I’m flying today. No, not my mental state, but actually going from A to B via three airports (currently at Heathrow). My first airport was the one in my hometown of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Airport is alright. Hardly a glowing review, but it does the job. I can procure a decent coffee and pastry, which we all know is the number one priority. One area it slips up on in an admirable fashion is the security process.

Complicated much?

The airport recently underwent a complete revamp of the rigmarole of security. I never actually found it to be that bad, even at peak business flight times, but clearly the powers that be fancied a change. Now, we go through auto-barriers as the first stage, which work well assuming you’re capable of scanning a barcode, which it would seem is beyond some.

From there, we are channeled into lanes that lead to conveyor belts with a ‘spot’ defined by colour and a number. The security bod tells us which one to wait in. Pick up a tray, empty all tech from bag, chuckle at the person who forgot to put their toiletries in a plastic bag, remove belt, change, watch, shoes (yes I was randomly chosen) and my built-in retina camera and place tray on said conveyor belt.


Through the scanner I go. All good. Time to wait for my tray. I watch a huge line of them come down the track. There’s a point in the journey that they all get stopped and it seems that a computer decides if the content need to be sifted by one of those human things. Mine passes. Here’s where the carnage ensues. You’re supposed to pick up the tray, spin 180 degrees and take it to an ‘unloading station’. The majority of people don’t get this and proceed with removing their detritus and redeploying it at the belt. Que human operatives barking at travellers to ‘proceed to an unloading station’.

This whole process took around 13 minutes. It was held up by the fact that a sizeable slice of the subjects of the security checks had no flipping clue what they were supposed to be doing. Human security operatives were trying their best, but they can only do so much, and our ears grow numb to verbal instruction after a while.

This process needs CTAs

The security area is rimmed with large, bright, white walls. Said walks are blank. This space could be used to visually show people what they should be doing at each stage of the process. No need for multiple languages, or anything complicated, just clear, eye-catching prompts. This would reduce the amount of barking the security bods need to do and surely speed up the whole process.

As I completed this system, it made me think that marketers can be too guilty of over-complicating things these days. We all love to create paths that lead people down journeys of discovery via content, multi-channel experiences and so on, but there’s a lot to be said for cutting it all down and pushing people towards taking the desired outcome.

Click an ad (that was well put together) with a clear call to action, let’s say ‘Learn more’. User hits specific landing page that delivers a few short, sharp points to educate/reinforce why they should take further action. Big fat CTA (call to action) button that takes them onto the next step of the way (purchase, enquiry, data submission) and makes us marketers and our bosses/clients happy. We’ve show the human the right way to go at every opportunity. Reduced friction. Not once did we ask them to remove their belts. There’s more to it than that, but you get my point. I hope.

So, next time you’re putting a campaign together, just think ‘I best not be like Edinburgh Airport security’. Rolls off the tongue.

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