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

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 Data Fact Gap

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

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.

Allow Me To (Re)Introduce Myself And My Blog

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.

 


Let’s Stop Calling Them Loyalty Programs