Keeping Your Brand as Engaging As Possible

engagement_hand holdingDeveloping and breathing life into a brand requires passion. Keeping that brand alive requires love. Much like two people promise to love each other for a lifetime, you hope customers and guests will do the same with your brand.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts with some fellow casino industry folks about the trends in casino gaming and how marketing must adapt to compete. Today, I’m sharing the rest of the exchange with is about keeping your brand presence as engaging as possible. Much of what we see in the future of casino marketing revolves around capturing the seemingly elusive millennial and incorporating the technology to engage with customers on a real-time basis. Technology is changing. Our target demo and the composition of our database is evolving, but the principles of good brand marketing seem to stay true.

Understand Who And What You Are

Maryland Live! Casino’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Mario Measano advises,

“Know your brand and know your brand promise. (The) Key is knowing what it is not. Focus on incorporating your brand promise in every aspect of your business and guest experience.  More importantly, have the courage to say no to anything that does not meet that brand promise regardless of financial impact.”

Jim Gentleman is senior vice president of account management and strategy at SK+G and has been advisor to a number of casino brands.

“Stand for something, stake a position and relish not being for everybody. Too many casinos today take the safe ‘we have something for everybody approach.’ That’s not what people want. They want experiences that are distinct and unexpected. With the proliferation of casinos throughout the U.S. over the past 15 years, gaming is a commodity. Build, develop and promote something unlike anything you can find next door. Casino resort brands that have done this – Borgata, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and Bellagio for example – develop consumer preference and true brand loyalty that leads to long-term business success.”

Talk To Your Customers

I know the rush of creating something new that you think is the best thing ever to come to marketing, but through the years, my biggest lessons have been taught by customers. You need to touch customers to understand what they see in your brand and what might keep them playing longer or visiting more often. Talk to your customers and find out how they think about your brand.  Then decide how to message your brand to appeal to those thoughts. Make it simple, memorable and sustainable.

Stay In Your Lane

Stacy Spahle is vice president of marketing and PR for Chateau 20. She has built a career on creating brands and experiences. Her advice?

 “Resist the pressure to constantly reinvent the brand. Revisit the basics — review your brand positioning and make sure it is realistic, unique and defendable and test that it resonates with your target customers. Then make sure every aspect of your communication, advertising, and especially customer experience reinforce it. With turnover in management, competition and constant pressure to be fresh and creative, we as marketers are often diverted from the discipline it takes to continually reinforce the brand. The strongest brands have managed to stay the course and ensure their messaging and actions always reinforce their core principles.”

From Back of House to the Front Door, Be Consistent

Suzanne Trout, CMO of Rush Street Gaming says integration with all departments and all team members is the secret sauce to real brand engagement. “It’s not a marketing program but a property lifestyle that makes it real.”

Kim Ginn is Vice President of Marketing for L’Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge. She agrees and advises that in order to make your brand presence as engaging as possible you must do 2 items well and consistently:

  • Your brand must be consistent in every aspect and every channel. Some think of their brand as only advertising, but I believe the brand permeates everything we do from how our property looks, feel, smells (affects all the senses) to the team members attitudes and uniforms, to the giveaways we have and the special events we throw as well as our advertising.

  • As far as advertising, I feel it is important to have a cohesive look and message, look and feel in all channels as well as touch and use ALL channels. One cannot ignore traditional media and just use web and social or vice versa. They must all work together and they must all have messages that are appropriate for that medium.

Go All In

Jan Talamo is head 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. So before you start developing your message make sure you

Adhere to the principles of a fully integrated multi-channel marketing approach. The pathway to purchase has changed dramatically. And 5 years from now…will have changed even more. Plan for tomorrow TODAY!”

I was once taught to keep my points to five, but in this case I do have a sixth.

Keep it Simple and Memorable

Needs no explanation.

Keeping Your Brand as Engaging As Possible

Advertising on the Biggest Entertainment Stage

As most marketers have done today, I’ve read many posts and articles about the big game last night: the winners and losers of the “ad bowl”; why Nationwide made such a goof; how Loctite took a gamble and how everyone spent most of the game crying.

This year’s Super Bowl was certainly worth remembering. As NFL fans, we work ourselves up to a frenzy in anticipation of this one game, but all too often, we are disappointed by a lopsided score and a game that doesn’t really feel as competitive as it should be. If you know me, you know I’m a Saints fan. So, the 2010 matchup will always hold the top place in my heart. However, I do have to say that this year’s game was excellent…true entertainment experience from beginning to end. I know I wasn’t alone in that moment when I gasped thinking my cable signal had gone out just at the top of the game nor was I alone in that last gasp when the most unexpected interception of the season happened. Wow!

For the last four years, a fellow marketer, Debbie Laskey has graciously asked me to participate in a post review of the game ads. It’s been great to hear her point of view. Although she asked again this year, she was unfortunately put on the sidelines by a sudden illness. With her on injured reserve, I felt the need to carry the torch for the two of us. In the past we’ve done our take on winners and losers. This year, I think I’m going to go with the “winners of the quarter”.

For me the hands-down winner for first quarter was that epic spot by Chevy. If you want to stand out in a field of excellent marketers, shock and awe are a way to go and boy did they do it. Unfortunately for Esurance, their spot with Lindsay Lohan followed it immediately and was lost in the “What just happened?” discussions that abounded in homes and online. I realize that this spot may not have technically been a “Super Bowl ad”, but it was just too good to keep it out of play. Offsides for jumping off the line early. I’ll take the penalty.

Second quarter obviously went to “Lost Puppy” from Budweiser.  Successful sequels are few and far between. It’s like lightning striking twice on the same spot. No offense, but do we really think Furious 7 is going to match the essence and unexpected success of the original. We all remember the VW Star Wars kid like it we just saw that ad yesterday. The sequel was…an approach. The animal love factor just didn’t work until Budweiser thought to take a turn at it. We fell in love with that little puppy last year as if we could smell that sweet puppy smell right through the television. When Budweiser announced they would follow up with a sequel, I thought, “Oh please, be good.” It was.

Liam Neeson is a gamer? Who knew? Third quarter goes to Supercell’s Clash of Clans spot “Revenge”. In the years that I’ve worked on this annual review, I’ve stayed away from game ads. The very business they’re in is dependent on an attention grabbing platform. I think they have a bit of an advantage. What I loved about this spot was that I was absolutely surprised. From a consumer point of view you start to realize that maybe gaming isn’t just for darkened basements (no offense to you gamers). This is a 62-year-old action hero. If it’s cool enough for him, maybe it’s cool enough for all of us Boomers.

My fourth quarter winner isn’t as clear. Like video games, I typically don’t include movie promotions. The makers of movie trailers are genius. You take one shot and without knowing if this movie is even good, you drive people by the thousands to buy tickets. Am I going to see Ted2? Ummm….probably not, but what I loved about the spot was the use of Tom Brady. I love a commercial that leverages the program it’s running in. So right…and yet, so wrong.

My other leader is Mophie – a brand with a niche audience, and yet it signed God as the spokesperson. Hey, if that’s your spokesperson, the Super Bowl seems like the proper stage. I also liked the storytelling aspect of the spot.

My original goal was to pick four and only four advertisers to spotlight, but as a marketer, I feel I need to give some voice to some additional brands. Halftime: mad props to The Voice. I’ve only ever seen one episode of The Voice, but might just try becoming a regular viewer now. A Thunderdome-style battle of the voices? I can watch that. Honorable mention goes to BMW. How many of you emailed that info email address to unlock an entry to win a new i3? McDonald’s just slammed Twitter with retweets. Who expected them to do so many giveaways?

Special mention must go to Loctite. What a gamble! I don’t love the spot. Heck, I don’t even like the spot, but I have to admire the guts it took to spend that kind of budget on a one-time roll of the dice. As a marketer, I feel the need to go out and buy some glue. I think you should too.

Advertising on the Biggest Entertainment Stage

Quantifying Casino Advertising Spend

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

—John Wanamaker

This post originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.

As advertisers you’ve likely seen this famous quote more times than you can count, and as such, it probably makes you cringe. It should, because like all marketing efforts, if you don’t know what you’re measuring, you can never defend the use of resources. Yet, as more and more channels of communication become digital and measurable, the pressure is on to determine how effective your advertising spend is.

Historically, we have relied on our media buyers to guide us in ratings, frequency, reach and GRPs. These are all great measurements of efficiency, but what good is an efficient buy if it’s not effective? In today’s challenging gaming markets, it’s more important than ever to use all your resources to positively impact your business goals: revenue, visits, new card sign-ups, etc.

If you asked your general manager to rank all of the marketing activities from best to worst, database marketing would probably be at the top and advertising at the bottom for no reason other than a profitability report (PR). Database marketing has historically been the beneficiary of great PR. Whether PR stands for public relations or profitability report, the result is the same. We can crank out profitability reports at the speed of a button push. If your general manager decided to cut advertising (and trust me when I tell you this happens more times than you would think), how would you defend it? Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re never in this situation:

Use data to drive media buy.

No matter what size operator you are, no one can deny that the casino industry has a great deal of aptitude when it comes to database marketing. A customer puts their card into the slot machine, and we get an almost instant personalized view into their behavior. We know what they like to play, for how long and at what pace. All of this data gives us the ability to try a variety of means to get guests to stay a little longer and maybe even visit a couple of more times. With each passing mailer, we get smarter and smarter until we know exactly what we need to do to get someone in the door and how much we need to invest in that visit to remain profitable. Talk to any casino marketer and they’ll tell you something very similar to this.

And while database marketing and reinvestment accounts for the largest portion of our marketing budget, there is often still a portion allocated to the magic of advertising…and magic it is because up until now, we really couldn’t say that advertising was actually working for us. Deep down we knew it did, but there was no data to prove it.

In today’s age of “big data” there doesn’t seem to be a reason for casino marketers (or any marketers) to think that way again. It’s by using the skills we’ve developed in database marketing that we can further refine our knowledge of our customers and use media to tightly target the delivery of messages and content.

Know your audience.

Ever wondered if all of the stories of print coming to an end are true? Ask your customers. Is your budget limited to the point that you can only pick and choose broadcast programming? How do you know where to reach your customers? Ask them.

There are a number of easy to use do-it-yourself survey tools that can help you gather some insights quickly. Casino customers love to tell us any number of things. They will happily share their media habits. You can even segment your survey results dividing up the responses according to whether a guest is high- or low-worth, high- or low-frequency, practically anything you have as a segment. The survey itself can be as detailed as you want, but keep in mind good survey practices so you get as many complete responses as possible. Once you have this information, your media buys can be much more targeted and much more effective.

This graphic originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.
This graphic originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.

Look for pockets of opportunity.

Talking to existing customers is great and fine-tuning your media buy based on your insights is even better, but we know we can’t grow and succeed unless we continuously improve on past performance. New members, new revenue, additional visits are just some ways we can do that. This is another way to look to your database to drive some of your media dollars. If you have identified targeted growth segments or zip codes, your media buyer can help you determine where you might be able to find some quick success. Most media buyers will have access to Nielsen and Scarborough products that can further give you insights into zip codes, media usage and lifestyle.

If you use that data on top of your existing zip code data, you can determine test areas for growth. In addition, digital products such as Google Adwords and various online ad networks can narrowly target segments for messages.

Once you’ve identified these target areas you can easily see a before and after view via your canned database reports.

Make sure to set goals.

These goals can involve measurable results such as new members, visits, revenue or theo. That which doesn’t get measured does not get rewarded. Word of mouth and intent to visit are great outcomes from your advertising, but you can’t deposit that in the bank.

There are also social media apps that can integrate into your CRM to layer social media information on top of casino play and you’ll soon figure out how you can become more profitable with those retail offers.

Partnering with your media buyers and database marketers can make you a highly effective advertiser.

Quantifying Casino Advertising Spend

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.

Casino Branding 101

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!

Where Is The Love?

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.

AdBowl 2014

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?

Teasing the Big Game is No Longer About the Playoffs