How to reflect on 2012. Let me see. Incredible. Unprecedented. Impossible.
Well, that’s what we used to think anyway. I was hired to lead the CAK marketing effort in 1996. Let me be the first to admit that I didn’t know a thing about airport marketing. There weren’t many folks doing it back then. There was Barbie Peak in Huntsville and the irascible Carolyn Fennel managing PR in Orlando. Some of our earliest marketing activities were gratefully taken from their playbooks. In 1996 we welcomed 423,000 total customers.
My boss, Rick McQueen started in 1983. Bad timing really. With the air traffic controllers strike and deregulation, small airports like CAK were devastated. That year we welcomed 283,000 total customers. Lights were turned off in sections of the terminal to save money. During Rick’s tenure, not a single CAK team member has been laid off though. We have ALWAYS made payroll. Our employees know they can count on their job; their place in our CAK family.
So, when I have trouble articulating our phenomenal year, this is the historical backdrop. Years of clawing, fighting, and finding our place in the hearts and minds of our Customers.
In 2012 we welcomed 1.83 million Customers. Earned a record surplus (to be reinvested in the airport). Added Southwest Airlines. As Rick and I reflect on these incredible accomplishments, we shake our heads in disbelief (and then we smile a little). More Customers and the addition of Southwest at CAK, mean good things for our Community- jobs, investment, lower fares and economic vitality. For more 2012 CAK highlights, check out this infographic.
One key to our success is our commitment to our brand- a better way to go®- We’ve evolved over time by listening closely, and appealing to travelers in Northeast Ohio with genuine and meaningful messages. Low fares. Low fares. Low fares. Thank you Southwest Airlines!! But also, we offer a relaxing experience. Price + experience= a better way to go. Rick and I have also worked hard to be seen. As the executive team, we are in the community often. We walk the halls of the terminal building. We speak to people- tenants and customers.
Seth Godin recently posted about the 11 Things Organizations can learn from Airports. The list isn’t complimentary, but is largely accurate. At most airports, the institutional is emphasized and the personal is marginalized. I hope Seth visits CAK. I would love to hear his feedback.
We’ve been intentional about bucking the temptation to apply a cookie cutter to the customer experience. Our people smile (even our airline and TSA employees). We clean the place as if it were our own home (better in some cases). And our Customers notice. Our growth over these many years has depended on our intentional efforts to appeal directly to travelers.
So, thanks for traveling through CAK in 2012. You have helped create something very, very special. Let’s keep the magic going in 2013 and beyond. To see the magic yourself checkout this documentary style video.