The managements of BAA and Gatwick Airport were less than happy. The airport’s traffic had been battered by the Gulf War. Its image was still that of bucket and spade, sombrero and donkey. Its famous advertising agency had completely failed to attract the business traveller, for whom Gatwick’s North Terminal might have been custom-built yet who kept on driving past, en route to Heathrow.
Research was commissioned but held out little promise. So the management called in its strategy advisor for an objective view. He quickly spied two opportunities. First, Gatwick was a much more user-friendly airport than Heathrow, with better access by road and rail and less traffic overload. Second, an operations test about to be curtailed (“too expensive for its benefits”, according to research) held out the prospect of time-saving for a time-pressured traveller, and individual customer service to boot.
This operations test involved a “priority clearance channel” for business and first class passengers. The strategy advisor called it “fast track” and explained that its benefits could be applied to booking in, passport control, security, anything that could save the business flyer time. He then demonstrated that this service initiative could tell a new, user-friendly story for Gatwick as a whole. So was born “The Fast Track Airport”.
The story was first told by advertising, which promised an apparently seamless service from home or office to ultimate destination: “From London Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge. Beam me up, Fast Track.” All the airport’s marketing communications then joined in, offering Star Trek status to the time-traveller alias the business flyer.
Within three years, The Fast Track Airport had achieved its objective, preferred by the business flyer with a choice. Within the next ten years, passenger traffic at Gatwick effectively doubled, by which time its fast track channels became an expectation at BAA airports everywhere. Wherever the story of individual customer service had to be told.
The strategy consultant who defined The Fast Track Airport – strategy, campaign and brand story – now offers similar competitive advantage to clients of brandstory, the firm. And looks forward to the next chapter in the Gatwick story under new owners, as it becomes YOUR LONDON AIRPORT (read more).