Mas vs Air Asia

The google onslaught

"How to hit at your opponent"

Recently, I was trying to book some flights. Instead of typing out Air Asia, I googled it. The first paid ad was of course Malaysia Airlines. It is interesting when companies do this. The 3 ways of growing market share are

1. New users – people who have not entered into the category before. Eg. quoted by the chairman of Air Asia, the plantation worker in East Malaysia who wanted to go to KL to see the KLCC twin towers but couldn’t afford it until Air Asia came about.

2. Existing users to use more. Eg. Database email blast letting travellers know about a special promotion fare. These people are already existing users of your product and you just encourage them to use more.

3. Taking competitor users. These are people who already use the service and you just encourage them to switch to your brand. Eg. giving consumers a pre-approved credit card and gift if they show you a competitors credit card.

This present campaign by Malaysian Airlines is designed to take competitor (air asia) users. As a brand strategy it may downgrade the brand image of Malaysian Airlines. The brand identity was mid to premium. Since the onset of Air Asia, they have embarked on Air Asia like ads combined with a cost reduction strategy. This campaign is a useful tactical approach in the short term to take competitor users but it should look at determining its long term positioning. Only then will it be poised for lasting success.

45 Responses to “Mas vs Air Asia”

  1. Mervyn Monk says:

    Personally, I don’t see Malaysia Airlines (MAS) approach as a brand strategy, rather as a customer acquisition tactic. They are competing not just against AirAsia, but the likes of JetStar, Tiger and Lion as well as other regionally-networked airlines.

    I think that MAS is targeting the large number of people searching for the specific keywords “air” and “asia” who are likely to be (1) inbound customers using Malaysia, (2) inbound passengers using Malaysia as a hub, (3) outbound travellers from various regional cities looking to travel within the region or (4) Malaysia-based travellers looking to travel within the region, as opposed to domestic* or travellers. I like the fact that the (sponsored) link points to a country specific lead generation page, btw.

    (Note that searching for AirAsia, pulls up zero sponsored links.)

    I wonder if this is the beginnings of a new war ….not just about how many bums you put in seats per flight, but for long-term loyalty.

    *If their focus was domestic, Firefly would be marketed instead, being a fully owned subsidiary. Plus, most savvy travellers or local internet users would know to check all local airlines for competing fares.

    Just how countless of companies have had to adapt or die in the spate of new and innovative competition, MAS, like Kodak and the music companies before it, has had to re-evaluate their business as well as their offerings. From a cursory look it seems like MAS has adjusted its price point for the short sectors whilst the other 3 Ps are more or less unchanged.

    However, with copy like “All Inclusive Low Fares. Visit Our Official site. Book Now. Save More”, it does seems like they’re hard-up to up-sell by hard-selling.

    In my mind, it’s not the acquisition tactic that is the problem but the copy, which counters MAS’ brand positioning. Sadly, this reeks of a convoluted messaging and communication strategy that is not aligned to the brand’s values. It’s quite likely, that MAS is either not policing its agencies or its internal comms department.

    Offering lower cost alternatives are a great way to enable a wider segment of people to enjoy a given brand. It allows more customers to experience the benefits and advantages that the brand promises. Numerous premium brands have successful offered “lower-cost” alternatives to their main offerings:

    • Mercedes A-class
    • Apple iBooks/Macbooks
    • Armani Exchange
    • Leica’s compact camera ranges
    • Banyan Tree’s Angsana offerings

    As you pointed out, it should be focussed at determining its long-term positioning. To add, to help ensure this, MAS needs to police all customer touch points, communications and conversations to safeguard its brand interested.

    On a separate note, AirAsia needs to ensure that the tail-end of its offerings – their services, meet their brand promise and values. Right now, whilst the processes might be adequate-to-good for the young airline, it’s my opinion that they lack a certain quality in customer service; which is disappointing considering how customer and people focussed their senior management is. Sadly, these positive attributes are less genuine and more prevalent the closer one gets to the ground, at the touch points.

    Still, it’s a new airline and has time to correct itself ….however, it needs to start doing so soon. Very soon. Otherwise, the attitude begins to corrode the values and establishes itself in the culture.

    It should also appreciate the irony of the probability of selling a can of Coke at RM5 on a flight that costs RM10 (before fuel charges and tax). Premium priced drinks on a budget flight, anyone?

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