In Hollywood, there’s a saying, that all publicity is good publicity. A horrible movie review, for example, will send even more people rushing to the box office just so they can see for themselves. Then there are stars like Kayne West and Chris Brown who are as popular as ever, despite the bad press.
Outside of Hollywood though, it’s tough to make that concept stick. Take, for example, the case of Malaysia Airlines. Dean Dacko, head of marketing was recently interviewed for Mumbrella Asia. He was asked if, after the loss of two flights, the company was considering a name change and a rebranding.
Prior to MH370, globally Malaysia Airlines’ brand awareness was in the low single digits. But after MH370 and MH17 it is 86 per cent worldwide. The name is now in the range of Coke and Pepsi. That kind of awareness takes decades and billions of dollars in investment to build. To abandon that, from a commercial marketing perspective, would be a tragically bad mistake to make.
What was he thinking? He basically just told the world that Malaysia Airlines benefited from two, horrendous tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 500 people. If that wasn’t bad enough, he compared the airline’s new found fame to that of two popular, happiness-driven, soda companies.
I’d like to think there was an error in the translation but I can’t come up with any spin that would make what he said okay. What’s disturbing is that everything he said is the truth. A year ago, most people didn’t even know Malaysia Airlines existed. Now, everyone knows and technically that means we’re all brand aware. That doesn’t mean we’re all anxious to book a flight on one of their planes.
To be fair, here’s the rest of what Mr. Dacko had to say about a potential rebranding.
“. . millions rallied around the brand and embraced the notion of Fly High and Stay Strong. So much so, that if we were to rebrand, we would not be honouring that message, and we would not be leveraging that as a springboard.
And if we rebranded, what would that say about the company? Malaysia Airlines has always been recognised as a premium full-service carrier and a national icon. The prime minister has said that this is something that needs to be preserved, as it is part of the fabric of Malaysian culture and society. What makes us good, what is engrained in our character and our culture, is Malaysian hospitality. It’s one of the only things that makes us genuinely different as an airline. It’s what makes us who we are. And we wouldn’t want to disrupt that promise.”
If only he had led with those heartfelt words and not the cold, hard facts. Then again, this is the same company who ran a promotion called “My Ultimate Bucket List” just a few short months after the twin disasters.
Dacko is right about one thing. Rebranding makes it look like the company is trying to hide from the past and that doesn’t sit well. What they need to do instead is work hard at regaining the trust of their employees and customers with strong leadership, impeccable customer service, and transparency in everything they do.
There is something about the human spirit that makes us rally in the face of tragedy. We want to forgive and move on but it’s tough when it seems like a company is putting profit over people.