be like Portland not Newark

Be like Portland. Neon sign that says Portland Oregon.

I hit the jackpot flying back to Austin last night.

I not only had the extra roomy exit row, I had the extra roomy exit row all to myself.

I was about to “sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight” as the flight intendant instructed, but instead, I whipped out my phone to write you a quick email.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately. Some for work and some for play. (More on that later).

I’ve been in and out of the Portland, Detroit, Newark, and Austin airports. And Houston, Dallas, LAX, and Chicago-Midway due to layovers.

Out of all of these, Newark is an exceptionally terrible airport.

(To be fair, Terminal C seems okay after a recent upgrade, but Terminal A, where I had the pleasure of hanging out is crap).

The only food options are a consistently slammed Mexican restaurant (due to demand, not deliciousness), a Ben and Jerry’s, and a deli.

There’s nowhere to sit, it’s dirty, and you can’t get a decent drink because the Mexican restaurant’s bar is constantly full of people trying to distract themselves from how terrible it is with a less-than-natural margarita.

The Detroit airport isn’t much better.

It’s heavy on chain restaurants and is far from gluten free friendly. But it’s spacious, has a few bars for a pre-flight Moscow Mule, and is seemingly cleaner than Newark, so it gets a few extra points in my book.

If it were a hotel, I’d give it 2.5 stars.

The Austin and Portland airports, on the other hand, are noticeably different.

They’re filled with airport versions of popular local restaurants, adapted versions of bars people actually frequent while in the city, shops that house more than touristy keychains, and they have live music.

Patrick and I went to the Austin airport 3 hours ahead of our flight because we knew we could get delicious BBQ and hang at Saxon Pub listening to music instead of having to get our kitchen dirty before leaving.

Here’s the difference.

PDX and ATX have managed to make the airport feel like an experience, not a chore.

I mean, check out this fantastic copy I spotted on a sign for a bathroom remodel in Portland.

Make people feel something. A sign with amazing copy spotted at the Portland airport

It’s way more creative than the typical, “Bathroom closed for remodeling.” It made me stop and take a picture (and not just because I’m a copywriter who is paid to appreciate words in abnormal ways).

It made me *feel* something unexpected.

In this case, it made me chuckle and feel like they cared about my experience as a visitor.

Your work can make people feel something too.

It all comes down to intentional details.

>>You can be like Newark, which is really like my grandma running into Walgreens to buy reading glasses that she knows won’t work, but it’s a last-ditch attempt because she forgot hers at home.

She doesn’t want to buy them there, but she’s desperate, so she regrettably forks over her hard-earned cash.

>>You can be like the Detroit airport, which is more like the traditional professional (read: stuffy) business that you know you can trust, but most interactions with them are just plain boring.

It’s like going into a LensCrafters where they say things like, “See your best every day with a comprehensive eye exam at LensCrafters.” Blah.

>>Or, you can be like Portland. The business with personality, like Warby Parker.

The one that makes people happy to hang around and talk about you because you make them feel something unexpected.

“Good things await you.” is the messaging on the box that Warby Parker delivers to your *house*, so that you can try on multiple pairs for more than five minutes and ask all your friend’s opinions before choosing the perfect pair. They know what’s up.

So, moral of the story… Don’t be like Newark’s airport (ever). And don’t be like Detroit’s if you want to stand out.

Instead, be a Portland. Or an Austin. Make people feel something, intentionally.

With so much love,

xx, Alyssa

P.S. Need some help infusing more personality? I’m here for you.


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Alyssa Kulesa

Alyssa Kulesa

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