Malaysia Airlines Bucket List Contest — Bad Taste, Or?

Filed Under: Malaysia

In addition to the two horrible tragedies that have occurred with MH370 and MH17, I certainly also sympathize with the airline as such. They’re in a horrible situation, both financially and in terms of morale.

I give them credit for trying some creative things to get passengers on planes, though it seems they may have crossed the line with the contest they launched earlier in the week, entitled “My Ultimate Bucket List.” Through the contest, travelers in Australia and New Zealand were asked to enter the destinations that are on their “bucket list,” for a chance to win a roundtrip ticket.


Via The Sydney Morning Herald:

Malaysia Airlines has provoked a storm of controversy by asking customers to list the things they would most like to do before they die.

The airline, which lost two planes this year in disasters that claimed 537 lives, committed the marketing gaffe when it launched a “My Ultimate Bucket List” campaign on Monday.

But with the world still reeling from the twin catastrophes of the MH370 and MH17 crashes, social media users swiftly began mocking the marketing ploy.

The campaign called on Australian and New Zealand residents to write their own bucket list and enter it into a competition to win flights to Malaysia and iPads.

It has since been rebranded around “your ultimate to-do list”.

“The competition had earlier been approved as it was themed around a common phrase that is used in both countries,” the airline said in a statement.

“The airline appreciates and respects the sentiments of the public and in no way did it intend to offend any parties.”

I first saw this yesterday, and have to admit that it took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong with it. I hadn’t really slept for two days and had flown 10,000+ miles nonstop, so that may have something to do with it. But it took me a while to connect the dots.

What do you think — was it in poor taste, or are people overly sensitive and reading too much into things?

(Tip of the hat to sjs)

  1. I think people are really overreacting on this one. Yes, “Bucket List” originally meant your list to check off as you prepared for an impending demise, but I think over the years the term has been adopted in a much broader sense to mean those things you want to accomplish or experience in life. If a friend tells me something is on their bucket list, I do not automatically assume they’re facing a terminal illness or will be “kicking the bucket” anytime soon.

    This was an overreaction in every aspect in my opinion.

  2. Wow that was some real clever PR work there, hhmmmm let’s see one thing I would love to do is travel on a Malaysia Airline Plane just minutes before I kick the bucket you think – how insensitive is this. Are they trying to make a quick come back or exit from the Airline business.

  3. I think the problem is that the phrase “bucket list” derives from the idiom “kick the bucket”… but overall yes, I think people are being too sensitive, the airline definitely has no desire to kill their passengers and employees.

  4. Um. I don’t think it’s in poor taste. I think it’s careless and someone should have put the brakes on this campaign before it went live because Malaysia can’t afford any negative press. They have to be more careful and sensitive than the average company right now. Sorry to say, but that’s the unfortunate hand they’ve been dealt.

    I’ve worked in Web and Interactive Marketing as a UX copywriter and content strategist for about 10 years now, and if this had come up in a meeting, it would have been eliminated (notice that I did not say “shot down”- horrible and insensitive choice of words), because there are professionals in the room who are paid to spot faux pas. I am one of them…and even if I don’t catch something, someone on my team will. If no one on the team catches a faux pas, then it falls on the managers and directors. At the corporations and agencies that I’ve worked in, there have been levels of protection to try to prevent things that could be touted as insensitive or politically incorrect from being put out by the company.

    I don’t believe they were being insensitive or meant any ill-will by this. I just think they need better marketing/PR people.

  5. Over-reaction to be sure. This is a marketing gaffe and nothing more.

    Of course, it’s not helped by the kind of sensationalist coverage it’s getting by the media. I’m not sure this has really caused “a storm of controvery” in a “world still reeling from the twin catastrophes”, but what do I know?

    I wonder if the SMH is owned by Fox News.

  6. I don’t think it was inentional, but a language barrier/nuance issue. Sure, the phrase “bucket list” is something that gets used a lot, but native English speakers know the association. Non-native English speakers might never have thought to ask what the bucket refers to. It hasn’t been that long since the movie of the same title came out, so I don’t think the meaning has been lost. And if it were any other airline, probably no one would have thought much of it. But for Malaysia to use it… whew. Terrible PR.

  7. Overreacting as so often in such cases. For some reason ‘being insulted’ seems to be a full time occupancy by more and more people around the world. It’s not so weird, given that being heavily insulted, leading to such stress that you can’t work anymore has been rewarded with millions of dollars in the past by courts who believe such bull. It’s time people get their act together and just ignore things if it’s not to their liking.

    Nevertheless, calling the thing a ‘bucket list’ after already losing two planes in one year isn’t the smartest thing to do. It’s like Yes, I’ve done everything I wanted to do in this world, now I can fly Malaysian.’

  8. Overreaction. In my opinion, the phrase “Bucket List” has become synonymous with “Dream Trip/List”.

  9. It’s clumsy and confused.

    It’s almost perfect for a company that just doesn’t get it.

    It reminds me of British Petroleum’s response to spilling tons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

    I don’t think people were offended so much as shocked a major airline would be so careless.

    I think we can all agree that statistically flying Malaysia Airlines is still safer than driving to the airport.

    But that realization does little to change the impression that this company is run by utterly clueless people.

  10. In poor taste were the numerous idiots with twitter accounts who decided to make obnoxious and entirely unfunny jokes.

  11. We are now conditioned to find offense in virtually everything, and intent no longer means anything in the process of being offended.

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