ads and social media can be, but don’t forget about the old-fashioned kinds of promotion, too.

For example, the simple bus or transit shelter makes a great place to build awareness and a lasting impression. Bus shelters are ubiquitous – they can found in almost every market in the world. Outdoor advertising delivers great visibility at a low price per impression. Transit displays don’t have to be boring – in fact, they are more creative than every thanks to the use of technology.

The displays can be three-dimensional, colorful, and interactive with the audience. And, since they are available 24/7 they cannot be turned off or ignored. No zip, zap, or mute. The large displays are seen by thousands of transit riders, pedestrians, and drivers. And, since most people take the same route to work every day, the ads are seen multiple times per person, helping to build awareness.

Look around on your next drive to stroll through town. What do you see?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role of outdoor (and out-of-home) advertising.
  2. Poll students: What bus shelters do they remember seeing in the past few days?
  3. Show these bus stop ads:


  1. Additional, interactive bus shelters:



  1. Divide students into teams. Have each team design a bus shelter for a product of their choice. This can either be a fast in-class project, or a longer take-home project in teams.
  2. Have each team show their bus shelter display.
  3. Additional work: Have students research the costs of transit shelter displays in various markets.

Source: Ad Week  

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