Malaysia Airlines is in hot water. It would be an understatement to say that customers aren’t happy with the content of its latest ad campaign. After two tragic plane crashes in less than a year, Malaysia Airlines has insensitively alluded to death in its “My Ultimate Bucket List” contest.
You’re probably familiar with the recent MH370 and MH17 crashes that resulted in 537 casualties. Families who lost loved ones on these horrific flights are still fresh in their grief. But Malaysia Airlines is on to the next gimmick to attract new customers. The air carrier launched the “My Ultimate Bucket List” competition this week, referencing all the places you would like to visit before you die. Passengers in Australia and New Zealand could win a free flight or iPad for submitting a 500-word essay on where they would love to visit before “kicking the bucket.”
Yikes! Customers immediately reacted to the insensitive slogan in a swarm of tweets, calling it “a marketing disaster.” Yes, disaster would be putting it lightly if Malaysia Airlines hoped to revamp its image with this unfortunate campaign.
WOW. Talk about a marketing disaster. "Malaysia Airlines asked for travelers' 'bucket lists' in ill-advised contest." http://t.co/rf2dfkzJ8f
— Lisa Farman (@lisabarnard) September 3, 2014
Other Twitter users called the campaign “tone-deaf” and “poorly thought-out.” One tweet said the airline’s apology for the obtuse campaign was “too little, too late.”
According to the airline, the bucket list competition was widely misunderstood: “The competition had earlier been approved, as it was themed around a common phrase that is used in both countries. The airline appreciates and respects the sentiments of the public, and in no way did it intend to offend any parties.”
It’s clear Malaysia Airlines is doing everything it can to bounce back and recoup financial losses from two major crashes in one year. Following the MH370 and MH17 tragedies, the airline cut 6,000 jobs, struggled to fill empty seats and saw a significant drop in share prices. Bankruptcy rumors surged, which Malaysia Airlines refuted.
Not one day after the ill-fated bucket list contest launch, the airline was forced to withdraw the campaign because of mass complaints. Malaysia Airlines scrambled to rebrand the competition; the bucket list campaign now focuses on the “ultimate to-do list.” Malaysia Airlines will run the competition to attract new passengers in Australia and New Zealand until the end of the year — without an official title.
This campaign toes the line between awkward and insensitive. I’m sure I can speak for all passengers when I say it doesn’t instill confidence to be reminded of death directly before booking a flight. Even with free prizes dangling as bait, I won’t be flying Malaysia Airlines anytime soon.