Two brands had to face extraordinary circumstances in the week after Christmas. One responded valiantly while the other lost its way.
Sony appears to have lost direction. This Japanese company was once the Apple of the 70s with its innovative Walkman gaining appeal across the globe before the iPod killed it. It followed this up with television sets that set a benchmark for colour reproduction. But the brand has a fading image. When hackers (allegedly the North Koreans) struck at Sony Pictures emails and made other vague threats to protest at the distribution of ‘The Interview’, a comedy film about a planned assassination on Kim Jong-un, the company capitulated immediately. When it announced that Sony would not go ahead with worldwide distribution, there were cries of ‘shame’ from many well-known names in Hollywood, writers and journalists. Eventually, Sony agreed to show it at limited cinemas and, by a weird turn of fate, found itself making, unexpectedly, millions of extra dollars from online downloads by people determined not to let the North Koreans (or whoever) stop them watching any movie they wished. It was, however, a lost opportunity for this brand to stand up and show the world it had some backbone and perhaps restore its image.
Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia on the other hand, showed why he is such a sharp businessman and a good leader. When AirAsia Flight QZ8501 from Surabaya went missing, he flew directly to the airport where the relatives were anxiously waiting for news. He met them all, gave assurances everything would be done to find the plane and worked with the Indonesian Government. He appeared to be transparent and genuinely concerned. This was in stark contrast to the Malaysian Airways response when Flight 370 went missing. To be fair to MAS, when its second plane was shot down over Ukraine, demonstrated it has much improved its PR. But although AirAsia shares dropped more than 8%, it is unlikely that they will suffer the same long term negativity that now plagues MAS.
Three brands caught up in events not of their making, yet one of them by making the right decisions in a crisis has probably, in the long term, even enhanced its reputation. I have booked four regional flights on AirAsia in January. Tony Fernandes and his young airline deserve my business.