2015 Trends in Casino Marketing

This originally appeared as a LinkedIn post.

source: pixabay.com
source: pixabay.com

From increased competition coming from new jurisdictions and doing more with less resources, casino marketers will continue to face challenges to continue beating year over year revenues and experience growth. There’s a definite shift in the industry as we’ve moved from buzzwords to reality. It used to be that you could count on a car and cash giveaway to give you the pop you needed at the end of the month. The marketing recipe was pretty straight forward: direct mail, advertising, promotions and events. Mix together and wait for it to bake. Additional channels of communication that are now controlled by the customer have become more important. In addition, the competition for the entertainment dollar has become even tougher. Direct mail continues to be a prominent driver, but as more marketers are starting to understand the profitability of those programs, it seems we need to look to the horizon to see what’s coming towards us: real guest satisfaction, real-time rewards and real conversations. How will these concepts manifest themselves, and what new forces will shape marketing this year? I spoke to some of the brightest minds in casino marketing and they shared their thoughts on the biggest changes they see.

THE NEW GENERATION(S)

Mario Maesano is senior vice president of marketing at the hugely successful Maryland Live! Casino and is looking to the future to adapt his marketing programs.

One of the biggest transitions we are seeing at Maryland Live! Casino is the movement of the Generation X player into the prime earning demographic sweet spot for regional casino markets.  The gaming experience they demand differs greatly from the Boomer Generation that preceded it.  These customers are seeking a more sophisticated gaming product that has more decision points and bonus options. We are seeing a need to enhance our promotional and event experience to truly exceed their expectations each and every visit. In addition, it’s become increasingly important to truly differentiate our brand from our competition in order to provide a unique entertainment experience.

BIG DATA – NOT JUST THE LATEST BUZZ Words

Stacy Spahle is vice president of marketing and PR for Chateau 20. She has built a career on creating brands and experiences. You might be surprised to know she’s really focused on data these days and believes that integration of this knowledge into an integrated marketing strategy is the key to success.

He who has the most data wins! — But only if he can use it. While the subject of “Big Data” has been thrown around the casino resorts for years, nobody has been able to fully realize the potential by making it seamless across all customer touchpoints and accessible to the marketing team. A few of the large casino players are on the verge. The company that implements Big Data with a fully integrated marketing strategy will truly revolutionize how casinos are marketed.

One of the more experienced casino marketers I know is now at the helm of a native operation and is in complete agreement that data is a big part of future success.

The biggest challenge I see if the amount of data we will have to cull through to make educated decisions about current and future marketing programs.  As we all know, data is power, but having too much information can stifle creativity and progress.  On the flip side, those operators that struggle with getting valid data on a timely basis will struggle as well, because as we all know a bad decision can cost millions of dollars and have a negative ripple effect for many years to come.

 DIFFERENTIATION AND EXPERIENCE

Rush Street Gaming CMO Suzanne Trout agrees that differentiation and experience will be keys to success.

With increasingly crowded markets for both gaming and entertainment dollars, a serious challenge is to be distinctive from your competitive set and in the customer experience.  This is a tough challenge in the best of markets. Elements that may bring your brand to life are often the most at risk during competitive times with cost containment.  Properties who keep the customer experience top of mind in all decisions – capital, operating and marketing – will fare best. 

MULTI-CHANNEL CONVERSATIONS

Jan Talamo is lead creative strategist for the Media & Marketing Group. He has worked on behalf of over 100 gaming properties around the world including some of the most iconic brands in gaming. He has always said that marketing needs to be channel agnostic because you need to be where your customers are having their conversations. In order to do that, you have to think multi-channel.

How we measure and monetize brand engagement via a multi-channel strategy. We are now, and will more aggressively in the future, have meaningful and measurable conversation with customers. Conversation will be REAL CURRENCY five years from now.  While mail certainly is the Holy Grail today…you will see more and more migration from the printed core and supplementals to something that will mirror what other major brands are doing. While we can’t not send the monthly mail…we can certainly encourage migration. We are 10 years away from forgetting the mailbox by the curb. Regardless what some companies are telling you.

MARKETING on the go

James Poole has built a career in the European markets and has seen a transition across the pond of the need for customers to take their rewards and status with them on the go and agrees with Jan Talamo that direct mail, as we know it today, is on the way out. As director of gaming products at Joingo his view of the future is, in one word, mobile.

Convergence and a move away from direct mail.  With the major operators having a significant investments and success with mobile and online, in both the real money and casual I can see more and more integration between these areas. Players will take progress, customization and reward status with them. This will allow for a cohesive marketing strategy using apps and mobile messaging rather than direct mail. 

One CMO in the Northeast believes “the biggest change over the next five years will be an increase in personalization and immediacy of marketing.  This will be enabled by real time communication methods as well as improvements in gaming technology that allows for better in-session knowledge of a gamer’s play.  I think you’ll see less direct marketing as trip incentive and more to prolong the visit during the visit.”

Jim Gentleman is senior vice president of account management and strategy at SK+G and has been advisor to a number of casino brands. He sees the challenge for all marketers, not just casino marketers.

The biggest challenge for casino marketers – and quite honestly all marketers in general – is figuring out how to market in a mobile-first, digitally-dominant world in a personalized, yet non-intrusive way. Considering most consumers, and millennials especially, try to avoid advertising, marketers need to create content that is equal parts entertaining, informative and authentic.

Joingo CEO Steve Boyle is admittedly biased but, he too, believes the horizon is as close as the palm of your hand.

Mobile Engagement.  Yes, we are in the Mobile biz which makes us a bit biased.  This said, there is nothing else on the horizon that will have the impact of the smartphone and associated BYOD (bring your own device) tectonic shift.  Marketeers want more and more data.  Mobile creates a continuous, rich, and possibly unmanageable stream of new and real-time information that marketeers only dream about today.  It also provides the mechanism to act on “data” in real time.  This is both an exciting and scarey proposition for most casino marketeers.  Specifically those who feel they have perfected the art of direct mail.

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

There are many that have always espoused that what we do has to be with the guest in mind. These trends strengthen that position and make it even truer today than ever. More importantly these trends give us direction for the future.

John Acres, founder of many of the most influential advances in casino gaming and CEO of Acres 4.0 believes the future is the customer.

Reinvention of the player experience. Loyalty points based solely upon spend and snail-mailed offers of free play and discounts are insufficient. Costs must be controlled and marketing must create new players.

This requires a deeply personal offer to each and every player based upon potential worth, psychographic and demographic profiles and comparative alternatives. Customer communication must channel through text, email and school media, as well as traditional mailing channels.

Above all, the emotional experience of gambling must be emphasized. It’s not enough to describe jackpots that can be won. Most players know they won’t win them most of the time. The opportunity is to help players feel important, respected and valued. New achievements must be defined—be the first to win 5 $100 jackpots in a month—and celebrations must be more numerous.

Service must improve and the player tracking interface now limited to gaming machines, kiosks and club booths must extend to the player’s phone and social environments

I consider myself very lucky to have gotten a look into the future from some of the brightest minds I know, but I know more and more marketers are thinking along these lines and already making changes. I’d love to hear from you.

These very generous marketing folks have also given me some insights to how to keep your brand as engaging as possible. I’ll share those thoughts with you in the coming weeks.

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2015 Trends in Casino Marketing