As an idea, the message of “journeys” is not new in travel. How many times have we heard the phrase, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”? And the idea of putting magic back into the journey is also not new – I recall Singapore Airlines playing with the idea of putting the romance back into air travel, with the main image recall I have of the Singapore Girl putting a blanket over some male passenger sitting in first class.
So Malaysia Airlines’ “Journeys” campaign, which promises “Journeys are made by the people you travel with” with the intention of elevating travel with MAS beyond a commodity into an experience with an emotional connection is certainly no breakthrough idea.
But what’s new about it is the integrated marketing approach and its execution.
As an airline that had lost RM2.2 billion in 2011, its worst loss ever, the airline knew it had to do something to turn its fortunes around, said Dean Dacko, MAS senior vice president, head of marketing (pictured above left), at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium in Singapore.
“Something was broken and it forced the organsation to take a look at itself. It was no longer acceptable to continue as before and we needed to transition and transform the airline from every angle.”
What it knew it had was an excellent product – “we are one of only seven five star airlines in the world” and it had won world’s best cabin staff seven out of 10 years.
“We also saw a gap between Asian consumers and Asian businesses,” Dacko said. Consumer exposure to digital media was on the rise while spending on digital media was not growing at the same rate.
“There’s been exponential growth in adoption of digital in Asia yet the reality is businesses were adopting at a slower pace. We saw an opportunity to acquire media at a lower cost and the ability to generate bigger audiences, with frugal resources.”
It also recognised customer adoption of multi-channels and devices and the reality of data driving real-time marketing decisions.
“We had to convince the chief financial officer to give us the money to do what we want to do. In the past, the challenge was we couldn’t give the numbers but now big data has changed the power we have at the board table. Online is now an integral part of business strategy.”
It then had to tackle the challenge of how the organisation was set up with “dysfunctional processes and governance” and “a digital and traditional divide” and break down silos and change mindset around traditional use of media, which was much more tactical. Alignment was achieved by rolling up all KPIs to the executive dashboard.
“Marketing created a vision to bring that all together and get that alignment,” said Dacko. “We looked how we used data to drive all decisions from changing an entire booking engine to how much to bid on an individual key search word.”
“Unification of purpose” was achieved by bringing digital marketing and direct sales under one team, and everyone focused on creating demand, converting and monetizing.
“It was a fully integrated media execution with complete social media activation, the first time we had launched such a campaign.”
The first step was to inspire – hence the “Journeys” TV commercial was launched across 22 countries, and in print and outdoor as well as across social networks. (see video below)
The second step was to instigate adoption. “The core brand message was reinforced with messages of product excellence and to make it personal – we created a platform that allowed people to share the stories of their journeys,” said Dacko.
It got the message out on Facebook, creating digital postcards, and users got to tag the people they have shared the journey with. “We created advocacy,” said Dacko.
A check at presstime on MAS’ social media assets shows that it has 882,463 Facebook fans, 221,220 Twitter followers, 176,913 on Google Plus and 7.153 million views on its YouTube channel.
Its target was to double the percentage of sales that happened online and “we told the team that once you have done it, please double it again,” said Dacko.
Calling it a “great success in our digital journey”, he said the airline has seen a 21% growth in Q1 revenues and its goal is to become ASEAN’s premium preferred airline in 2014.
Concluding his talk, he told marketers, “You need to be bold, you can’t take small steps. You need to invest but the ROI is very high. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Look for best in class examples, work with partners with established products and experiences and create a team around you.”
Lastly, he said, don’t make mistakes other airlines do and build the technology yourself.