Man dragged off a plane is marketing opportunity for some brands

When is soon too soon in social media marketing that uses the worst day a man had as the foundation of a Twitter joke?

Two brands are testing the question; one has already conceded defeat.

It’s called “newsjacking.” Companies try to take advantage of trending stories in the news. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Always it’s a risk.

Yesterday, a man was bloodied when pulled off a United Airlines jet. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he ended up dazed and bloodied.

Funny stuff, particularly if you’re a man who wasn’t dragged off an airplane.

The Minnesota Twins’ farm club — the Fort Myers Miracle — thinks so.


Trending stories are a tempting marketing peg. Last month, for example, Delta took advantage of United’s denial of boarding to teens wearing leggings. But nobody got hurt in that incident.

Delta, to its credit, stayed silent yesterday. With good reason.

Some brands are better at this. Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, for example, is expert at online trolling/marketing.

But other brands are clumsy when given the opportunity.

A year ago, local Prince fans were near unanimously offended when many brands tried to take advantage of the death of the local hero.

Remember this one?


Summit Beer tried its hand at taking advantage of the news, posting a tweet showing a flight of beers and the caption, “you won’t get kicked off this flight.”

Again, funny — particularly if you’ve had a few — until you think about whether this makes you chuckle.

To its credit, Summit reconsidered.

On the other hand, maybe Summit knows its audience, which took to Twitter and defended the brand saying people shouldn’t be so sensitive.

The brand, however, likely realized that the best way to tout a good taste is to show some.

  • Rob

    All the Twins ad is missing is a little verisimilitude, such as having a more Asian-looking guy holding up the ticket, with some fake blood streaked on his face. Sooooo funny!

  • Gary F

    Southwest airlines “we beat the competition, not our customers”.

    • I’ve seen that on Twitter. You should know, however, that it’s fake.

      • Gary F

        NO BOB! Twitter can be fake?

        • Angry Jonny

          So did you post originally knowing that it was fake, but gave no indication that it was fake, or are you feigning knowing surprise because you didn’t know it was fake and Bob called it out?

        • It was made by people on Reddit. Always a good idea, though, to credit your source.

  • Anna

    Is it my imagination or have incidents like these directed at people of color (Asian passenger/doctor, female, African-American doctor) become more frequent since the 2016 campaign and election or is it they were kept under wraps and we just didn’t know about them?

    I have always kept up with current news but it seems to me we have become a nation of racists and bigots all in the short span of 18 months.

    Are we headed into an American era of apartheid?

    • Laurie K.

      In this case, it has been reported that United randomly selected the four passengers that they wanted to “re-accommodate”. Not that it makes what happened to this gentleman any more justified, but it apparently was not done so based on his race.

      • Anna

        Regardless of the randomness of the selection, unfortunately for United, appearances are everything.

        People now know thanks to social media that this sort of treatment is legal and allowed. We expect this sort of treatment from a dictator, not a civilized government.

        As the Chinese have posted on social media, is America really the leader on human rights when they treat people in this manner?

        I think it is rather telling that none of the rest of the passengers stepped up to the plate and offered to give up their seats after this regrettable incident.

        I agree with Bob. Get the employees a rental car and avoid all the commotion and upset. The plane was three hours late because of this incident.

        It takes four hours to drive to Louisville from Chicago.

        Unbelievable and shameful. United deserves whatever it gets and so does any other airline that treats passengers this way.

        • Laurie K.

          You said: “Is it my imagination or have incidents like these directed at people of color”, I responded that in this particular case, it apparently was not directed at this gentleman due to ethnicity.

          That said, again, I do not care how this gentleman was selected, his treatment by the airline and law enforcement was appalling.

          • Anna


            Now we have journalists at two newspapers shredding what is left of this man’s dignity by “investigating” his past.

            He served his time and has paid his debt to society and deserves to be left in peace.

            This is why I don’t have a Facebook account or Instagram or Twitter or any of the other social media apps.

            My private life is my own business and nobody else.

          • Unfortunately that’s the way it goes. When you are in the news — whether by choice or not — you are fair game for people to provide a clear picture of who you are.

    • Al

      A little from Column A, a little from Column B.

    • jon

      I think neither.

      I don’t think they haven’t become more frequent, they haven’t been reported on more or less, there may have been more reporting on them do to social media and human brains, but even that I’d question.

      Human memory does weird things with events that don’t fit into our storylines.
      We search for patterns, and when we find things that don’t follow a pattern we change the memory to make it fit.
      We’ll shift memories of things around rearrange the timeline to fit a narrative.
      Our memories try to tell a story, and once they are able to, we’ll recement that memory back in place, not reflective or reality, but reflective of the story, of the pattern we want to see…

      I think that overall not much has changed, but we are all looking for a change, waiting for it, and when our brains look for something, we’ll find it, even if we have to create it ourselves.

  • Kurt O

    If the man was African-American the coverage of this story would be totally different. Chris Rock’s monologue at the Oscars last year showed that the outrage caused by racism has a sliding scale.

    • So you are saying there is LESS outrage over this due to him being the incorrect race?

      So far as I can tell, there is universal condemnation regarding the “Unnamed” Airline’s actions towards this man.

      • Kurt O

        Yes, there is well deserved condemnation of United’s actions. However, if he were African American the randomness of his selection would be questioned. The backlash towards companies would in turn be greater.

  • L. Foonimin

    Overheard in the offices of top management at PEPSICO – ‘Thank you God for United Airlines!’