It’s okay to be nosy. Be curious, be intuitive and sensitive to current trends around the world, and most importantly, understand your customers well - from their preference and needs, to their purchase and travel journey. This is one top tip from Schrene Goh, head of marketing at Malaysia Airlines (MAS).
Speaking exclusively to A+M, Goh who joined from U Mobile last year, said marketing is a combination of art and science, and to be an effective marketer, one needs to be data driven and digitally savvy nowadays. Goh who reports MAS' chief commercial officer Arved Nikolaus VonZurMuehlen, leads a team of 40 people. Of this, 27 employees form its marketing and Enrich division, while 13 of them work in the products team: in-flight and on-ground.
"With today's technology and social media, there are plenty of real time or current information, data from digital channels and social sentiments that we can leverage on to launch a successful campaigns, based on informed decisions and learning from a past campaign," she added.
She explained, Malaysia is a very diverse market that is multiracial with multiple languages and dialects, this is also why content needs to be customised for all segments.
"Malaysians also spend a lot of time on their social media, especially Facebook. They seek new content each time and yesterday’s best campaign is suddenly a norm overnight," she said. Goh added:
With Malaysian consumers' short attention span, marketers need to always grab their attention with thumb-stopping moments within the first few seconds.
Goh also believes in pushing her boundary further, encouraging a risk appetite for "new or crazy ideas".
While not all ideas will work, as marketer, Goh said, there is a need to constantly raise the bar and challenge oneself. But having said that, the rule of thumb is to always be mindful of anything that might stir up any controversial issues.
For her, the devil is also in the detail. She added:
Pay attention to detail and you’ll be surprised how that can make a big impact for your company.
Most of the time, Goh said, marketers tend to be get carried away with big campaign ideas but "your campaign ideas are only as strong as your weakest link." In today’s digital world, things go viral overnight and netizens are very vocal when it comes to their opinion and that can be very damaging to the brand. She added:
One mistake can wipe out all your previous successful efforts.
However, Goh added that despite the"very tough times" the airline had to go through over the years, it has now "reached the stage now where things are moving in a positive direction."
Nonetheless, Goh said her current challenges are in terms of - time and resources.
"There are simply so many things to be done and we are moving really fast with most of the progress. But some things might just take some time for development and some are just legacy issues that can only be done over time," she said.
"While we are racing against ourselves to be on top of the game, we have to deal with the mounting amount of competition from other airlines around the region with a very competitive pricing strategy. On top of that, we need to be mindful of our cost structure," she added.
Meanwhile, early August this year, MAS launched its first in-house Innovation Lab, or iSpace, as the airline enters the third phase of its digital transformation, towards becoming the digital airline. The 8,300 square-foot facility has a capacity to house 100 people.
MAS CEO, Peter Bellew said the airline’s IT transformation began in March 2016 and is expected to be completed by June 2018. The airline almost completed about 70% of the overall planned IT transformation, and the successful implementation of its Information Technology will be “key to its success”. This is especially so in improving the airline’s customer experience and overall operational efficiency.
For Goh, her role and focus this year will be to ensure that marketing efforts are in line with the company’s direction, that is to be a premium airline with Malaysian hospitality and at the same time being able to generate profitable.
"There are a lot of improvements that can be done. Some of the efforts including re-evaluating our in-flight food selections based on our customer feedback, improve IFE (in-flight entertainment) selections by giving relevant content, better booking and check-in experience via website and mobile apps and improving our Golden Lounge," she said.
In fact, MAS is already in the midst of renovating some of its lounges in KLIA to suit the needs of its current travellers' profile - by making it more practical for them in today's technology age and to ensure the food selection is suitable for a global profile. Besides product and service improvements, Goh revealed that the airline is also working towards refreshing the brand image for a "more progressive look."
Getting real serious with Muslim travellers
Targetting the Muslim travellers is also high on the brand's agenda. Goh said the airline is on track to attract more passengers from this segment. Further stressing its interest in this area, Goh said it is only natural for MAS to target Muslim travellers, citing the fact that Muslim population in Malaysia accounts for more than 60%.
Currently, MAS also targets to bring Muslim travellers to destinations of their interest, especially Korea with the influence of K-Pop and K-Drama in recent years. Other countries include the China in which MAS flies to nine of its cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Haikou, Chongqing, Xiamen.
"Many Muslim travellers would like to explore [the world] but they are concerned about the availability of halal food. We provide them with content about the halal food trail with suitable activities and also work with our preferred travel agents to customise a package that suits their needs," she added.
As a matter of fact, MAS' CEO Bellew also spilled the beans to CNN in April this year on more details of its plan in offering charter flights for Muslims to perform the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia. Six of MAS' Airbus A380 jetliners is set to retire from service and they will refurbished to include prayer areas and ablution rooms for its passengers. The jumbo jets will also carry more passengers allowing 715 people, compared to 525 in its usual three-class configuration or 853 in an all-economy class configuration.
Bellew that the move will be "the greatest turnaround in the history of aviation and maybe even of any business,” adding the airline is trying to capture five to six percent of the global market in this area. There is also a possibly of setting up a new airline just to serve the Haj and Umrah charter market.