The rebranding of MAS has already started and first impressions are good

The new Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller has begun the process of rebranding MAS by stating Monday that the carrier is ‘technically bankrupt’ and that a brutal restructuring exercise is the only way forward. He went on to say that the rot had set in years before the mystery of flight MH370 and the tragic one-in-a-billion shooting down of MH17.

Christoph Mueller leading the MAS rebrand

Christoph Mueller leading the MAS rebrand

Of course this is nothing new but by stating what we all know and confidently but empathetically, he has shown us that he is serious and perhaps most important of all, he is prepared to do what no previous CEO has been prepared (or was allowed) to do, namely to do what it takes to rebuild the damaged brand.

He has begun by announcing three high level areas – pillars that will over the next 3 years put Malaysia Airlines back where it belongs, at the top of the Asian aviation business.

Phase one requires massive job cuts to the bloated workforce, new contracts for staff, the renegotiation of supplier contracts (as well as cutting the number of suppliers by 90%), the axing of some international routes and reducing the flight frequency on others, reviewing the 777-200ER fleet and selling off 2 Airbus A380s. MAS thought the A380 could help turn the carrier around and at one stage put in an order for 60 of the mighty jets.

But the huge, fuel guzzling A380 has had mixed reviews from airlines and pilots and rumour has it there has been little interest in the 2 aircraft MAS is looking to sell. I’d be surprised though if they sell off the 777s unless they intend to replace them with more modern, fuel-efficient alternatives.

MAS wants to sell 2 A380s, reducing the fleet to 4 despite once ordering 60

MAS wants to sell 2 A380s, reducing the fleet to 4 despite once ordering 60

Phase two will focus on transforming the carrier and apparently more than 40 areas for improvement have already been identified and the third phase will look at sustaining the new position of the airline.

So although the name hasn’t yet changed, the new Malaysia Airlines Brand is up and running.

Before you can go anywhere with a brand, you need three things. The first is a solid product offering. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on selling, marketing or advertising, the brand will not grow. We’ve seen that over the last 5 years as MAS spent more than RM1 billion trying to resuscitate the brand with advertising campaign after advertising campaign without addressing the brand’s structural issues.

Instead of trying to WOW customers with their product, former MAS CEOs cut costs, sold assets and ignored the passenger experience. The very heart and soul of what makes Malaysia unique – its people and the way they are – was ignored and instead cosmetic, shallow clichéd taglines were created and tacked together in a series of immediately forgettable tactical campaigns that did little for the brand.

The second thing you need when building a brand is a CEO who is prepared to look where others prefer not to look, who understands what needs to be done and is prepared to do what it takes and make the tough decisions, even if that means taking apart the existing brand and rebuilding it, brick by painful brick.

And the third key component is people who understand that the organization is the brand and that brand is part of a community. And this community, made up of people within and without the organisation will make or break the new brand. The new team will have to embrace and engage the community and understand that it is the community not the staff who make the MAS brand.

The new culture of MAS must be connected not aloof

The new culture of MAS must be connected not aloof

This team will need to create an environment where people work toward a common, clearly defined organizational goal and not a personal one. Arrogance, ignorance or the ‘tidak apa’ culture will have no place in the new environment. Instead a humble, collaborative, connected and engaged culture based around delivering value, not on the company terms but on the customer terms will be the order of the day.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the new livery, logo, brand architecture, uniforms, positioning, celebrities, the brand story and so on. That’s because they are irrelevant if the three points above are not addressed first.

Rebuilding the MAS brand was never going to be easy but the early signs are good, long may it continue.

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4 thoughts on “The rebranding of MAS has already started and first impressions are good

  1. Had the worst airline customer service experience ever with Malaysia air this week. They have permanently lost me as a customer. I think rebuilding the brand will be extremely difficult in this case.

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  2. Hi Tom, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I’m sorry to hear of your negative experience. Would you like to share your experience with us? I’m travelling MAS to London next month and would like to know what to expect!

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    • I have also had horrendous customer service from them this week. After re-arranging our flights to Australia, they have suddenly cancelled our flights to Brisbane having apparently known this would be the case since June. Yet we were only told a few days ago – now making it impossible to find other flights/routes which are convenient for the right amount of money. They have told us right up to the wire so that we cannot accept the refund. When trying to phone and speak to them they are impossible to get hold of, and when we finally did, on two instances we were hung up on. My partner then went out of his way to go into the offices here in London only to receive awful customer service from someone who clearly did not care for our plight, and offered no remorse about the situation. We were told no upgrades would be available and they’d sooner fly with empty seats and that compensation was not an option. Our big trip to see family is now off to a terrible start with over x19 hours extra delay causes and 3 flights each way with huge wait times. For a company that is meant to be turning around their public reputation, this is shocking.

      “Arrogance, ignorance or the ‘tidak Arrogance, ignorance or the ‘tidak apa’ culture will have no place in the new environment. Instead a humble, collaborative, connected and engaged culture based around delivering value, not on the company terms but on the customer terms will be the order of the day.”

      I say no more.

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  3. I have terrible terrible terrible customer service that they change my flight time and Malaysia airline customer service operator agreed cancellation and refund money back to me on 6/11/2016 until today 20/12/2016, they push me around spoke to six operators to check my refund but they rejected , I will never consider Malaysia airline is flying partner in the future and I will go to report Malaysia airline cheats passenger money and lies and foll me around… Malaysia airlines is too over!

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