Airport Marketing: Not Exactly a Piece of Cake

Airport Marketing: Not Exactly a Piece of Cake

Airport marketing is hard.

If you’ve ever written a marketing plan, held meetings with members of your business community, or even fielded a call from a disgruntled passenger, you’ve had a taste of the challenges. And they don’t taste like cake, that’s for sure. (Unless you hate cake, in which case maybe imagine that word is “pie” instead. Or whatever sad cake-replacement dessert you prefer. #nojudgment)

So what makes airport marketing so difficult?

For one, you—the airport—don’t control the core product, which is the airline schedule, fares, routes, on-board product, and so on. You also don’t control many aspects of the passenger experience as they move through security, concessions, and even boarding the aircraft, try as you may.

And yet, when you tell that person you just met at a business-after-hours event that you work at the airport, you’re held liable for that horrible customer service experience they had last Wednesday—you know, the one where an employee who doesn’t report to you said something rude, and, worse yet, the passenger still hasn’t gotten her bags! (This is your cue to excuse yourself so you can grab a piece of that cake on the food bar while making a mental note to revisit the idea of a customer service incentive program. Ugh.)

The truth is, you—the airport, and sometimes you the individual—are responsible for engendering loyalty from your community. The charge of growing the air service rests squarely on your shoulders. The public may blame you for late flights, awkward pat-downs and high fares, but let’s face it, when you do manage to acquire that airline everyone’s been begging for, they’ll come running to you to say… “Okay, but why don’t they have a nonstop to [city where daughter-in-law lives / town you’ve never heard of with 400 residents / city you already have service to on another airline — sigh]?” (It’s that moment in which you order a full size sheet cake with an inscription of congratulations to yourself to make up for a thankless public.)

But, for real, when it comes to airport marketing, you do have some control

Over what, you ask? Your brand. Your communication about the importance of air service to the community’s economic success and quality of life. You also have the ability (and a responsibility) to advocate on behalf of your community with the airlines, to develop and tell the community’s story. (You also get to order the cake when you launch that hard-earned new service.)

And though you don’t have control over that core product, you do have the opportunity to exert influence over its delivery, and you can spearhead efforts to offset airline operating costs by generating non-aeronautical revenue through airport advertising or other avenues, thereby lowering your CPE (cost per enplanement) and improving your appeal with the airlines.

From customer service to community engagement, your airport has many opportunities to influence public perception and utilization of your airport. Perhaps your marketing is strong in social media or events, or maybe your strength is public relations or your creative advertising campaigns. But you might also have a nagging feeling that you’re not quite nailing it in one area or another, and sometimes what you need is just a little push in the right direction, a fresh idea, or a clear plan to get the ball rolling.

Turning to your peers can be a great way to learn how other airports have succeeded (you might like our Airport Roundtable Series events), and reading books about marketing just might spur some great ideas. But if you’re short on time, or you’ve already overturned those stones, we can help. The Quotient Group team has years of experience in airport marketing. We’ve been there and done that and would love to use our experience to help you get some wins. Plus, we bring a national perspective because we’ve worked with clients all over the U.S.

If you already have a recipe for success, we can help you bake it and get it out of the pan and onto the cooling rack (okay, we admit, the metaphor is kind of falling apart).

We’ll just close with this — whatever your needs, we can help, even if it’s just being there to put the icing on the cake.