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Key Idea: Be The Town's Top Citizen

John Hawkins' decision to focus on being the shared-ride choice for local citizens led him to the efficient and cheap marketing idea that he would join and get involved in every important organization in San Diego.

Key Question:


Support important causes that will make your town a better place.

Q: How did John create his image and endear Cloud 9 to the citizens of San Diego?

A: If you read his bio on his own web site you would learn that in addition to being responsible for finance and strategy at Cloud 9, John' s big job is community relations. He is Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, Vice Chairman of the Board of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and on the Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau, the Holiday Bowl, the San Diego International Sports Council, the Port Tenants Association and the USS MIDWAY Aircraft Carrier Museum... He has served as Chairman of the Corporate Finance Council, and Fleet Week San Diego and is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club.

Q: Does joining organizations, volunteering and giving away advertising space guarantee ones branding?

A: No. You have to put your heart into it. You have to believe in these people and their organizations. You really have to love them all. And, most of the time, a phoney can be easily picked out of a crowd. John Hawkins is just a good guy. The fact is that he's been a good guy all his life. He is that national merit scholar all grown up. He loves people. Yet, he also loves success. But, if there is a choice, he will put the integrity of the people first. He'll put somebody else's cause in front of his own.

Think about it

What organizations can you put your heart into? What organizations could benefit most from your donation of time, money, products or services? Do you have employees who are interested in certain causes? Could you give them time off to volunteer for those causes? Who in your company is in charge of community relations? If not you, who could do this job well?

Clip from: Cloud 9 Shuttle

San Diego: Meet John Hawkins and learn about his company, Cloud 9 Shuttle; he threw out conventional marketing wisdom, pulled the company out of bankruptcy, turned employees into owners, and installed key technologies. It just doesn't get any better than this. Not that it has been easy for John and his team; it has been very tough. Yet, this is the great American success story. He may not have made billions of dollars, he did save a business and he instills confidence being a good citizen is good business.

Upon arriving in America's Finest City with her beautiful, cloudless skies and moderate weather, you quickly discover that there are ubiquitous clouds at city's airport, Lindbergh Field. Here, the clouds are "Cloud 9" vans, a shuttle service from the airport to anywhere.

But it wasn't always so perfect in this perfect city.

This is a turnaround story. It's a branding story. And, it is a love story. To begin this story we went to the airport to meet the man who knows San Diego better than anyone. John Hawkins just loves this community and her people. And because of his service, when we asked about a business to study, everybody recommended John -- the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Mayor's office, Economic Development and many others. 

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Cloud 9 Shuttle

John Hawkins, CEO, founder

3550 Kurtz Street
San Diego, CA 92110

Visit our web site:

Office: 858-505-4900

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Be The Town's Top Citizen

JOHN: So we joined every board, we joined organizations. We donated rides to children. We did things for the YMCA and Convention/Visitors and the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau, and we said, `We want to play.'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Cloud 9 has tried to be a good member of the community. The vans carry ads for non-profit organizations.

JOHN: But 10 of our vans we give to good things every month, so this is a good cause.

JOHN: Yeah, March of Dimes, Think Ahead, Healthy Babies, you know.

HATTIE: So they didn't pay for that.

JOHN: No, no. This month it's March of Dimes. Next month it's the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. The next month is `Happy 85th birthday to the Girl Scouts.' The next month, April, is `Good luck, Padres, opening day.'

HATTIE: So you have all this in your head?

JOHN: Oh, yeah, 'cause it's so much fun.

HATTIE: But when you started working with this industry, you were with Super Shuttle. Or, was it a Super Shuttle?

JOHN: Oh, it was a Super Shuttle franchise.

HATTIE: And they wouldn't allow this advertising on...

JOHN: No. No. HATTIE: ...the back of the vans, so...

JOHN: Well, they're a franchise so, you know, their indicia is very, very important to them to make sure that like McDonald's, they wouldn't want somebody use creative liberty on their Golden Arches. So Super Shuttle had a special or certain way of doing business, and that was it. And you couldn't do anything to generate some local identity or, in our case, by advertising on the back, create barter moneys with radio stations to get airtime for outdoor advertising.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Half the people who fly into San Diego are visitors. The other half are residents. John realized residents spend three times as much per ride as visitors, so he shifted the marketing target to residents. As a result, Cloud 9 is seeing revenues rise with the longer ride and repeat business only residents can give them.


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