McDonalds ad from Australia nails the dad daughter relationship but so?

I love this ad. It reminds me of my two girls and my boy when they were growing up. The only thing missing is the wife who seems to disappear once the child is born. Fortunately that doesn’t happen in real life. Well hopefully not too often.

It’s got a great soundtrack too but you know what, it’ll be gone in a few months. Lost in the noise of traditional, mass media, one size fits all (what about the vegetarian dads), corporate driven messages that go on in the background when the commercials come on and consumers start texting/swiping/chatting etc


Is Malaysia Airlines serious about rebuilding its brand?

I’ve been looking forward to the new Malaysia Airlines (MAB) brand from both a professional and a personal perspective. Professionally, I’m eager to see what direction a global company with a huge reputation proposes for the carrier. Personally, I’m a big fan of Malaysia Airlines and have been for over 20 years. I also believe a national carrier is a critical component of any nation brand and building a nation brand is harder without a national carrier.

Right now, despite a new CEO and one presumes new management, the brand seems to be directionless. I think 3 launch dates for the new brand have come and gone and each time the date passes, there is a deafening silence from management.

Meanwhile corporate driven messages tell us the new brand focus will be on ‘making the customer experience change.’ In mid 2015 we were told that in December 2015 the airline “will begin installing new cabin seating and improving inflight entertainment, customer service and on time performance. New technology, lounge concepts and catering would be introduced and the uniforms may change.”

This is not the new cabin seating I was expecting
This is not the new cabin seating I was expecting

But I can’t find anyone who has witnessed the ‘new cabin seating and improved inflight entertainment.’ I hear complaints about the poor state of aircraft and have witnessed it myself. Delays are inevitable when launching a new brand but in a social world, these delays must be explained. There is nothing wrong with being normal.

Poorly thought out announcements are made regarding long haul flights that result in global condemnation and humiliating U turns but management remains silent. Days later, as if nothing happened, a press release is sent out about the new beginning at MAB and how the CEO will ‘boost product offerings and rebuild confidence in the carrier.’

What does ‘boost offerings’ mean? Does it mean make it cheaper? The lines between Low Cost Carrier (LCC) and Legacy Carrier have become blurred. The low cost carrier (LCC) model is familiar to just about everyone who travels. Basically you purchase the use of a seat on a (very cramped) plane and then pay through the nose for anything else such as luggage, food, drinks and even the location of the seat.

The alternative is Legacy carriers but I’m not really sure what they are. The term came out of the USA but today, seems to apply to any national airline not making money. With a legacy carrier or national airline, you pay one fee that covers everything including what should be a postive, even memorable experience.

Nowadays, a lot of so called legacy carriers mimic the low cost carrier model. Many of them do it quite well, others not so well. Malaysia Airlines seems to bounce between the two. It recently offered business class seats to London at the ridiculously low return fare of RM3,400. However, just like LCCs the rate excluded GST (6%), taxes and fees and added a caveat that additional baggage and fees may apply. I didn’t check but I suspect this would have bought the figure to the same level as competitors.

MAB needs to focus on delivering on the promises it is making not slashing prices
MAB needs to focus on delivering on the promises it is making not slashing prices

This is a dangerous game because if Malaysia Airlines cannot compete on price with the Middle East carriers, it won’t be able to compete with LCCs like Air Asia. According to the Economist newspaper reporting on a KPMG study, “a legacy airline operating an Airbus A320 between London and Rome spends US$12,000 more on each round-trip than a low-cost airline.” Whilst the amounts may be different, the additional perceptage is no doubt the same in SE Asia.

Malaysia Airlines should focus more on improving its product than trying to discount its way through low seasons. Instead of trying to match the LCCs with their basic services and expensive add ons, Malaysia Airlines should seek to improve its relationships with its customers and offer a premium service rather than discounts, especially to its passengers at the front of the aircraft.

And it needs to start communicating with the public. Successful brands today are built on accessibility, transparency, collaboration, retention, personalisation and integrity. And consumers not companies determine the success of brands. Corporate driven press releases are not as effective as positive comments shared across social media. Malaysia Airlines needs to get its head around this.

And it must do it now because Air Asia, once the poster boy of LCCs is struggling to stay relevant and is looking to innovate. If it looks to Europe or Australia for inspiration, it will see the likes of Easy Jet and Virgin Australia morphing into legacy carriers. According to the Economist, this may leave legacy airlines “in a perilous state, regardless of their location and size.”

And before anyone says Malaysia Airlines is a private entity and doesn’t need to explain anything to anyone. Just remember that this is the 21st century not the 20th century. Consumers are smarter and acquire knowledge not from brands but from those who use them. And besides, Malaysians have invested billions in the carrier and they have a right to know what is happening and why deadlines are not being met.

If Malaysia Airlines is serious about its brand, someone needs to take charge of the communications and take charge now because I for one, don’t want to see this once great airline continue to make these elementary mistakes. Otherwise the only thing serious about the rebrand will be its inneffectiveness.

Brilliant ads don’t improve Toyota sales in Australia

It’s not easy creating an original ad these days. Especially when you are trying to sell a car or pick up truck. Some of the best ads tell a story. Some of the really, really good ads tell a story and then take that story even further whilst creating little vignettes within the original story.

The very best do all of that whilst creating humour that resonates with everyone and not just the target market. This commercial, released a couple of years back for Toyota in Australia is one of the latter and probably goes some way to explaining why the Toyota Hilux is the most popular vehicle in the country.

Unfortunately, despite such brilliant commercials, Toyota pick up sales are down 21% year-on-year.

Top 10 airline brands for 2012

Skytrax, the UK based research company that specialises in research for commercial airlines, has just announced the winners of the world airline award for 2012.

Skytrax parent company, Inflight Research Services work has been used by the UK government to determine the UK government policies on air transport.

The Skytrax Awards are one of the benchmarking tools for the air industry. They measure passengers’ satisfaction levels by surveying passengers in all cabin classes.

The award is announced after a 10 month telephone survey with 18 million airline customers from 100 countries. That’s right, 18 million airline customers from 100 countries. This must be one of the largest surveys ever attempted.

That’s 1.8 million participants a month or based on a 20 day working month, its 90,000 calls per day which equates to, assuming an 8 hour day, 11,250 calls an hour! Many of which are international, in different languages and probably, if they use my carrier, many of the calls cut off half way through the conversation.

I’ve managed some large brand audits that required a lot of calls but not 18 million in 10 months! So Skytrax should be commended for managing such a logistical nightmare. But I digress.

As I mentioned, the survey takes 10 months and covers 200 airlines, both domestic and large international airlines. The survey measures standards across 38 key performance indicators of airline front line product and services.

The study focuses on customer satisfaction related to experiences right across all touch points including check-in, boarding, onboard seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages, in-flight entertainment and staff service.

According to the World Airline Awards website, product and Service factors ranked by customers
in the survey included the following elements:

Standard of Airline web site
Online Booking service
Online check-in services
Airport Ticket Counters
Waiting times at Check-in
Quality of Check-in service
Self Check-in options
Boarding Procedures
Pre-boarding for families
Friendliness of Ground staff
Efficiency of Ground Staff
Transfer services
Arrival services
Baggage Delivery
Handling Delays

Cabin Seat comfort
Cabin Cleanliness
Toilet Cleanliness
Cabin Lighting / Ambience
Cabin Temperatures
Cabin Comfort amenities
Reading Materials
Airline magazine
Inflight Entertainment standards
Audio/Movie programming
Audio Video on demand (AVOD) options
Quality of Meals
Quantity of Food served
Meal Choices
Selection of Drinks/Pay bar formats

Assistance during Boarding
Friendliness of Staff
Service Attentiveness/Efficiency
Consistency of Service across different flights
Staff Language skills
Meal service efficiency
Availability thru Flight/Cabin presence
PA announcements
Assisting families with children
Problem solving Skills
General Staff Attitudes
Staff Grooming

This is an enourmously complex project and it doesn’t end there. Follow up research includes back up interviews and the data is weighted to ‘provide nomination equity when evaluating airlines of different size.’

Anyway after all that, here is the list of the top 10 airlines for 2012

The World’s Best Airlines 2012

1. Qatar Airways
2. Asiana Airlines
3. Singapore Airlines
4. Cathay Pacific Airways
5. ANA All Nippon Airways
6. Etihad Airways
7. Turkish Airlines
8. Emirates
9. Thai Airways
10. Malaysia Airlines

It is interesting to note that 6 of the top ten are Asian brands and the other 4 are Middle Eastern Brands.

Looking back over the last 10 years, the list has always been dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern brands. With the exception of 2006 When British Airways came first, no European Airline has ever appeared in the top 3.

AirAsia brand hits turbulence

A week ago, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani announced to much fanfare, a new service between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur.

Soon after, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, (ACCC) an Australian consumer watchdog announced that it has launched a court action against AirAsia, alleging the company is misleading consumers in its advertisements for flights out of Australia.

This follows negative press after AirAsia X recently announced it was ceasing flights to London, Paris, Mumbai and New Delhi and criticism by Neil Warnock, the former manager of Queens Park Rangers football club, owned by AirAsia chairman Tony Fernandes after he was sacked.

Although the company acted quickly and decisively with offers of refunds or alternative travel at no extra cost for passengers who hold tickets for future flights to Europe and India, in terms of customer loyalty, these latest developments won’t do the brand any favours.

Especially as the airline is also copping plenty of flak for it’s opaque charging and poor engagement skills on social media, as seen by this image taken from a disgruntled customer on Facebook.

The former AirAsia fan says the image was taken down after 10 minutes when he posted it on the company Facebook page and he has since been barred from posting anything on the AirAsia Facebook page!

Hidden or extra fees add almost 100% to cost of Kuala Lumpur to London ticket on AirAsia

According to the ACCC, AirAsia’s website did not include all taxes, duties, fees and other mandatory charges when advertising fares on certain routes from the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth. In Australia if a company wishes to advertise part of a price, it must also advertise one total price for the product or service.

Brands are defined by the economic, experiential and emotional value they deliver to customers. Fail on any of these counts and your brand will struggle. The disgruntled Facebook customer and customers like those in this article have undone a lot of the work AirAsia has done to build a people friendly brand.

As Low cost carrier brands grow, charging extra for food and entertainment may be acceptable on short or medium haul routes but many consumers see it as unfair on long haul routes so strategic changes need to be made if they really do want to build brands.

Building a brand in the consumer economy is more than the CEO and Chairman tweeting all day. It requires a strategic plan with processes to deal with reputation issues and a willingness to engage with consumers who raise positive AND negative issues on and off line.

The reality is that AirAsia probably had little choice in cutting unprofitable routes to India and Europe.

But what it should have done was have a strategy in place to announce the changes and a plan to communicate with existing ticket holders to inform them and work with them to solve their personal issues in as seamless manner as possible.

A Facebook page with direct access to a community director and suggestions for alternative routes or airlines and how to go about booking flights would have been a tactical initiative to show the airline cared.

Such an effort may be a relatively time consuming and expensive initiative but in the social economy, one that is imperative and one that will pay retention dividends.

Real time example of social media branding in action

This is happening right now!

An American teenager who enjoys knitting and the TV show Glee chose, for reasons unknown, the twitter handle @theashes. Unfortunately the ashes are the name given to one of the great sporting contests of all time, no I’m not talking about the world series that only American teams play in, I’m talking about the (sort of) bi-annual cricket series between Australia and England.

These two have been playing Test cricket since 1877 however the first match for the ashes was played in 1882. This is not the place to explain cricket!

The five match series has just begun with an enthralling 5 day match in Brisbane. Unfortunately for @theashes, fans around the world thought she was the official twitter account and bombarded her for updates from Brisbane!

Her early responses were more bemused than anything, “This is not the account of the cricket match. Check profiles before you send mentions, it’s incredibly annoying and rude.” However later tweets suggest a little frustration creeping in as this recent example shows, “I AM NOT A FREAKING CRICKET MATCH!!!”

In another tweet, she asked, “what the hell is a wicket?” and later she was unsure whether she should support Australia or England.

Enter the Brand. Qantas, sensing an opportunity began a twitter campaign – #gettheashestotheashes and offered her a free flight from New York. Other companies have also offered free tickets to matches, transport in Australia and even mobile phones.

She is considering the flight offer, but isn’t keen to travel alone. Qantas has done the right thing, seeing and responding to a great opportunity to develop a brand advocate. It is little events like this that are critical for the successful development of a brand in the social medial space.

Now they need to offer another ticket for her to travel with a friend otherwise their initial advantage could evaporate.

Australia Unlimited. Genius or Garbage?

Someone sent me this link about the plans for the Australian government to use a new tagline to sell Australia Inc to the world.

I’m sure you guys have lots to say and I welcome your thoughts on the article. To get the ball rolling here are a couple of thought starters.

1) Australia Unlimited isn’t a brand, it is a tagline created by an advertising agency to be used in creative driven communications using one message to communicate with all stakeholders, irrespective of their requirements for value. The concept of selling ‘Australia to the world” is laughable as most of the world doesn’t care.

2) Here’s a clip from the article, “Shortlisted agencies were given a brief to ”come up with a brand that would promote Australia’s capabilities across a range of sectors from investments and exports to education, culture, sports and events”

How does “Australia Unlimited” do that? And how could any communications campaign appeal to such a diverse prospect base?

3) Here’s another quote from the article, “John Moore, director of brand development of the Global Brands Group, the agency that has been co-ordinating the new Sydney brand, likes the line. ”It takes it beyond tourism and poses the question of what is unlimited about Australia, to which there can be many answers. I think it will work really well as a connecting device with all those different areas [of trade and business].”

Excuse me? How does it do that? I want to set up a mining company in Australia, what can you do for me? That’s the only question I want to pose.

This is another iniative, involving 2 stakeholders, Tourism Australia and Austrade, who should be working together but in fact appear almost to be competing with each other!