Malaysia Airlines (MAB) caught the attention of consumers a few months ago when it rolled out a new in-flight safety video featuring a star-studded musical cast. While some loved the video for its creativity, others said it was too long and found it hard to concentrate. Nonetheless, Malaysia's national carrier has shown that it is once again brave enough to push boundaries with its content.

In the past, it has come up with TikTok teleprompter challenges and produced an ASMR video to satisfy the travel needs of consumers and get them excited about borders reopening again. When asked what makes good marketing these days, Lau Yin May (pictured), the airline's group chief marketing and customer experience officer, told A+M in an interview that MAB needs to be very clear and focused on who its target segments are, what products it is rolling out and what the targeted revenue is.

"From a marketing standpoint, having that ROI drives us to be very clear and very focused," she said, adding that the clutter on social has increased while consumers' attention span has decreased.

At the same time, it is also important to forge partnerships. According to Lau, brands do not need to enter into each and every partnership. Instead, they just have to ensure that it collaborates with a like-minded partner who has the same objectives to derive more value and benefit out of out.

The concept of partnerships came in handy during the filming of the in-flight safety video, "Satu, Dua, Tiga, Jom!". According to Lau, the airline understood that it did not have the budget required for this production, since it might go up to millions.

Find out what went on behind MAB's recent safety video in this new podcast!

Hence, the team took it upon themselves to reach out to the relevant talents and convinced them to come on board on a "national service type of arrangement". "And also because we want to bring light to the performing arts industry. This will make a difference in bringing about the spark needed amidst all the current doom and gloom," Lau explained.

"I think this has a lot more to do with the passion to make this [in-flight safety video] a successful and unique one. That clearly has generated a lot more satisfaction than what monetary value could bring," she added.

Meanwhile, having dipped its toes into TikTok challenges, Lau said that moving forward, the team will shift its focus to short-form videos and activations on social media platforms such as TikTok rather than conventional print ads and TVCs. The airline currently has 70.6k TikTok followers and 570k Instagram followers.

These formats will be the main part of our marketing approach moving forward, taking up at least 30% to 40% of our time.

Building a good relationship between marketing and finance

The marketing and finance teams have always had a tricky yet crucial relationship. While their mandates might not always align, Deloitte found that CMOs and CFOs are finding ways to collaborate more effectively. In fact, there is a strong correlation between C-suite alignment on marketing performance metrics and revenue growth. The highest-growing companies routinely indicated that C-suite leaders agree upon marketing metrics (79%) relatively more, compared to lower-growth companies (55%).

In Lau's case, she said it is important to have very open communication with the finance team. "A lot of times, it's about educating each other. I personally won't understand finance jargon and similarly, the finance team would not understand marketing jargon. Hence, the importance of open communication," Lau explained.

Next is to instil in the marketing team the importance of driving ROI in everything it does. "We can't just spend freely. Instead, educate the team and instil in them discipline in everything you do. We need to know in the back of our minds what value we intend to get from this exercise or partnership," she added. Thirdly, Lau said it is important to ensure the partners that MAB works with share the same objectives, beginning with an open and honest discussion at the beginning of the partnership. 

Building a future-ready marketing team

With the marketing and advertising industry constantly evolving, Lau recognises the need to build a future-ready marketing team - one of the key factors is for the team to be really agile and able to pivot when required. The next is for the team to be performance-driven and anchor their plans on ROI to see if they have done well and evaluate how they can do better. 

"My current marketing team is really a dream team. They are taking on two to three times what they are supposed to do due to the attrition during the pandemic and we never recruited. Hence, the current teams had to take on additional scopes of work, yet they are still able to deliver great things," she explained.

Lau plans to continue pushing them and stretching them beyond their limits to help them discover new skills. "I look at attitude, which is my first and utmost priority. If I had to choose between someone who's highly experienced but does not possess the attitude I'm looking for, compared to someone who is inexperienced but has the passion and attitude to learn, I will go for the latter candidate. Passion, to me, is the core of success," she added. 

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