Allow Me To (Re)Introduce Myself And My Blog

I’ve been blogging here for a couple of years now and thought it might be a good time to review what I’ve written and what I’d like to write about moving forward…a little Spring cleaning of my blog so to speak.0402_cleaning-800x480

Originally, I thought I’d write about branding, with a bit of a focus on casinos as this has been the work I’ve done for a number of years. I also thought could share some thoughts on social media plus share some of the things that inspire me.

As I look back and look around I realize I am no expert on social media unless it’s about the use of social media as a casino marketing tool. I also realized that I know a lot more about marketing in addition to branding. So, I’ve decided that my next year should focus on the art and science of marketing with a focus on how these tools are applied in a casino environment.

If I stick to my plan, by next April I will have shared insights and interviews related to advertising, community relations, database marketing, digital, promotions, events and player development — all of the tools we use to market our businesses.

Along the way, you may start seeing changes to the look of the site and the information to be found.

Let me know if you have any specific questions or topics you’d like to explore. I’d love to connect with other casino marketers to hear their thoughts and ideas.

Let’s Stop Calling Them Loyalty Programs

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

As a marketer, I read a lot about branding and advertising trends. As a brand marketer, I also read a great deal about customer service and customer experience because I truly believe that is at the heart of any brand I am charged with. As a casino marketer, I read even more about loyalty programs that are used across different industries because they often give me a great insight into what I could be doing.

Last week, I read Lois Geller’s latest contribution to Forbes: Why Doesn’t Apple Have a Real Loyalty Program?  Before I read the first word, I already had my answer. Apple DOES indeed have a loyalty program. It’s a clear and solid brand that is operationalized and translated throughout the organization (Jules Rules #3: Operationalize Your Brand). It’s called a good product that is consistent with a brand promise that is delivered time and time again. I am not an Apple worshiper. I know Apple worshipers and I know I’m not one of them, but I appreciate my Apple products and I find them consistent with what I’ve been promised. Therefore, I can assume that I’ll upgrade or buy a new product sometime soon, and isn’t that the whole goal behind a loyalty program…to drive repeated visits and purchases?

Then I read an article about loyal Krispy Kreme customers in Advertising Age where the CMO says

“The chain has a loyal fan base often willing to drive more than 30 minutes to one of its 240 U.S. shops for what CMO Dwayne Chambers calls a “kind of reward, a simple indulgence.”

Try as I might, I can’t find a Krispy Kreme loyalty program unless it’s warm melt in your mouth goodness.

loyaltyMs. Geller uses a great definition of a loyalty program in her Forbes article.

Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior that is potentially beneficial to the firm.

So, now I’ve read these great articles and I think about casino players card programs. Some call them “loyalty programs”. I tend to call them “players card programs” because while they are indeed structured marketing efforts that are rewarding and encouraging buying behavior, I believe (based on thousands of hours of research) that they are not actually driving loyalty to the business but to the offers and rewards. It’s a bit like competing on price, which we all know is a short-term strategy.

How can we get break the bond to the offer and build one for the business? Think Apple. Think Krispy Kreme. Solidify and operationalize your brand so that you don’t have to keep buying or discounting business. Use the card to get to know your customers better and better with each visit or purchase. Think brand. Think long-term.

Elizabeth Kraus gives us some great guidance in her LinkedIn post.

The keys to discovering customer loyalty strategies that will build true brand loyalty may lie in the answers to these questions:

How do we exceed customer expectations?

How can we give customers a bigger voice – and a bigger stake – in our business?

How do we make the lives of our customers better?

How can we make it so that customers feel better about themselves as a result of doing business with us?

What can we do so that customers would feel proud to recommend us to others or feel proud of being publicly affiliated with our organization?

Once you can stop thinking offers and start thinking loyalty, you’ll find the answers to your brand questions.


The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

I’ve been lucky enough to work in the casino industry for a good number of years now, and I’m proud to say that I’ve worked my way through the marketing ranks to a recent corporate Vice President position. It’s been a great experience and I hope that it will continue for a few more years. But as many of us know, sometimes there are periods of time when the ride stops and we have to wait for it to start again. I have found myself in such a period. I guess it’s time to polish up those marketing materials.  Only this time, they’re mine. Yikes!

For years I have revitalize and created brands, but (truly) understanding my personal brand has been quite a new experience. Darn you Dan Shawbel! I’ve found myself at a loss for a positioning statement, a brand promise…all of the things that I’ve created for others for so long. Until I realized, I needed to look to the pillars of brand marketing (or as Mr. Talamo calls them: The Jules Rules). I needed to go through the same steps that I’ve taken when developing relevant casino brands that create great customer connections.

Know Your Target/Market

Just like you can’t be everything to all customers, you can’t say “I’ll take whatever I can get”. You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and the best target for those strengths. A good recruiter not only builds relationships with their clients, they should know where your skills will play the best.

Brands are Built from the Bottom Up

Your experience and the relationships you build will be what supports that great resume. Even if you’re not on a job hunt, you should understand that the wealth of your experiences will come to play in one way or another.

Operationalize Your Brand

Social Media has become so important in the employment arena. What you put out into the world can deeply impact your options. I’ve always been careful about what I say and post in social media. If I’m not comfortable with something I want to say living on forever, I just don’t say it. But more than anything else, I realized that a focus on the content I am curating is really important. What do I want people to think I can add to their enterprise when they read my tweets or articles I share?

True Brand Programs Share DNA

This is going to take some of you back. For some, this may be new. Remember when Tony Bennett did his VH1 Unplugged gig? It was the perfect program for him because it brought him back to his roots as the consummate crooner. Tony Bennett had always been “unplugged”. So, this wasn’t new for him, but it allowed him to stand before a new audience and propel is latest album to platinum status and to win two Grammy Awards. Standing out through a distinct, discernible difference is crucial. You can’t be everything to everyone. So find your focus.  If you’re not honest to your DNA, your brand may get tested in the short-term, but not bought in the long. Tony Bennett showed us how long that run could be if you’re honest to your DNA.

Make Your Brand Iconic

Find something that is “your thing”: A visual hook, a saying, an interesting piece of technology or anything that makes somebody remember an encounter with you. Think about your background…your story, and always attempt to attach your POV to life experiences. What is your Absolut bottle?

Get help

Brand development is not a DIY project and neither should your job hunt. I finally did get expert, trained help. I was stunned at what they saw in me that I couldn’t put on paper. I guess it’s true that the cobbler’s children have no shoes.

Where Is The Love?

As marketers, we employ all manner of tools to drive people to our locations – whether they be stores, restaurants, casinos or hotels. We tell them we love them and want them to stop by, but when they do, we show no love.

…Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all.

Danny Meyer, “Setting the Table”

I had a great teacher in my career who once told me I had to walk in a guest’s shoes to understand what I needed to put in place to make their experience the best. Let’s go through some of those marketing tools to see how we can start showing some love.

ADVERTISING – Through most of my career, I have been tasked with the marketing communications of a variety of individuals and organizations. That could be ads in print or in broadcast, the website, and now social. In many ways, it is the first love note our guest receives. A good design captures someone’s attention. Accurate and useful information will help make their visit a pleasant one.

OFFERS AND REWARDS – The science of giving the right offers and rewards to the right people is key to our success, and while we are using those offers to fill capacity or drive sales, keep in mind that restrictions should balance our needs with the guest’s enjoyment. Getting complimentaries and using earned points shouldn’t require contortionist training.

EVENTS AND GIVEAWAYS – More winners, smaller prizes? Less winners, bigger prizes? The fact is guests tell us they want both. In the end, they want a chance to win. Give them one.

Love_heart_uidaodjsdsewWhile you’re thinking of ways to show how much you love your guests, don’t forget to love your employees first. Giving them great information and proper tools allows them to enhance the guest experience. Having had the opportunity to work the floor I’ve learned that what I do in the office impacts everyone and that a bad experience for an employee is a bad experience for a guest.

Finally, you may have noticed my use of the word “guest” instead of “customer”. This was a gift from a gentleman named Andy Olson who explained to me that customers are transactional but that we build relationships with guests. One of the best lessons I ever received. He also taught me and my co-workers to walk backwards while giving a charming tour, but that’s another story for another day. The point is it’s easy to show love to someone you’re building a relationship with. Don’t forget to show them some love while you’re tackling tasks on your to-do list.

Check out this blog post for some additional thoughts on showing love from one of my customer service inspirations, Shep Hyken.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ad Bowl 2014 – Part II

As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, Debbie Laskey has once again partnered with me to review the ads of this most recent Super Bowl. I gave you my take. Below are Debbie’s thoughts, but first let me tell you a little about her.

Debbie-Laskey-MBA-for-siteDebbie is a 15-year marketing practitioner. She honed her skills while working in the high-tech industry and in the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France. Her expertise is varied but includes strategic planning, brand development, corporate communications, customer experiences, and social media marketing (which I think she excels at). She has been recognized as a “Woman Making a Difference” by the Los Angeles Business Journal . Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition and has also been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Branding Experts” to follow on Twitter. Currently, Debbie is the director of marketing and communications for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation in Los Angeles, but also manages to provide strategic marketing direction for B2B/B2C/non-profit clients.

Ladies and gentlemen, Debbie Laskey…

Every winter, on one Sunday, every TV around the world tunes in for one super football game. But for those of us who live and breathe all things marketing, the final football showdown each season provides a different focus. That focus costs a pretty penny – or several million to be exact. The incredibly high-priced ads that grace the TV screen during the Super Bowl have become known as the Brand Bowl, and I’m thrilled to share a three-peat review of these ads with Julia Carcamo.

As a brand marketing professional, I recall many of the ads despite this year’s one-sided Game. What about you?

Here were my faves:
[1] MetLife featured the entire Peanuts gang with a preamble to the Game, and since the game took place at MetLife Stadium, this was a good intro to the Game.
[2] Budweiser’s puppy and Clydesdale with the hashtag #BestBuds: this ad was memorable and tugged at the heartstrings.
[3] Budweiser’s thanks for military service: this ad was memorable and reminiscent of Budweiser’s timeless post-911 ad.
[4] Doritos time machine ad was funny but would have been funnier if it had run after Radio Shack’s Back to the Eighties spot.
[5] TurboTax’s ad was amusing except for the fact that no one wants to think about filing tax returns the first week of February.

I appreciated the presence of more cause-related marketing ads, especially Microsoft’s #empowerment ad and Chevrolet’s cancer awareness ad.

However, one element was different for me this year. While watching the Game, instead of simply Tweeting once I saw the hashtags after each ad, I participated in a TweetChat with the hashtag #SBexp for “Super Bowl experience” hosted by Jim Joseph  of Cohn and Wolfe. Jim will host similar TweetChats during the upcoming Olympics with the hashtag #OlympicsExp.

AdBowl 2014

The Super Bowl has been played and once again Debbie Laskey has asked me to partner with her in her review of this year’s Super Bowl ads. We’ll be chatting later today to find out if we had the same thoughts, and I’ll share her review with you. In the meantime, here’s my take on yesterday.

I must say this year was a little disappointing. Gone are the days when massive production budgets and huge theatrical events were the commercials that we saw. Sure advertisers are still spending a lot of money to produce these ads, but for now, it looks like they’re a little less theatrical and I daresay a little less creative.

I heard a lot before the game about Ford shelling out the least amount they could to be a part of the game. That would be the spot right before the kickoff. Sorry Ford but your Fusion ad was not among my favorites.

Here are my favorites in order of appearance.

Kudos to Cheerios for remaining true to its brand and its respect for families of all kinds in spite of those with that would challenge them. Gracie is as charming as ever. Maybe she should have asked for a Clydesdale, too!

RadioShack came out of nowhere for me. I love this ad and so did a number of my friends. I love the way they called themselves out with a sense of humor. I knew exactly what they were talking about, and from what I read on Twitter, half of America did too. I can’t wait to see what they do with their brand, with their stores and with their business.

Another big surprise for me was Tim Tebow in the T-Mobile commercials. Having never been a big fan of his (actually not one at all), I have to say I’m kind of one now. He took a situation that has to be probably one of the most embarrassing in his career, and he really turned it to his advantage. Who knew not having a contract to be so liberating?

I like Volkswagen’s Wings ad. Sure, sales are slipping, but VW has a way of using comedy chops to illustrate the enthusiasm and longevity of its brand. It was funny.

Did Coca-Cola partner with Cheerios to make people realize America is still a melting pot of people? Two different products. Both a part of magical moments in our lives.

Although the boys of the Seahawks were pounding the football field and all around them, the girls of GoldieBlox showed everyone that girl power is pretty inspirational. Hey boys, are you jealous?

And while everyone was zigging with American pride Jaguar zagged with  a bit of English pride. These British villains sure make being bad look SO good.

Pepsi did I nice job of hyping halftime. Their “Souncheck” was a creative use of the New York City skyline.

I tried to not make it my favorite, but I just couldn’t help it! My winner was Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”. The spot had over 35 million views on YouTube before it even aired and ended the evening at the top of USA Today’s Ad Meter.

Finally, I have to give points to those advertisers that spent money to shine a light on a good cause: Bank of America for (red) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Chevy for World Cancer Day. I don’t think the commercials were the blockbusters we expect during Super Bowl, but did you expect to want to show your support for something other than a football team yesterday? I was among the many to download the US song “Invisible” and I’ll be making my profile purple tomorrow.

ADBOWL is a registered trademark of McKee Wallwork + Company. This post is not endorsed by McKee Wallwork + Company.

Teasing the Big Game is No Longer About the Playoffs

In 2005, I had an ad running in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. We gathered our friends around the television to wait and watch. That is ancient history. Even up until 3 or 4 years ago, you still had to wait until the big game to see these ads, but today, advertisers are teasing and just downright revealing their Super Bowl creations before the game. Good idea? I think so.
Getting a commercial on the air for the Super Bowl could easily reach $5 Million. As an advertiser, you have to ask yourself, “Are you going to get a return on that investment?” While many say it’s not worth it, technology and social media gives marketers a way to stretch that budget like never before.
Some tracking sources are already pushing out data. Digimind is a social media monitoring platform, and based on their monitoring last week, they are already reporting a general positive sentiment of 87% for this year’s crop of ads.

As of Monday the 27th, 17 companies had already posted teaser spots on YouTube in addition to paying for promotions on the site. By the end of the week, almost every advertiser had released their actual ads. In fact Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” spot had over 32 Million views this morning. Compare that to last year’s Super Bowl viewership of about 108 Million. I’d take that before airtime, and don’t forget that these ads continue to be seen after the game.

“The Super Bowl ad contest, it turns out, is increasingly similar to a presidential campaign—it’s all about the crucial weeks of expensive and calculated preparation leading up to the big day. Last year viewers watched 265 million Super Bowl commercials on YouTube, about 2.6 times more than in 2012, according to Google. What’s more, almost one-third of those video clicks came before kickoff. ‘The scoreboard of the Super Bowl has become YouTube views,’ Lucas Watson, Google’s vice president of global brand solutions, said at a breakfast in Manhattan last week.”Bloomberg Businessweek, “How Google Gets Its Piece of the Super Bowl”

Stretching your creative over a variety of social channels is the only way to go if you want to build a story around your brand. This tactic is not just good for a big-budget ad. It can be useful for any campaign, especially if you’re working on a smaller budget. Take the content. Re-cut it to engage your employees first. Then start giving your customers bits and pieces to get excited about. By the time you roll out your new product or service you could have the next “Rocky” – a labor of love shot on less than a million dollars, this hit movie brought in over $225 Million and one three Oscars including “best picture”.

Blair Witch Project.

Napoleon Dynamite.

Slumdog Millionaire.

How will you stretch your next creative project?

Brands That Fascinated Me

The best part of having an agency is the opportunity to sit with the creatives and talk about brands and what fascinates them and me. I love seeing the nuances through someone else’s eyes. As we approach “Ad Bowl” (you know that long string of commercials with a little football played in between), I can’t help but look forward with anticipation and look back on the past year to see what surprised me. Interestingly, two of these brands piqued my curiosity at the beginning of the year and held on. All of the others developed as the year did.

I’ll start with the obvious. Miley Cyrus- no one can say she wasn’t disruptive. She broke through the clutter and controlled her conversation. Although I tend to lean more to the evolution approach, she had to tear her Hannah Montana image apart to emerge as the person she wants to be seen as. She has to be absolutely the best brand marketer I’ve seen in recent years.

Netflix – I wrote about this a few months ago. A few years ago, pundits were saying this company had really stepped in it and had no way of coming out clean, but today, Netflix has transformed itself into something relevant and important in people’s lives by reinventing itself into THE entertainment content provider.

Nike+ – The long-held position of personal achievement shifted to include a connection between users giving you the motivation go stay on track. So, even if you’re that runner on the lonely road a dawn, you’re never alone.

Major League Baseball – Not content to rest on the fact that baseball is American’s past time, MLB embraced technology to make your experience richer from the moment you step through the gates. Let’s face it, the games are a bit of a commodity. The schedule is long and you can see the game at little to no cost in a number of ways. It’s the experience that keeps fans going to the stadiums. Seems like the National Football League is going to follow suit.

Ron Burgundy – Yes, I’m talking about the fictitious character from the popular 2004 movie “Anchorman”. As funny as it was at the time, it was a gamble to release a sequel so many years later, but someone had the foresight to put Actor Will Ferrell’s Burgundy into today’s world. Did you see him host the news?

Square – Meeting the needs of the small business, they are a very agile company that is positioned for massive growth

Oreo – As a New Orleanian, I sat in horror as the power went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Even in the dark, the brilliance of one little tweet showed through, and Oreo did not stop going. The sheer amount of creativity that came out of that group must be a result of a sugar high. Take a look at an Oreo holiday tradition. I’ll never look at holiday cookie exchange the same again.

Chobani – We all know location is everything, particularly in grocery stores where competition among SKUs is intense and where competition among me products can be downright deadly. By insisting on proper shelf placement and pricing itself a little higher than most, Chobani can be credited with popularizing Greek yogurt in the US. Independent thinking and commitment to a vision has made this independent company a big player among better recognized brands. After a PR disaster in early 2013, Chobani will be making its Super Bowl debut in 2014.

Chipotle – really showed marketers what it means to be brand storytellers in 2011 with its poignant telling of a farmer going back to the start. This year, they did it again with “The Scarecrow”, not only telling a great story but also developing a game which gave their message a longer shelf life.

Santa, yep, the fat guy in the red suit. Maybe it was watching a video of my nephew make a call to him one night leading up to Christmas. Maybe it’s the thought that we could all use a little magic sometimes. He continues to be relevant and has been a quick adopter of technology to spread his cheer. Quietroom realizes Santa is not going away. Check out the great brand book they created.

OK. This last one may be a little controversial, but as a lifelong Catholic, I have to pick the Catholic Church. The election of Pope Francis has breathed a new life and focus into the church. As a Catholic I am excited to see him open minds. As a marketer, I am excited to see what people will think of the church as he brings about a change in the mindset of many.

I hope you see some of these brands in a new light. What brands fascinate you?

12 Resolutions That Don’t Have to Wait Until New Year’s

Julia Carcamo:

Great way to approach the new year.

Originally posted on Player Development (GPS) Goal Positioning Solution:

Crossroads #1

Crossroads #1 (Photo credit: Tristan Garrett)

Yes, it’s that time of year.  The holidays have arrived, bringing with them introspection and thoughts of the year past, inevitably leading to well-intentioned resolutions for things people wish to improve upon in the year that is about to begin.

Really, there is never a need to wait until the ball (or the guitar, or the potato, or the Moon Pie) drops to resolve to do something better than you did before.  Here are some things that would benefit us all to do better, starting whenever you decide to give it a whirl.  Cheers!

  1. Be nicer to the people you see every day.  It’s easy to take them for granted: the people in your home or workplace who make your life more entertaining or infuriating, in turns.  Take a moment to invest some of your emotional capital in them and it will pay dividends. …

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Netflix – From the Top to the Bottom and Back to the Top

netflix logoI just came across an article about Netflix saving The Killing. As a brand marketer who has had the opportunity to work on a few brand reinventions, I’m very impressed with how Netflix has re-energized the brand (after the short- lived Qwikster disaster – killing the project before it even had time to launch) and how it has set its path to the future.

In the 1990s we raced to get the newest releases at our nearest Blockbuster only to leave with our second choices (sometimes third) because THE movie we wanted to see was already taken. On top of that, we had to rush to finish watching the movie before we started accruing late fees. (Just for fun, what was your highest late fee?) It was a rite that will live in our memories.

They say that video killed the radio star. Now that DISH has announced it will be closing the last 300 Blockbuster stores, we can say Netflix and the Internet have joined forces to kill the corner video rental store.

Netflix stock history through November 21, 2012

Netflix stock history through November 21, 2012

Netflix, established in 1997 quickly grew its library and its subscriber base and changed the playing field. Like Tower Records, Blockbuster was slow to respond to a model that seemed too “different” to last. Netflix started with a simple idea (no late fees) and a radical delivery system (no stores) and evolved by listening to its customers, nay “fans”. They were right to think streaming content was the next step. The problem was they didn’t execute well when they thought Qwikster to be their next step. So, they cut their losses and regrouped. Took the kernel of the good strategy and looked at it from a different perspective – the customer. Now they’re reviving loved content and creating new content. Content has solidly placed them in a new arena and created fans for the brand rather than just customers, as well as creating shareholder value. What more could you ask for?

My takeaway (as always): Listen to your customers. They will let you know what they want…and don’t want.


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