MARKETING: Promoting LOYALTY
With the number of casinos growing nationwide, the competition to maintain and grow player club membership has become even fiercer. To gain an edge, some players clubs are turning to companies to provide unique products and promotions to keep their offerings fresh and appropriate to the type of customer they want to attract.
Current reward approaches range from the creation of player tracking-generated loyalty points which can be accumulated by slot club members and exchanged for premiums to staging million dollar contests with players selected randomly to participate.
The major trend in generating player loyalty is the earned premiums programs. But not just any type of premium.
“Players want premiums that are really premium, especially brand name products,” said Paul Gordon, vice president of gaming and reseller sales at Rymax Marketing Services, Pine Brook, N.J.
Rymax Player Loyalty programs, which can be offered separate from events to drive regular traffic through the slot floor, offer brand name rewards over a broad price range. These include Paula Deen cookware, Tissot watches, BlackBerry tablet computers, Miele major appliances, Judith Lieber handbags, Mikasa dinnerware and Swarovski crystal. Factory-direct pricing gives players a higher perceived reward value and casinos a lower cost, Gordon explained.
Rewards can be targeted at specific customer demographics with better rewards packages available for more valuable customers (those 2 percent to 3 percent of customers that generate the lion’s share of revenues). Customers can earn points toward rewards, which they can claim on casino premises from on-site display cases or from a view-only player Web site. Reward products claimed from either way can be shipped directly to the customers’ homes.
According to Gordon, the most selected products offered under its program are upscale vacuum cleaners (Dyson, Hoover, etc.), but all type of consumer electronics are popular. In recent years, toys have become popular selections, especially among older players who cannot resist getting that super-size Lego set for their grandchildren.
Rymax also can create custom loyalty events for casinos, including fulfilling promotional product giveaways, hosting slot and table game tournaments, and preparing visual merchandising for on-site retail displays. Services include planning, coordinating and overseeing every facet of the promotion concluding with gift selections and shopping sprees.
PRODUCT POWERLike Rymax, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based Pacific West Marketing creates casino loyalty rewards programs built around premiums. The company leans toward unique and innovative products, a majority of which are made in the United States.
“Native American casinos are especially adamant about offering American-made goods,” noted Ed Shriber, president of Pacific West. “The type of products a casino offers through its loyalty and promotional programs reflects on the casino’s reputation. Offer ordinary stuff or cheap junk and customers get a bad impression of the entire operation.”
In its effort to offer different premiums, Pacific West includes in its catalog electronic cigarettes and cigars (especially welcome in markets where indoor smoking is banned), license plate holders made of Swarovski crystal, custom recipe spice rubs and handmade stainless steel fishing lures from a small company based in Montana.
Pacific West also offers special loyalty gifts for a casino’s most valued players. In February, the firm sent a tailor to one casino to measure all high rollers for new suits.
All Star Marketing, Sturbridge, Mass., likewise stresses name brand mostly upscale products as premiums, but prefers to redeem players’ loyalty points through an online Web site.
“Stocking products on casino grounds is so old school,” said Gary Galonek, principal and national sales manager for gaming at All Star. “A good loyalty program lets the player redeem his points anywhere without having to make a return trip to the casino. It is more convenient and convenience generates loyalty.”
All Star offers a broad selection of upscale products to casino loyalty programs. These include Sony and Sharp consumer electronics, Kurik coffeemakers, Nikon cameras, Caravelle and Bulova watches, Waterford crystal, Bushnell telescopes, outdoor carport tents and even steak and lobster dinners.
The online component of the All Star system has been a big winner for the Hustler Casino L.A., Gardena, Calif. Since adding the system to its loyalty rewards program on January 1, the casino has seen the online premiums become the most popular part of the program, said Al Underwood, Hustler Casino’s advertising and marketing manager. The casino felt customer anticipation the minute it announced the system addition in early December and had hundreds of redemptions of Hustler Bucks loyalty points on the first day.
Success Promotions, Chesterfield, Mo., offers a broad array of branded merchandise to casinos for loyalty programs, but finds the best promotions are those keyed to events. For instance, for one Missouri casino Success Promotions customized an event around the St. Louis Cardinals’ home opener and secured for premiums a selection of Cardinals’ licensed merchandise. At another casino, to tie in with new slot machines built around show business properties, the company secured bobble head dolls of The Three Stooges and the Beverly Hillbillies.
Other promotions offered by Success include Stepper Programs.
“We offer multiple premiums for players who achieve a certain amount of loyalty points during specific periods,” said Chad Everett, owner of Success Promotions. “For instance, one program at its lowest point level provided a weed string trimmer. But if the player accumulated more points, he could get a self-propelled lawnmower at the second level, a lawn tractor at the third level, and year’s lawn service at the highest level.”
Success regularly polls players at their customer casinos for new premium gift ideas to add to its inventory. Patron reward desires are cyclical and, depending on current economic conditions, tend to gravitate toward either receiving brand name products or cash (and/or free playing minutes), Everett said.
Over the past four years, Chicago-based PromoGroup has delivered successful promotions to tribal gaming properties in over 20 states and to a host of commercial operators including Harrah’s Entertainment, Penn Gaming, Sands, Pinnacle Entertainment and Treasure Island.
Within casino circles, PromoGroup is likely best-known for the holiday Turkey Gift Coupon program it created and ran for client Butterball LLC. PromoGroup, seeking to take advantage of their expertise with gift certificates/coupons and deliver a line of products that would drive business throughout the year, announced the March 1 launch of a new line of products under the brand PromoGroupRewards.
“PromoGroupRewards offer casino clients flexibility and cost control,” said Brian Stapleton, vice president of sales for PromoGroup. “We understand the space and have created products that are user friendly and a proven reward driver for casino players and casino employees.”
PromoGroupRewards highlight seasonal promotions. The full line covers holidays, special occasions and all four seasons according to Rusty Gorman, PromoGroup’s vice president of strategic partnerships. “We have floral, chocolate and candy offerings for Mother’s Day, we have a traditional ham promotion for Easter, we have rewards for Father’s Day, some great ideas for spring and summer, we really have something for every season,” he said. “And if we don’t have it, we’ll create it.”
For operators who prefer to offer loyal customers gift cards in lieu of a Web address, there is Lisle, Ill.-based Royal Performance Group, the originators of RPG Gift Card Program, a one-stop source for gift card creation and management for commercial organizations. RPG’s stored value and prepaid card solutions can maximize new customer generation and retention, new and incremental sales generation and operator profitability, according to company literature. Companies such as Sears, Macy’s and Visa have relied on RPG products to easily and adequately reward loyal customers.
GAME CHANGERSTo add excitement and mystery to the winning of cash, Fun Industries Inc., East Moline, Ill., offers a selection of Cash Cube cyclonic money booths. With Cash Cube products, casinos can put winnings on an all-you-can-grab basis that is fun for both the winners and those who watch, said Mike Talbot, operations manager at Fun Industries.
The original Cash Cube is a glass-sided booth that can be easily rolled onto or near the slot floor and set up in minutes. The winner steps inside the booth where an industrial-strength blower creates a fast cyclonic motion that swirls banknotes past him. He gets to keep all he can grab during the allotted time, which is set by a timer.
In recent years, Fun Industries has introduced upgraded versions of these “money machines.” Smart Start Technology was incorporated in the Deluxe Traveler Cash Cube cyclonic money machine in which the contestant’s hands are controlled by pressing a set of start buttons until he gets the green light to start as indicated by vertical displays mounted on the front wall. The machine also gives the operator more control over what the contestant is able to grab of the fast-moving bucks and to minimize cheating, said Bud Johnston, president.
The MegaCube, unveiled last October at G2E, is an upscale machine with a 6-foot Octagon 360-degree design. It features a new Player Pod that isolates players from the cash until it’s time to play.
Big money and big prize promotions can attract more traffic to a casino and its slots floor. But staging such promotions carries some risks. These risks can be mitigated by contracting Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which offers a number of ready-to-play games or can develop a customized promotion based on ideas presented by the casino.
“Either way, we’ll give you a no-risk, fixed-fee contest because we pick up the tab in full when there’s a winner,” explained Linda Gordon, director of marketing at SCA.
Having worked with more 350 properties worldwide, SCA has staged more than 3,000 gaming promotions and paying out more than $100 million in cash in prizes.
“Our specialties can be broken down into two different areas: promotional gaming programs and cash gaming programs,” she said.
When a casino is ready to stage a $1 million or more promotion, SCA can work with it to develop it around a theme desired by the casino. Or casinos choose from a variety of our turnkey promotions, such as the Million Dollar Deal, MegaSlot, Spin a Million and many others, including its latest launch Derby Dash For Cash. These game show-style promotions are ready to plug into a casino marketing program, drive excitement and help marketing teams meet their objectives. Casinos can also provide their own masters of ceremony.
And should a lucky winner emerge from these contests, SCA pays the “life-changing” prize while the casino reaps the benefit of the publicity and buzz. SCA is able to do that by insuring the possibility that a mega-jackpot will be won, Gordon said.