That’s empathy — relating to each other through our shared experiences. There was the woman I met at a book signing who told me, fighting back tears, that her 90-year-old mother, who had been so excited to cast her vote in 2016, recently passed away. She was there with her daughter and granddaughter — three generations of women proudly carrying on her mother’s legacy. There was the young man I met who told me that What Happened had given him the courage to live his own truth, starting by coming out to his parents. And then there was the unforgettable woman in Montclair, New Jersey, who told me how hard the past couple of years had been for her — so hard that she didn’t know if she wanted to keep on living. “But then,” she said, “I saw everything you were taking on, and I thought to myself, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’” I grabbed her by both hands and told her never to quit on herself. She looked me straight in the eye and promised: “I won’t.”
For major consumer brands, this is a nightmare. That is why we can’t afford to simply laugh at United’s example (Delta had the same thing happen, without the benefit of a video, the following week). The economic value of a brand is dependent on how vulnerable you are on social media. That is like saying the house you bought is only as valuable as the quality of the local fire department.