MARKETING: The absolute truth
June 1, 2012
In the casino marketing game, it is hard to know an awful lot with absolute certainty.
Yes, on a night your casino gives away a few Mercedes or $100,000 in cash, you know you will be very busy. You know the gaming results will look like a typical New Year’s Eve, assuming you had effective ways to build and then hold the crowd, before and after the giveaway. You certainly know what the promotion will cost you.
But what is usually misunderstood here is if the “big promo” really did you any real long-term good. Did customers come for the big giveaway, but just replace a normal casino visit (when they would have gladly come without your Mercedes generosity), or did they make a special trip because of your whiz-bang drawing? Were some customers actually dis-incentivized by the giveaway because they hate the crowds, the lack of parking, the inability to get on their favorite slot machine, or because, you know, “there’s only one winner and it surely won’t be me?”
And then there’s advertising. Never have so many casinos spent so much in so many different ways with so little understanding of what its true effect is on driving revenue. So what is the ROI on a $250,000 spend on billboards, of a much larger spend on brand advertising, or of increasing expenditures on the new wave of social media tactics? Honest casino marketing executives will admit they are not sure about any of those questions, but operate a lot on faith, on the supposed wisdom of the generation of casino marketers and advertising execs who preceded them.
To further compound this lack of casino marketing certainty, there is what I call the “Dilemma of Commingled Effects.” During the same studied timeframe of your big casino promotion, the slot director might have added 100 new slot machines. There may have been an overlapping double points promo. The hotel exec may have tried to fill rooms with a 50 percent off sale midweek. Then there was a two for one prime rib special in the coffee shop. The weather was great all week (when it snowed during the comparison week). And then there was the road construction. So what really caused (or hindered) the result?
You see, understanding the true impacts of casino marketing endeavors, even with good measurement, testing and analysis, is hard to do with absolute certainty. And that inherent fuzziness in understanding what truly drives real casino marketing results is what usually gets casino marketers hired or fired. Well-meaning, otherwise intelligent casino executives are never really sure what effective casino marketing is, so the opinion of the person who carries the biggest stick usually wins.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some good guiding principles in the casino marketing game, even if absolute truths are hard to come by. Marketing to known customers of known worth is better than marketing to prospects, or worse, to “suspects.” Having great casino food is better marketing than having lousy casino food. And having good customer service is better than having bad or none at all.
These “principles” of casino marketing are probably good.But after 37 years in this crazy business, 25 of them with the word “marketing” in my title or in my role, the closest I can come to saying anything with absolute certainty about what really matters in casino marketing is the following:
• Have a casino brand that stands out in a crowd,
• Have great customer service,
• Do intelligent marketing to the right customers,
• Have casino hosts that are professional relationship-building business developers,
• Be easy to do business with,
• Be fun, and
• Turn all employees into marketers and have them be on the same page.
While these pointers may not be the “marketing reinvestment percentages,” or the “best practices,” or the “optimal marketing mix” that you may be looking for, achieve them and you will be a hell of a marketing company.
Of that I am absolutely certain.