MANATEE -- After a flat year for passenger traffic, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials hope a new slogan can give those numbers a lift.
"You'll fly through here" will be SRQ's new slogan and advertising campaign, ditching "Do You SRQ?" as a way to touch on the airport's convenience.
The airport's new marketing agency, Patterson/Bach, created the slogan and tested it in a focus group last month with two other slogans: "Faster, Easier, Smarter" and "Love At First Flight." The group chose the winning slogan with a 75 percent vote for first choice.
"Respondents believed this campaign communicated most clearly, most positively and most convincingly SRQ's promise of convenient, hassle-free, stress-free airport experience," Patterson/Bach President Tim Bach said at Monday's Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority meeting.
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This will be a key year for the airport to regain footing
if weather cancellations for Northeast flights don't bury it. Weather cancellations last year prompted a 0.8 percent increase in passenger traffic, equating to 1.19 million passengers. Additional flights to Newark, New York and Toronto could boost numbers.
The slogan, accentuating the word "fly" went over some of the board members' heads because they interpreted it literally. "Fly" is as a way to convey speed and convenience, Bach said.
"If the focus group didn't choose it, you wouldn't see it," he said, adding the tagline will have more context. Bach said some of the best campaigns are the simplest, like Wendy's 1984 commercial "Where's the Beef?"
The participants in the focus group were 67 percent male, mainly 55 to 64 years old and half had a household income of more than $125,000, according to Patterson/Bach's presentation. Nobody 18 to 24 years old participated in the group.
The campaign will launch this year with print, TV, Facebook and text marketing and with promotions for free parking and free flights. The print ads will accentuate the airport's positive aspects while the TV ads will contrast the airport against its competitors, Bach said.
As much as convenience is touted, price is important to some airport officials.
"There's a misconception about the dollars and cents," board member Carlos Beruff said. Airport passengers "think it's a lot more expensive."
On average, SRQ flights cost less than competing airports but he would suggest going against a "we're cheaper" campaign because the more affordable tickets are sold out much earlier than other airports and some routes are more competitive than others, said Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo, chief executive officer of SRQ and president of the airport authority.
Some of that messaging will come out in the campaign, Bach said.
"If we stress the lines about no hassle and get people to try us early, then we are competitive in price," he said.
For the most part, the airport will focus on the experience of quicker security lines and easier parking.
"We're like Whole Foods and Tampa's like Publix," Piccolo said. "It's a different level and different experience. We're a boutique airport to some degree."
Board member Henry Rodriguez didn't completely agree with the grocery comparison.
"You know what they say about Whole Foods, right? It's a whole paycheck," he said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.