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WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE THE BRAND MANAGER OF THAT MISSING MALAYSIAN AIRLINE?

Missing MAS 370
Missing MAS 370

Well, it’s only human to forget so it won’t be a bad idea to remind ourselves: on 8th March 2014, Malaysian Airline flight MH570 was due to leave Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. According to experts, it climbed its assigned cruise altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 m) and was travelling at 471 knots (872 km/h; 542 mph) true airspeed.

The crew was expected to contact air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City as the aircraft passed into Vietnamese airspace, just north of the point where contact was lost. At 07.24, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) issued an official statement, one hour after the scheduled arrival of the flight at Beijing, stating that contact with the flight had been lost by Malaysian ATC at 02:40.  Sources believe “Subang Air Traffic Control had lost contact with the aircraft at 01:22 and notified Malaysia Airlines at 02:40. Neither the crew nor the aircraft's onboard communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished from radar screens.” And that was the start of the ultimate search(apologies to Gulder lager) or better still  a web of theories. This is what we know or what they want us to know.

Based on the above fact(oid)(Apologies to Stephen Colbert), we have in our hands is an international crisis: an airline from a developing economy has to take responsibility for the whereabouts of 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations. Their words: “Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.” This message was sent to families via phone calls, e-mails and SMS. Huffington Post at a time took offence to the usage of text message. This is another debate for another day. The main crux of the matter is that this was not an aviation crisis, it a crisis of information. One of the charges against Malaysia airline has been that they have been withholding information. Funny enough, the crash is best described in this common sense: if it everybody’s problem, it is not your problem. 

So my dear, were you the brand manager for Malaysian airline, it is not your problem. Yes, you didn’t read me incorrectly. It is the problem of the Malaysian government. . Make no mistake: it is a theatre for international diplomacy. Malaysia had initially declined to release raw data from its military radar, deeming the information "too sensitive", but later acceded. Defense analysts suggested that “giving others access to radar information could be sensitive on a military level. Some countries could already have had radar data on the aircraft but were reluctant to share any information that could potentially reveal their defence capabilities and compromise their own security. Similarly, submarines patrolling the South China Sea might have information in the event of a water impact, and sharing such information could reveal their locations and listening capabilities.”

To be clear, it is also a site where nations become vulture hunting for leads in order to claim moral victory while masking under the love for humanity. A global puzzle where each nation wants to be the one to find the elusive answer. Hey, where is Jack Baur when you need him the most? Even Hollywood is waiting to “mine” it into a blockbuster.

Frankly, Malaysian Airline is the flag carrier thus it is emotionally attached to the country brand. It is a hit on the destination brand while the government brand plays the international “politricks”. True, the brand changed its logo to grey and black and resumed flights operations. Life must move on isn’t it?

Once again my dear, were you to be the brand manager for Malaysian airline, you have in your hands a big problem. How do you immortalize the missing? Because, in the minds families, they are alive and well. 

Babatunde Adebola
Babatunde Adebola

If you ask me: beyond the underwater search. Start a search engine. Simple. That is, resources should be used to set up a not for profit search engine, domain name: www.MAS370.com  A search engine where everyone can go searching and find whatever in life they are looking. And for every find on this search engine, be kind enough to spare a thought for the passengers and crew of flight MAS370. Aren’t we all looking for something in life? Such include - love, money and deals. Monetary returns goes to a foundation for a good cause. Sorry, this is not some frequent flier programme. It is a frequent search programme. So, even when the physical search stops, the search goes on. This time in our minds…the bottomless ocean of hope.

You may disagree with the idea above. But one thing we can both give a nod is that Malaysian airline has a brand myth/legend. The question is how can it be turned to its advantage? Please, if you’ve got a smarter idea? Let’s have a conversation over a cup of tea or just send  it to the CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +603 7843 3000. Who knows?

Babatunde Adebola has the big title of an associate creative director at a leading marketing communications consultancy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +23480137457956.