Are you a value engineer or an experience engineer?

Today I read a headline about brands needing to compete on experience rather than price. Those who know me, know that this was an instant magnet to me because I am very passionate about competing on price…I don’t like it at all.

I’ve recently been working with a predictive analytics company. Those who don’t know me well will wonder. Huh? My wheelhouse has traditionally been brands and communications. However, I’ve been lucky that my work experience has exposed me to all sorts of marketing specialties including database marketing. I bet most of you don’t know that database marketing was part of one of my earliest casino jobs. This particular project has been really eye-opening and a little confirming that I do have a skill set beyond the assumed. Hmmm…This sounds like an interesting blog post for later, but for now, I want to talk about how these two worlds of mine collide.

Through the work I’m doing with database marketing, I’m afforded the opportunity to talk to marketers about how to identify the people in their database that have more value than the past ADT tells them as well as those who may be at the end of their lifetime value. These conversations have always been about reinvestment and the offers they should be making.

Casino marketers have a way of looking at their database programs in a variety of ways. Some call them “core mailers”. Some refer to them as the “monthly newsletter”. Interestingly, news is probably the lesser of the focuses of these monthly mailers. As I’ve worked on designing some of these pieces, it’s all about how to layout the offers front and center in a way that makes it easy for customers to want to redeem them. I’ve sat in a number of focus groups over a variety of years and markets, and I know that the offer is what the customer is interested in. They’ve said it, “I take my offers and throw the rest away. Then, I put my coupons on my refrigerator door.” As the one responsible for the communications platform, this has always been kind of disheartening. It has made me think the same way. My design directions have been totally influenced by those comments, but at some point I have to ask if it was the chicken or the egg. Do customers just look at the offers because we designed the platform that way or did we design the platform that way because the offer was most important?



Our markets are getting more and more competitive each day either by virtue of new entries or because the casino down the street isn’t afraid to over-invest. It makes me think. It makes me wonder “Why do we continue to compete on price when we have such distinct brands and personalities?” What if we created these mailers in a way that is still easy for the customer to understand what we’ve given them, but also gives them a piece of mail that they want to put up on the refrigerator rather than throwing the communications part in the garbage? What if these mailers become an actual piece of advertising and messaging?

There is no denying that this type of approach could cost more to produce. Could it influence more of your customers to choose you over your competitor even if the offers aren’t equal? What if we experience-engineered our database marketing creative rather than value-engineering it?

Take small steps if you’re concerned about budget contraints. Instead of sending out postcards the size of the ones you get when it’s time to bring your puppy in for her shots, consider a larger size that will stand out in the pile. How about special coatings to make that invitation stand out? Think about sending a promotional item tied to the theme of your event. If your agency has a good production manager, they’ll be able to give you all sorts of ideas for shipping containers, materials to be used and printing process that add pop.

Why choose to be a value engineer when you can be an experience engineer?


The Data Fact Gap

I’ve been working with a client for a few months now. They work in a field that is a little off my usual path: predictive analytics. It’s been a great experience as I’ve gotten the opportunity to strengthen my database marketing muscle. Like most muscles in your body, you never know how much they can bear if you don’t use them.

The following is a recent blog post for their website.

As professionals, we all know that technology has changed the way we do business. Whether you find the increased dependence on new technology as good or bad often depends on how effectively the tools are used. Over the years, this problem has been illustrated in many ways by Stics and a variety of other experts.

Fact Gap Graph

This particular Fact Gap illustration was first attributed to the Gartner Group. It will help us describe how data technologies are, on the one hand, progressing and on the other, creating new data analysis problems.

The “Data Fact Gap” was created by the explosion of available digital information accumulated in recent years. With technology system advances, increased data storage capacity and Internet usage it is now easy to collect mountains of data. While the volume of retained data has grown exponentially and spread across all industries, so have the data management challenges it created and the even greater marketing opportunities that mostly lie dormant.

This abundance of data creates new problems that force database marketers to devote a lot of time and resources to filtering information into data segments so decision makers can frame a concept, problem or question.  While this approach is intuitive to the human brain, it does limit our ability to make a fully informed decision from all available data.

Why You Need Good Data

Intuitively we often think we already know what our customers want. However, that is not always the case.  When we make business decisions by filtering our data down to a few variables we miss the more accurate and complete view of the data.  Without hard data, there’s no way to be sure truly objective decisions are being made. Worse, because we think we’re making objective decisions, we often don’t seek an outside perspective.

What we really need is an objective analysis, wielding as many customer factors and data points as possible. This approach helps us see the potential hidden below the common database marketing analysis.

Statistical Predictive Analytics Solves the Problem

One way to harness the data explosion and make better marketing and business decisions is to use predictive analytics. Predictive analytics uses the science of statistics and is capable of considering unlimited facets of a situation. Predictive analytics for marketing can increase a marketing campaign’s return on investment by 10 times compared to a typical SQL analysis that might only evaluate (about) five variables. It takes the data that you already have and gives you information you can use in your marketing campaigns, such as:

  • Identifying customers you are currently marketing to who are unprofitable or about to reach the end of their customer lifetime value
  • Identify high value customers hiding in your database or prospects you are not marketing to
  • Suggest more profitable marketing programs
  • Identify the lifetime value of various members in your customer base

Statistical modeling with predictive analytics is proven to help make more informed decisions and increase profit margins.

The Number One Rule of Marketing

Julia Carcamo:

Keeping it simple seems to be the hardest rule to stick to, but it is the most important. Take a moment to think like the customer and you’ll realize how much they are processing at once. Focus.

Originally posted on

Clinic Division We're #1

It’s no wonder we’re all suffering from information overload.

Emails, instant messages, likes, tweets and texts clog our mailboxes, mind and memory.

So what’s a marketer with a message to do? How do we break through the clutter, capture consumer attention and build business for our clients and customers?

Stick to the rule of one.

Engage one audience, deliver one message and craft one call to action.

One Audience

Marketers often cast too wide a net when choosing their target market. If you want your message to resonate–narrowcast (spreading an advertising message to a select demographic). Choose one audience, (the more focused the better), know their pain points and speak their language. Don’t just speak to teachers; speak to 5th grade history teachers from the Midwest.

One Message

In his seminal book, The New Positioning, Jack Trout notes that minds hate complexity. So what’s the best way to enter minds…

View original 138 more words

Are you ready for a natural disaster?

hurricane_flagLast week’s headlines warned that the first named storm of hurricane season was strengthening. Lucky for me, it wasn’t headed in my direction, but it got me thinking about how we handle communications during these times. 

News stations keep us in the loop of the development of the storm, its path and what the impact to our lives and properties could be. It’s a serious situation when the news broadcasts continuously, and yet…guests keep coming to our doors. Whether you’re a business that is in high demand in preparation for or after a disaster or whether you’re a business that people can escape to in these times, communicating with guests keeps them safe and could limit the potential danger at your properties and employees.

At my last job, we always had a so-called “crisis communication plan”. There were a select few who were trained and permitted to speak to the media but that was traditionally a response to inquiries. It wasn’t until social media became such a huge part of our lives and work that we realized we needed to be pro-active in our communications. We took a good long look at all of our communications channels and built them into a pro-active plan. This list was developed for casino operations, but they can definitely be put to use even if you’re the mom & pop grocery store (or one that’s even bigger). I don’t know about you, but when I’m running around getting my “hurricane kit” ready, it would be nice to know who has run out of water, bread, and gas, etc. It could save time and a ton of aggravation.


Typically, ads are delivered to media outlets some time in advance and a storm can shorten that timeline dramatically. Your media buyers can contact each outlet to understand the new timelines and requirements. Canceling a buy isn’t always an option. Have substitute ads ready in case you have to cancel your promotions or events. Remember to keep the safety of your employees and guests in mind when drafting these ads. Have ads ready to announce your reopening for regular business.


Do you have an email list? Whether it’s made up of 10 or 10,000 addresses, this can be a great real-time resource for you. Guests will want to know that you’ve closed, if you have a date/time set for reopening and that you’ve reopened. If you have any offers that would have been valid during the closure, it could mean a nice pick-up for a sister casino if you pre-arrange for those offers to be valid during the closure. This may involve regulatory approval. Now is the time to research what needs to be in place…before you need to.


This is a great way to send short announcements to your guests, but this channel could prove invaluable to your operation when you need to notify employees of a projected reopening. When normal cell phone communications are hindered, texts have shown to be able to get through in a pinch. Have you started building a permission-based database of phone numbers?


You better believe your employees and guests are keeping tabs on everything during a disaster. It has proven to be one of the most reliable ways to know the status of friends, family members and property. Keep in mind some of the best practices for businesses communicating via these outlets. Pictures grab the attention. Work with your agency to have graphic elements ready to communicate closures, rescheduling of events, opening times, etc.

Most importantly is coordination of the message you are distributing. For casinos, there are regulatory bodies involved, and you must be aware of their direction prior to releasing information. If you have a separate person in charge of media relations that is not a part of the marketing department, make them an honorary member during the crisis. Human Resources should also be involved. The messages you direct at guests will also be seen/heard/read by employees. It is important the messages match and that all departments are aware of what the other is doing. This is no time to get protective over your “area”.

Ethical Scenarios for Casino Player Development

Julia Carcamo:

My new friend Amy Hudson knows a thing or two about casino hosts. She poses some great questions here. What would you do?

Don’t forget to follow her blog.

Originally posted on Casino Host Player Development:

In these blogs, we have covered a lot of ground: things hosts should do, things they shouldn’t do, how to evaluate them, how to set and measure goals, and we have gone into some depth on a few of these topics.  One important aspect of a host’s job, however, is one we’ve only briefly touched.  It is especially important that hosts keep in mind the effects of their decisions and the ethical implications thereof.  This post is designed to be interactive, so please comment with your responses.

Let’s pretend for the purposes of this post that I am a successful casino host.  I work at a property that has thus far been blissfully free of growing competitive stresses, though some of my players occasionally travel to Las Vegas for an extended gambling vacay.  I’ve been at my property for just over 5 years, and I’ve developed…

View original 703 more words

Taking Steps to Leadership

Global Gaming WomenIn my career, I have been very lucky to learn from many smart women. Amanda Totaro taught me how to “feel” my marketing efforts. Elizabeth Blau introduced me to the world of food & beverage development, how to turn a concept into a strong brand and how everything goes into delivering that promise. From Virginia McDowell, I learned to go beyond my brand marketing “box” and how to make time to share my knowledge and passions with others. These are only some of the women that influenced both my life and career.

A couple of years ago the American Gaming Association formed Global Gaming Women (GGW) in an effort to create a broad network that allows women in gaming to connect with their colleagues at events, through online coffee breaks and a mentorship program.

From the casino floor to the board room, more and more women are stepping into great roles and GGW gives them a resource to grow.

Still in startup mode, GGW can’t be at all events, but they were a part of the Southern Gaming Summit which took place earlier this month. I was lucky to be there. It was really impressive to see so many women in one room leading the way for so many casino operators, and learning from four women in particular who are paving the path.

Shari Leicht is president of The Edge by Shari and Associates. She runs a huge bingo hall and started a supplier side business because she was unhappy with the service she was getting from her vendors. She shared a great lesson of listening and caring about “the dash” – the one that comes between the day of your birth and the day of your death. She also reminded us that as women we should remember that respect given is respect received.

Holly Gagnon is president/CEO of Pearl River Resorts. I came across Holly in my Harrah’s years. She was always the type of person to take on a task even if it was outside of her wheelhouse. She always believed (and still believes) that no role was ever a small one. She recommended we become the “go to” resources in our respective organizations. Be grateful, but don’t let anyone disrespect something you bring to the table.

Debbie Biggs is the director of finance and human resources for Grand Casino Biloxi. She, like Holly, believes in taking on roles you never expected. Step out of your comfort zone; consider stepping sideways or even backwards. Doing so creates confidence and resilience. She also reminded us not to sacrifice ourselves to the work.

Principal and Co-founder of the Rainmaker Group, Tammy Farley asked us to gain the confidence to ask for what we are worth. She recognizes that we will have to sacrifice personal events in this business we’ve chosen, but that we need to choose which things CAN be sacrificed. When we look back will we know we made the right choices?

As you can see there was a great deal to learn and even more to think about. Thanks GGW for bringing us together.

Casino Branding 101

This originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Global Gaming Business. I’m reposting it here with a couple of new elements.

For years, I’ve been polishing old brands and creating some new brands. I have found that, no matter what the project, market or budget, the steps are the same. They are what one of my former agencies likes to call “The Jules Rules.” I like to refer to them as the five pillars of brand marketing.

Know Your Target/Market

Formal research unearths a great deal of insight. I always recommend it, but I also highly recommend spending time on the floor. When was the last time you worked your player’s club—answering questions about the latest promotion, redeeming offers, issuing comps based on the actual play in your CMS?

If you can’t recall, it’s time to hit the floor. Not only do you get to meet and learn more about your guests, you get to understand what your front-line employees have to face when trying to deliver on your brand promise. I’d also invite my advertising agency folks to meet some guests face to face. It’s amazing what everyone will learn and how that will affect the next steps.

Brands are Built from the Bottom Up

brand iceberg

Great brands are built from the bottom up. Source: StarGroup

I have used the old iceberg image as a longstanding example of what makes a good brand because it’s the best way to show your operations team how what they do is the most important part of the brand. All the things that happen below the surface are what makes your brand true (or not) to your guests and to your employees. The next time you embark on a brand project, look at all of those elements first before giving your agency or graphic artist directions on a name or logo. Download the PDF and put it up in your marketing department.

Operationalize Your Brand

When you can’t see a difference between what you say you do (marketing) and what you actually do (operations), that’s when you know you have a truly great brand.

First, you have to build the internal culture. Then, you have to make sure the tools you provide your employees to deliver on the brand are consistent with your vision. If you’re going to be the value leader in slots, you have to be the value leader throughout your property.

That doesn’t mean cheap. Value isn’t a price point (but that’s a discussion for another column). You can still offer a fine-dining experience. Just make sure that experience is better than anything your guests could have imagined. If you’re going to be the leader in service, guests can’t be waiting for what seems a lifetime for their cars to return from valet or to get to a guest services rep or cage cashier.

True Brand Programs Share DNA

Employees and customers reward brands that are true and consistent. It’s easy to be tempted by the trend, but if it doesn’t fit your brand, the guest experience will feel disjointed and your employees will not have the ability to deliver on the brand promise. The offerings you feature have to feel like they are coming from the same source. You’re not a shopping center offering every option. You have to be selective and only offer the things that make sense to your brand. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, sometimes what you say “no” to is as important as what you say “yes” to.

Make Your Brand Iconic

You would think that after working at one of the premier destinations in Las Vegas, my work for a smaller regional gaming company would have been less than thrilling. I’m here to tell you that is not true. The day the Isle of Capri Casinos management took the Lady Luck trademark out of the legal file cabinet and into the light was one of the most exciting days in my career. The Isle management team realized we couldn’t just ignore one of the most iconic brands in casino history. “The Lady” excited us and, more importantly, our customers.

Those are my five pillars, but to be truly successful, you also need to get help. Brand development is not a DIY project. It takes resources—brainstorming, creative, execution, and sometimes legal. This can be as cost-effective or expensive as you let it become. Don’t skimp because of costs, but do find the collaborators that absolutely love your business to help you. Nothing else should do.

Nonprofits in the Real World

It seems like this story of the Los Angeles Clippers and their unfortunate brand black eye has been dominating the news. Somewhere in the melee there was an announcement from the local chapter of the NAACP that they would be canceling the presentation of its 2014 Humanitarian Award – an award intended to honor a lifetime body of work. For an organization whose mission is to fight discrimination this was an obvious conflict. Given everything that is coming to light (again in some cases), you have to wonder why in the world there was even a plan to give him the award.

The answers lie in the mission of the organization and what it takes to accomplish that mission: donors. Corporate charitable donations have long been considered PR for a company. In more recent years, “corporate citizenship” has become the spin on these donations. I’ve worked for and volunteered for several nonprofits and the reality is that like sales, it’s much easier it to be able to get one large donation as opposed to having to build to that same amount over several smaller ones.

Unfortunately, this latest incident of a nonprofit not seeing the forest for the trees is going to force many organizations to review their acceptance policies and probably research the character of those donating a little deeper. But the nonprofits you and I help each and every day can’t stop doing the good work they’re doing. The money has to come from somewhere. It has to come from you and me in a variety of ways.

Give NOLA DayOn Wednesday, May 6, many communities are participating in a day of giving to benefit large and small organizations. Give NOLA Day is just one of those efforts. It’s being organized by Give Local America.

Give Local America is a movement to reignite the spirit of giving across the country and support causes in the communities in which we live, work and play. On Tuesday, May 6th 2014, join us in celebrating 100 years of local philanthropy thorough the work of community foundations.

You can search for your local or favorite community on their website and help keep good missions going strong. I encourage you to find your community, mark the date on your calendar, share the information and inspire your friends, families and co-workers and give.

Use this time to share the inspiration behind your charitable giving. My former co-worker Elissa Plastino and I shared some of our inspirations a couple of years ago on this blog. I invite you to revisit these posts and get inspired.

Blogging For a Cause: American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life

For Sarah: Connecting Women to Success

The Inspiration of a Lifetime

HavenHouse – Providing The Comfort of Home When It’s Needed Most

Local Teen Makes a Difference with St. Louis Food Rescue

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.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,383 other followers

%d bloggers like this: