I said it again yesterday. “This company is so different from when I arrived.”
I came to Isle of Capri Casinos in the Fall of 2006, and although I still laughingly say that I’m passed my sell-by date, I am pretty proud of the brands we’ve built. Before this transition, I would’ve easily told you that my finest work had been in developing the brands at Wynn Las Vegas. Today, I can proudly say that I am equally as proud of the work done on behalf of the family of Isle of Capri Casinos.
Through a lot of vision and hard work, this house of brands has gone from a collection of variations on a Caribbean theme to a collection of experiences our guests can enjoy for a long time. I’m not sure if these are destined to go down in branding history, but they are surely a part of my brand history. Check out all of our brands.
This is Day 3 of National Volunteer Week and the 3rd of the posts Elissa Plastino and I are sharing with you about the causes that are near and dear to us. When I saw the Blogging for a Cause idea, I expected to have some fun and share some of the reasons we try to help others, but what I’ve realized is that it’s been quite a soul-searching experience.
Monday’s post, Relay for Life, took on greater meaning when our good friend passed away. It took me two days before I was brave enough to read Elissa’s words. Yesterday’s post while inspirational, makes me wonder just how long Jill Roberts will be able to share her strength with the world. Today’s post reminds me of how easily things can slip away.
I met a young lady by the name of Sarah Wayson in 2005. She was just out of college and starting a new and exhilarating job at Wynn Las Vegas – at the time THE place to work in Las Vegas. Coupled with the high-profile our jobs had, it could very well be a slippery slope. Over the years that followed Sarah grew to be a very strong, independent and confident woman. She struggled and made it through in a way that surprised even her. Tragically, her life was cut short, and something about that spurred me to find a way to help women who were in some way struggling for that strength and confidence Sarah found.
Connections To Success was that way for me. “Connections” was started by a remarkable woman by the name of Kathy Lambert who first started helping women by helping them find the appropriate interview attire through Dress for Success…to the point of taking the shoes off of her feet to complete one woman’s outfit. She realized, however, that dressing them was not enough and began to develop additional programs: mentoring, skills training, health & wellness and even developed a program for providing cars. Do you know that even though a woman may find a job that helps her break through the struggle that transportation can still be a basic challenge to success?
Connections is dedicated to helping men and women achieve economic independence. The programs are not a temporary fix. They are intended to promote a life change through a holistic approach. Its family of programs is designed to encourage life-long engagement with all participants.
And, Connections is making a difference:
74% job placement rate for participants that have completed the Connections program versus the 40% national average for offenders in the first year of release
The recidivism rate drops to 14% for Connections participants versus the 44% national average in the first year of release
The average wage of participants engaged in the Pathways to Success program is $10.60/hour
Employment retention for Connections participants is currently 71%
Connections program participants earn 86% higher wages within six months of landing employment than those not in the program
58% fewer are on Medicaid
87% fewer live in shelters or other temporary housing
How can you help? Volunteer. Donate work-appropriate clothing. Donate cars. Donate cash. Become a mentor. Gather some family, friends or co-workers and take The Power Walk for Dress for Success this coming May 12.
Our annual marketing meeting took place this last week. It’s been a meeting that has taken places in some interesting locations – Philadelphia…Voorhees, NJ…Tunica, MS. Like I said, “interesting”. Interesting or not, it always gave folks a chance to get away from the business and mix a little fun with the meeting. Imagine everyone’s surprise when we chose to host this year’s meeting at our corporate office!
Our offices are located in a little area just west of downtown St. Louis, a little municipality called Creve Coeur. There is a Drury Inn & Suites located just a short walk from our office, making it the most convenient place to stay. I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. That part of my personality didn’t get any better when I worked for Wynn Resorts. In fact, it probably made me hyper-sensitive to the little things that can make or break my stay at any hotel.
I had the pleasure of staying at this Drury on my first night in St. Louis. There was some “confusion” with my corporate housing and although no one was available to fix the issue over the weekend, the smiling face behind the check in counter at the Drury was. Not only did she welcome me to St. Louis and to the hotel, she welcomed my mother…my dog…and my cat, AND she kindly informed me that my company had direct billing and offered to apply the charges to the account. Unnecessary, but the offer made my stumbling into her hotel that much sweeter.
I always remember that simple “yes” that turned a really bad day into a good one. So, I wasn’t surprised when one of the attendees to our marketing meeting mentioned to me that the front desk clerk at that very same hotel remembered a conversation she had over a year ago during her last stay. Little did that front desk clerk know that attendee was a last-minute substitute to a meeting that she wasn’t at all sure about. She made her feel welcome and comfortable.
Employees hold the brand promise in their hands every moment of the day. These too ladies did just that for Drury. I always wonder what employees are doing with our brand promise. What are your employees doing today to keep your promise?
Last year, I was able to attend a conference on Internal Branding and Employee Engagement. I was quite honored when the organizers asked me speak recently. Then, I became really worried when I saw the list of speakers. They were from some big companies. I mean BIG. Big name. Big brand value. The company I work for is not BIG. We’re actually kind of medium-sized. I like to say we’re “small but mighty”. Nonetheless, I was still concerned that what I had to present wouldn’t be as powerful as what McDonald’s could say…or what HP might present. AIG would surely have a great story about keeping employees engaged in turbulent times.
Then I remembered something. We’re in the entertainment business! So, I put together a presentation I thought would entertain and engage – illustrating how one of our smallest properties set in a pretty competitive market could take a focused look at what they wanted to deliver from a brand perspective and do it with the energy of an engaged workforce and without the need of huge budgets.
I would also be remiss in not crediting the beautiful Wynn Las Vegas work done by Slover and Co. It always brings me so much pride.
I recently participated in a panel at G2E. For those of you not in the casino industry, G2E is a huge collection of vendors, sessions and socializing.
The panel was “Social Media 101 for Casino Operators”. I shared that panel with Stacy Hamilton of SK+G and Greg Cannon of the Palms Casino. It was great fun, and we were able to share insights from the agency side, from the destination market side as well as the small regional gaming side. I hope we encouraged everyone in the room to give this world of social media a try.
As I prepared for the conference, I couldn’t help thinking about the person who got me into this crazy business. Her name is Nancy Trosclair Collier. I met her when I was doing non-profit work. She was a high-energy volunteer. She was something called a “host” at a Mississippi casino. We eventually became friends working on a few events for the New Orleans chapter of the March of Dimes.
One rainy and cold Mardi Gras day she called me with the offer of a job at a new casino wrapping up construction in New Orleans. Something about the timing made me say, “Why not?” Less than a week later, I had my first casino job as a group sales coordinator. Ten weeks later, the casino closed in bankruptcy! Yep! Ten weeks.
But when everyone ran from any future casino career, I ran TO one. It’s then that I realized this business isn’t meant for everyone. You have to love it. It kind of runs in your veins. I’ve worked in riverboats, land-based, corporate and the little boutique we like to call Wynn Las Vegas. The energy is the same even if it pulses to a different rhythm.
I hope you love what you do, too.
I heard something today that made me realize how valuable music can be to your advertising. Music is a time machine.
Working with a few different brands, I’ve had a chance to go the licensed music route and the original composition route. I think licensed music wins every time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve liked all of the original compositions I’ve been lucky to work with to some degree. When we opened Harrah’s New Orleans Casino, our jingle was in tune with the property and the locale. I can still hear it today. It got everyone excited about this thrilling new experience, but it didn’t bring back any deep memories. Of course, it wasn’t meant to.
Orchestral music at Wynn Las Vegas. Calypso music at the start of my tenure at Isle of Capri. As we fine-tuned our brands at Isle, we decided to go with two licensed tunes. We tested them and tested them until we found the right music that made people hum along as their toes tapped under the table.
When you recognize a tune, you’re almost transported to the exact point in time when that tune resonated with you. It’s amazing. Isn’t it? That summertime ride with the car top down and the sun on your skin. That slow dance with your date. A first kiss. It’s a warm feeling, and when a product uses it in its commercials, you remember those feelings with a slight smile.
Used well, music can forge a deep connection with your customer and your product.
What products are using some of your favorite tunes?