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.

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Keeping Your Brand as Engaging As Possible

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