Malaysia Airlines

Let’s say you’re a high-up executive at Malaysia Airlines. Your public image has taken quite a hit with recent events with MH370 going missing back in March and MH17 being shot down over East Ukraine. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the company has been suffering from sizeable financial woes, major job cuts, and a recent sexual assault scandal.

It was obvious that a major PR initiative would be necessary to improve Malaysia Airlines’ plummeting brand image.

Unfortunately, instead of boosting their fortunes, their latest promotional effort had the opposite effect.

Malaysia Airlines just put out a contest called the “Bucket List” challenge. The campaign encouraged residents from Australia and New Zealand to submit their “bucket list” to the company. The best entrants would be awarded free trips to Malaysia as well as free iPads.

In case you didn’t know, a bucket list is a list of goals and activities people want to do before they die. Making light of death after the tragedies of the twin airplanes caused a storm of controversy over social media.

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 1.29.00 PM

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 1.29.12 PM

Now normally, this contest would be perfectly acceptable, but Malaysia Airlines was in a unique position. Before you (as a company) undertake any PR or marketing efforts, you need to analyze the environment. What do people think about your brand? Have there been any negative events in your company’s recent history that might affect future promotions?

As a business, if you spend too much time focusing on your brand without looking at public opinion, you will be out of sync with your audience. At best, this leads to an ineffectual campaign and at worst it leads to a PR catastrophe.

For another example of a marketing campaign gone wrong, check out my article here about the NYPD’s Twitter blunder.