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Malaysia Airlines Gets Its Digital Marketing Off The Ground


malyasia airWhile not every marketer buys in to the notion of an all-in-one marketing cloud, there are others for whom investing in a full-scale suite is the best option.

Malaysia Airlines, which has licensing agreements to use five of six Adobe Marketing Cloud solutions, doesn’t have the luxury of time.

“We’re at a critical juncture,” said Syahar Khalid, the airline’s manager of advertising and promotions. “2014 is a make-or-break year for us.”

The issues began in 2012, when the company registered its biggest loss, driven by consumers’ economic troubles throughout the world and the escalating cost of fuel. Malaysia Airlines, however, had another problem as well: an aging fleet.

“There were a lot of breakages that cost us quite a bit,” Khalid said.

2013 was the beginning of Malaysia Airlines’ attempted turnaround and the company has already stated publicly that 2014 will be the year the company finds its way back in the black. So Khalid is facing improbably high stakes and his goals as a marketer are equally lofty.

“By this time next year, we would like to see 35% of total revenue being driven directly through our internet channel,” Khalid said. This includes mobile, which accounts for 30% of total website traffic. “Our goal by this time next year, is to have an at least 12% conversion rate of all traffic that comes in.”

How this will happen, Khalid hopes, involves moving toward more personalized messaging across channels which involves, first and foremost, setting up that vaunted single-customer view.

Malaysia Airlines’ problems in accomplishing this are familiar: the bureaucracy endemic in large organizations and a siloed business organization. Malaysia Airlines, for instance, has a loyalty program wired to a CRM database. But this information doesn’t necessarily carry through to an online booking engine. Or when a customer reports lost luggage, that report sits with the customer response team, an island unto itself.

“One of the first steps we did was to engage with each individual business unit within the company to see what their needs are,” Khalid recalled. “From there, we cooked out a full road map of our requirements.”

Khalid and his team also needed buy-in from the brass.


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“Because a lot of the data sleeps with other business units in the company, it’s a matter of getting policy change,” he said. Khalid took a top-down approach in building his road map, detailing how exactly these necessary policy changes would positively affect management at the executive level.

One major issue was potentially jeopardizing relationships with travel agents, still a big revenue base for Malaysia Airlines. But at the same time, Khalid pointed out that the company raised online revenue by more than 300% when it first stepped into digital marketing in 2008. “So slowly, but surely, the management started to see [digital investments] were something worthwhile,” Khalid said.

One of these early digital investments include Adobe’s Experience Manager content management system (CMS). To date, that deal has expanded to include Adobe Analytics, Target, Social and Media Optimizer. Admittedly, Adobe had an early advantage: a pre-existing relationship with a potential Marketing Cloud client.

“We wanted to move into an enterprise relationship,” Khalid said, “but we were also mindful that we couldn’t afford any compromise.”

Malaysia Airlines began testing various Marketing Cloud solutions individually, but it was the interplay between the technologies that eventually sold him. “We concluded that once we pull it all together, Adobe came up tops across all,” Khalid said.

It’s still too early to determine whether Malaysia Airlines’ deployment is a success. Khalid’s current focus is around a site revamp, a new purview for him. Before 2012, Khalid managed the traffic that entered the website through these various channels, but wasn’t empowered to manage that traffic once it actually hit the site. “In 2012, that came under me and when I took over the website, I saw a lot of structural issues that needed to be addressed first.”

With social, Khalid’s end goal is inherently commercial, which requires deeper integration into other Mayasyia Airlines channels. “To achieve that goal, you need to have strong engagement,” he said. “We’ve been growing our base and our engagement, and we want to see how that can translate [into revenue].”

And going even further, Khalid wants to incorporate these owned channels with media buys, supplemented with Adobe Insight.

“Our intent is to move into RTB, and the data that comes from Insight will be very useful to set our targeting,” Khalid predicted. “Right now, we don’t have any existing RTB relationships but we’re at a space where we’re evaluating: MediaMind [now Sizmek], DoubleClick and obviously Adobe Media Optimizer would be one option. Our media agency [IPG Mediabrands] manages those buys. So where we are today, we’re at an evaluation stage.”

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