Is it right for Malaysia Airlines to be selling insurance?

I’ve written a lot on this blog about the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) brand and much of what I have written has been negative and I’ve come in for a fair amount of criticism as a result of those posts.

But my intentions are honourable and I do know that a lot of people in MAS read my blog and take my comments in the way that they are written, as feedback not criticism.

They don’t seem to take any notice of the feedback but at least they are reading my comments. I’m publishing this post to see if I can get an explanation for the email I received from the airline recently.

There’s no need for a recap on the MAS situation except to say that earlier this week a story broke in Australia suggesting the Malaysian government lied about MH370 and later today there will be a high level meeting between Malaysia, Australia and China the three countries leading the search for MH370. Speculation is rife that the search will be called off. If this is the case, the media will be full of stories about MH370 and the downing of MH17. Probably not the ideal time for Malaysia Airlines to be trying to sell insurance.

Does MAS send the right message by selling insurance?
Does MAS send the right message by selling insurance?

Yet earlier this week I received an email from MAS encouraging me to buy insurance for my upcoming flight to Tokyo. My reaction was one of surprise. My initial thoughts were that it didn’t make sense for the carrier to be trying to sell insurance so soon after the tragic events of last year and just before a major announcement that could see acres of negative newsprint around the world. It also made me even more nervous about flying MAS.

Professionally, I couldn’t help but think that this was an ad hoc tactical effort that wasn’t part of a well thought out and planned out strategy. If I’m right it would suggest the marketing and communications departments at MAS continue to churn out poorly conceived tactical initiatives and are yet to develop a sustainable brand strategy.

I think the airline would be better off trying to rebuild it’s reputation with me and all the other people that have continuously supported the airline through the dark days of 2014 and 2015. But I could be wrong, maybe this is the right time for the airline to be selling insurance, what do you think?


Malaysia Airlines won’t return to profitability with bland, boring TV commercials

I don’t like to kick a man (or an airline) when he’s (or it’s) down, and despite a couple of good quarters, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is certainly down.

The good quarters (following six straight quarters of losses) are a result of increased revenues thanks to better load factors and higher RASK (Revenue per available seat kilometer).

Just to recap, to avoid bankruptcy, MAS embarked on a massive restructuring plan towards the end of 2011 that included cutting unprofitable routes and reducing costs with the goal being to return to full year profitability in 2013.

Although the airline has done quite well, that’s unlikely to happen even though it is focusing on Asia and has stopped flying to costly destinations such as Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Cape Town and oddly, Dubai. Giving up Dubai and Dammam suggests the carrier is surrendering to the aggressive carriers from the Middle East.

The most recent business strategy announced two key strategic elements – one to focus on the premium sector and the other to focus on the competitive Asian market. The announcement that the airline would go after the premium sector came at the same time as the partnership deal with AirAsia that has now been scrapped.

I’ve seen nothing to suggest the airline is courting premium customers and although it is good to see the airline understands the importance of segmentation, I doubt their ability to execute such a strategy.

Especially as the airline seems to be going the same old predictable route of using an advertising campaign featuring an irritating tagline (more on that later) to magically increase demand. And I’ve seen nothing else to suggest the airline is doing anything other than the usual advertising, print and PR tactics with a nod to social media.

And what an advertising campaign it is! I think this is the TV commercial.

I’m sorry but this has to be the worst commercial or video I’ve ever seen. It features people of various ages walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, directing traffic (I’m serious), reading newspapers, skateboarding, going to a meeting, graduating, bowling, clubbing and all with one thing in common – they are all carrying at least one suitcase! Yes, even the traffic policeman!! This really is rock bottom.

The print advertisement (which I’ve also seen on a billboard) features two men sitting on a wooden dock. They are both holding suitcases and the younger man has his arm around the older man and is looking into his eyes.

Sitting on the dock of the bay, suitcase in my hand
Sitting on the dock of the bay, suitcase in my hand

Does this image make anyone else uncomfortable? Here’s a close up to help you decide.

Does this make you uneasy?
Does this make you uneasy?

MAS also has a corporate video that starts off with a series of stock scenes featuring babies taking their first steps, dad playing with son, climbers etc and then cuts to old shots of MAS in the early days. Meanwhile the voice over tells us that life is made up of countless journeys. Getit?.

Then we get shots of computer generated imagery of the various planes used by the airline from past to present (didn’t BA do something similar?) before going back to the people shots – nice, smiling, friendly air hostess with kid – cut to boys jumping into lake – then back to nice, smiling people, tender, caring hostess and then, out of the blue we’re told the strangers we meet on our journeys give us courage – cut to skydivers – then back to lovers on beach, cultural harmony, pregnant couple and so on. I stopped at this point, unable to continue. Have a look instead.

One of the videos (I can’t remember which one and I have no intention of watching them again) features the Malaysia Airlines app that I really like but isn’t integrated with the website (or if it is I can’t figure out how to find my bookings made online on the app).

So if MAS is serious about increasing market share, what should the company do? Here are 5 things they need to start doing today.

1) Forget about the big idea. Focus instead on consistent, onging, personalised engagement with each of your very diverse audiences.
2) You probably have one of the most comprehensive databases in South East Asia. Start to use it properly.
3) Focus. These ‘one-size-fits-all’ advertising campaigns are an expensive exercise in naïve futility. Put an end to them now.
4) Don’t do social, be social.
5) Integrate all your solutions to make it easier for consumers to use them. Otherwise they defeat the object of developing them in the first place!

I’ve been flying MAS for over 20 years and I think it is a great product but it needs work. A lot of work. This traditional approach to brand building is not going to help steer the airline to full year profitability. They’d be better off throwing the money down a black hole.