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.

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Advertising on the Biggest Entertainment Stage

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.

2015 Trends in Casino Marketing

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

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

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?