Malaysian Airlines is a large international company that provides quality services to customers in different price ranges, depending on their needs and financial compensation. Operating under the public sector, the airline faces numerous challenges on its way to profitability and scalability, being limited by official governmental regulations. Establishing a sustainable competitive advantage while balancing the quality and cost of the airfare deals is central to the company’s mission and strategic goal. The current marketing plan of Malaysian Airlines composes a holistic picture of the airline industry, focusing on the detailed segmentation of the targeted audience, as well as strengths, and weaknesses of the company. This critique assesses the presented information under the scrutiny of the theoretical framework chosen, as well as the scope, and precision of the data provided. To improve the existing marketing plan, separate promotion strategies should be applied to different targeting audiences, along with a more detailed competitor analysis.
Strengths of the Marketing Plan
In-Depth Market Overview with Segmentation of Targeted Audience
One of the strengths of the analyzed marketing plan is a detailed, in-depth market overview that covers the segmentation of the services provided in the airline industry. The analysis of the airline market is supported by the statistical data interpreted within a logical theoretical framework and applied methodology focused on competitive advantage (Vikneswaran, 2017). Along with the segmentation of the services in the airline industry, the marketing plan also describes the strategic position of Malaysian Airlines. The place of Malaysian Airlines is assessed based on the following criteria:
- price-quality ratio;
- promotion and distribution capabilities;
- opportunities for growth;
- competitors’ threats.
Thorough Customer Analysis
Another advantage of the given marketing plan is thorough customer analysis which determines target customers, their needs, and specific ways to satisfy them. Though the sample size used for evaluating client satisfaction was comparably small, the population chosen was derived from two mediums: face-to-face interviews and online surveys (Vikneswaran, 2017). Findings synthesized in the customer profile demonstrated the key needs of Malaysian Airlines’ customers. Most of the consumers exhibited a desire to use the services of the company due to the satisfying visual publicity, reasonable monetary value, individualized approach of the staff, and velocity of services, as well as their versatility (Vikneswaran, 2017). Such factors do not only contribute to the informed understanding of the target audience but also comprise a holistic customer profile.
A visible advantage of the chosen marketing plan is a well-researched and organized SWOT analysis. The strengths of the company include a diversified revenue stream, a qualified team of cabin crew, and an ability to reduce operational costs without compromising the quality of the services provided (Vikneswaran, 2017). Despite the aforementioned weaknesses, Malaysian Airlines have several weaknesses, such as technical personnel, low margins, and little involvement in the domestic flight sector. Some of the opportunities discussed in the SWOT analysis focus on the launch of the community airline and the potential transition to low-cost fairs (Vikneswaran, 2017). Threats are more multifaceted than opportunities and cover economic recessions, political turmoil, and fall of the foreign currency value.
To address the weaknesses identified in the SWOT analysis, the marketing plan uses PESTEL analysis, describing political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal components of the industry. From the political perspective, Malaysian Airlines have to adhere to strict government guidelines, regulations, and taxation policies which frequently results in substantial monetary losses (Vikneswaran, 2017). Economic struggles are closely related to political ones, making the marketing process more complex. Minimum wage, social benefits, and compensations issued to employees are controlled under the national flag of Malaysia. The main social factors described talked about the need of the organization to ease the commercial pressure and restore trust and confidence of international customers after poor handling of the safety incidents. Technological and environmental aspects demonstrated in the plan are not unique to the airline industry (Vikneswaran, 2017). The focus was put on digital challenges, the introduction of online software for an improved user experience, along the ways to reduce air pollution and minimize carbon footprint. Legal aspects covered put emphasis on the marketing representation of bilateral agreements to avoid unprecedented monetary challenges related to landing, especially in the airports located overseas.
As discussed earlier in this critique, one of the strengths of the market overview was an evaluation of Malaysian Airlines’ position on the current market according to the POSTER’s framework. Five critical forces influenced the assessment given:
- the threat of new entrants;
- the threat of the substitutes;
- the power of suppliers;
- the power of buyers;
- the competitors in the industry (Vikneswaran, 2017).
While high barriers inside the country minimize the threat of new domestic entrants, Malaysian Airlines face a threat of international airlines perpetrating the market. The bargaining power of suppliers is expressed through a relatively low price of fuel, set by the government (Vikneswaran, 2017). The bargaining power of buyers is centered around commercial tourist offers that might be harder to achieve due to the inflated price of the tickets in comparison to similar offers in the industry. The rivalry among airlines occurs mostly between publicly and privately-owned companies.
Product and Price Strategy
The final strength of the analyzed marketing plan is an intertwined relationship of the product and price strategy. The product strategy of Malaysian Airlines remains loyal to the mission and vision declared by the top leadership and practiced in the corporate culture. The preparation plan covers high-quality execution of the cabin services for all categories of flights (Vikneswaran, 2017). Safety and customer satisfaction are proven to be intact regardless of the price of the bargain (Vikneswaran, 2017). The price strategy corresponds to the product guidelines, as the marketing plan outlines specific deals to meet the needs of a diversified pool of clientele.
Weaknesses of the Marketing Plan
One of the weaknesses of the given marketing plan is the lack of competitor analysis. The analysis comprises listed airlines that provide services for the same niche of clientele. The assessment lacks a detailed description of the strengths and weaknesses of current competitors. Also, it does not identify potential competitors who might enter the market as substitutes with a similar price-quality ratio (Vikneswaran, 2017). Furthermore, this competitor analysis does not use strategic context, sticking to the so-called, defensive approach in representing competitors’ features.
Target Market Analysis
Another disadvantage of this marketing plan is poor target market analysis which does not determine the correct audience based on the 5Ws. The target market analysis provided goes in-depth to identify the “who” and “what” on the market, failing to support the segmentation of the demographics given with purpose-oriented statements. The evaluation also does not contain insights regarding the strategic time or location that can be useful for the prospective marketing opportunities. Taking into consideration the digital nature of the study conducted for the market overview, more details could have been derived regarding the customer’s journey online before purchasing Malaysian Airline services.
The existing promotion evaluation is limited in nature as it focuses only on the advantages of Malaysian Airlines, failing to discuss areas for growth and weaknesses. The emphasis is put on the medium (website) through which the company launches most of the marketing schemes. However, the promotion assessment lacks step-by-step guidelines for the distribution strategy based on the targeting audience. Yet, this finding is consistent with the earlier critique: poor target market analysis does not allow for detailed promotion segmentation, as discussed in the previous section.
Another weakness of the existing marketing plan is the promotion strategy description. First and foremost, the promotion strategy is not centered around the overall objective of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage in the airline industry. It also does not differentiate the approach based on short and long-term goals. Though the strategy informs the targeting audience of the pros/cons of the services provided by Malaysian Airlines, it lacks persuasion to follow up the conversion rates of the targeted customers. Finally, the promotion strategy does not fully cover the advertising component of the promotion.
The last disadvantage of this marketing plan is data presentation. The statistical approach along with the sample stratification chosen for the analysis is narrow and does not correspond to the generalized population rule. The number of respondents is low which raises questions regarding the reliability and validity of the information collected. In addition, no methodology or theoretical framework utilized to interpret the gathered data is described. Such representation of the numbers does not inform the marketing specialist’s understanding to the extent of developing a long-term vision for Malaysian Airlines.
Options for Improving
Analysis of Digital Journey of the Potential Customer
One of the ways to improve the existing marketing plan would be to track the digital journey of the potential customer of Malaysian Airlines. As most airline companies provide services related to flying digitally, it would be beneficial to gain insights regarding customers’ experience depending on the length and nature of their interaction with the company. Such information can be collected in two ways:
- through social media accounts;
- through website traffic. In the end, the complete sum of experiences taken by the customer will help to create a shorter marketing funnel for a quicker conversion of leads.
Careful evaluation of the Demographics in the Target Market Analysis
The key component of a high-quality target market analysis is a careful evaluation of the demographics. To improve this marketing plan, the target audience of Malaysian Airlines should be assessed through the prism of the following criteria:
- psychographic. In the socio-demographic section, potential customers should be analyzed per gender, age, level of education, occupation field, level of income, ethnicity, and religious affiliation.
The geographic section should cover the location of the targeted audience: region, district, city, urban, or rural area. The last psychographic section should focus on the needs, values, interests, activities, lifestyle, and personality traits of the leads. Such a thorough assessment of the demographics would allow to narrow the targeted clientele and achieve higher conversion rates.
Randomly-Stratified Sample with Larger Pool of Candidates
As discussed in the previous section, one of the weaknesses of the existing marketing plan is the small sample which fails to represent the generalized population. To achieve a more comprehensive picture of the market, a further study assessing customer satisfaction should be conducted. For the new research, a randomly stratified sample should be derived from a larger pool of candidates. The initial recommendation would be to have at least 500 participants representing different age categories, ethnicities, and education levels. A fair distribution should also be ensured in terms of sex, income level, and location of the subjects. By choosing a randomly-stratified sample, one can acquire information both about the entire population and individual strata. Also, the probability of the sampling error is smaller than in a cluster or quota method. This way, marketing specialists would have a closer understanding of the distinguished lawyers of the targeted audience.
Section with Recommendations
The current marketing plan also misses a section with recommendations for the company. To improve the existing conditions and grow the promotion strategy, marketing specialists should add clear step-by-step guidelines for content management, distribution, and curation. Separate recommendations should also be dedicated to product management, promotion, and packaging. Regardless of the content, recommendations should reflect institutional goals and address specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats identified in the SWOT analysis for Malaysian Airlines. Similarly, the aforementioned components from Pestel and Porter’s framework should be incorporated in the proposed section.
The final option to improve the existing marketing plan would be to compose an in-depth risk assessment which would both determine the potential risk and evaluate its potential impact on the operation of Malaysian Airlines. By creating a risk assessment, the company would be more prepared to mitigate risk while promoting its services in a safe and well-thought way. Detailed risk assessment also helps to support the long-term objectives of the airline. The proposed section dedicated to risk assessment should also contain a designated plan to action depending on the risk indicators and management controls.
In conclusion, Malaysian Airlines has a high potential to deliver quality services to a diversified pool of clientele. The current marketing plan has several advantages such as an in-depth market overview with the segmentation of the targeted audience, thorough customer analysis, SWOT analysis, PESTEL analysis, POSTER’s framework, and product and price strategy. The weaknesses include competitor analysis, target market analysis, promotion strategy, and data presentation. Though the existing marketing plan can be evaluated as satisfactory, several suggestions were given to improve the current analysis. First, an analysis of the digital journey of the potential customer should be conducted. Second, careful evaluation of the demographics in the target market analysis should be done. Third, a section with recommendations and risk assessment should be added to provide more guidelines for the marketing specialists. Finally, a further study measuring customer satisfaction is highly advised provided a larger pool of participants will be chosen to compose a random stratified sample of respondents. Ultimately, the critique of this marketing plan urges for revisions and updates in response to the current situation and ever-changing nature of the airline industry.
Vikneswaran, H. (2017) ‘Malaysian airlines (MAS): leading strategically through time’, International Journal of Business Economics and Management Research, 8(1), pp. 32-47.