THE BACK PAGE: As told at the Casino Marketing Conference
Last month’s Casino Marketing Conference in Las Vegas, a two-day affair that was preceded by the inaugural Advertising and New Media Summit, offered a wealth of tips and insights for what is becoming a more marketing-intensive industry daily.
This was the seventh time that we have co-produced this event with Dennis Conrad and his team at Raving Consulting and perhaps the first time that the publishing calendar has allowed me to summarize things while they are still relatively fresh. So here goes:
Social media - There was a lot of talk about opportunity but also a lot about what to do about negative feedback, unsightly posts and damage control. “Negative feedback happens, get it and find out where it is,” said Nicole Barker, president of Barker Enterprises. “Court the thought-leaders on your Facebook page so that when the bad stuff happens you’re not the only ones fighting back.”
She also encouraged operators to establish a code of conduct for social media that gives managers leverage with employees. Operators should create a centralized password repository so they can shut down embarrassing pages. And they should choose their battles wisely. “Wayward comments fizzle out,” Barker said, “but your heavy-handed response will live on.”
Herman Pamminger, corporate head of marketing for Casinos Austria International, sounded a similar note: “Relax. If you have survived bad press you can survive a few hours of bad social media.”
Michael Krupinsky, Internet marketing manager for Barona Valley Resort and Casino in Southern California, shared the following data on his property’s Facebook page and Twitter and YouTube feeds:
Facebook fans are up 447 percent this year to 5,428.
Twitter followers have grown 97 percent to 2,817.
YouTube views are up 164 percent to 58,429.
The key to building traffic is providing value, he said. “It’s not about us. We give exclusive information and special offers.”
As an example of social media in action, he told of a customer who reserved a table on her birthday at the property’s steakhouse with a tweet to Barona’s feed. The property was waiting with a personalized birthday cake that she photographed and tweeted to her 571 followers. “She promoted us. You can’t buy that kind of stuff.”
Which dovetailed nicely with another of Pamminger’s points: “Your head of social media are your fans, followers and subscribers.”
The discussion ended with a video that made the following point among many others: Social media has replaced pornography as the world’s No. 1 Internet activity. Validation of a sort was provided when presenters from Harrah’s asked the casino marketers in attendance how many checked their Facebook pages that morning before they brushed their teeth. Easily one-fourth of the room raised their hands.
Value marketing - This was a primary topic at the main conference, and leading practitioners such as Virginia McDowell, president and chief operating officer of Isle of Capri Casinos; Anthony Curtis, publisher and chief executive officer of Huntington Press; and Randy Fine, managing director of The Fine Point Group, were on hand.
McDowell, who also received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at the conference, said one of Isle’s responses to the reality of the recession was to loosen slots and promote time on device via the company’s ChaChing campaign. In Lula, Miss., the campaign helped move Isle from ninth in the Tunica market to fourth and halted a downward spiral in revenue.
Fine took a somewhat contrarian view, saying that he would rather invest dollars in food and beverage and hotel rooms because that’s tangible value that customers can actually see as opposed to slots, which suffer from “an obfuscation of pricing”.
Curtis countered that loosened slots actually represent real value and that players gravitate toward lower-hold environments. “It’s probability in action.”
Curtis also gave high marks to 5-cent beer night every Tuesday at the Todd English Pub at CityCenter. That’s a nickel for 8-ounce glasses of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Any questions on the brand positioning of Pabst go to YouTube and search “Dennis Hopper Pabst Blue Ribbon” (unless you have an aversion to profanity). Anyway, Curtis noted that his beer tab on a recent visit was $1.25 and he spent $160 on food. He was not unaccompanied. A higher-end version of the same idea can be found at T-Bones Chophouse and Lounge at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, where they have buy-one, get-one deals for steaks on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “It’s all about yield management, and it works,” said Curtis.
“Value is price compared to product,” added Fine. “It is not ‘cheap’.” To demonstrate he cited a prix fixe promotion at Alex, the high-end Wynn Las Vegas restaurant, which translates into $200-per-person dinners for $80 per person.
It all added up to proof that the age of value doesn’t discriminate and that there have been pricier times to eat and drink in Vegas than the present.