A look back at concepts that may deserve another try

In my opinion, a good marketer is always trying new things. Certainly those “new tries” need to be woven into a solid strategic marketing plan and hopefully are based on feedback from customers. But the best marketers and best marketed casinos just seem to continuously pump out new and innovative concepts that help their business. Just look at Barona Valley Resort and Casino in Southern California.

But it also means that these “gurus” are constantly coming up with good ideas that never really make it.

I guess it is the nature of innovation – many failures go into the few real successes. But that’s OK, if the successes are big enough and you learn from (and don’t repeat) the failures.

That got me to thinking about some of those failures, the good tries, the good ideas that never really made it in our industry. I will share those with you now, in the belief that these notions have value and may just be a tweak or two away from being a “home run.”

Environmental Entertainers –These are the entertainers that “work” the casino floor or pop up in various areas of the casino resort. Their aim is to surprise, delight and entertain. You may see a few of their genre now and then (strolling mariachi bands on Cinco de Mayo, magicians in casino restaurants, etc.), but efforts to integrate “entertainment” into casino entertainment have pretty much been reduced to “official” lounges and showrooms. Too bad.

Bobble Heads – The Trump Casinos have done effective promotions with Donald Trump (limited-edition) bobble heads, and I seem to remember Hooters Casino in Las Vegas doing a grand opening bobble head giveaway. But other than that, nary a bobbler in sight. I still think bobble heads of customers, employees or local celebrities would have strong marketing appeal.

Chair Massages – Some innovative marketers have dabbled in “kneading tired gamblers’ muscles” (there is even a company that provides this service in Florida poker rooms), but for the most part the concept remains a casino curiosity. But wouldn’t refreshed muscles lead to more casino play?

Service “Teams” for Slot Areas – A few casinos have experimented with providing slot, maintenance, housekeeping and beverage (even food) service to customers in slot sections through integrated service teams having a team supervisor, rather than through multiple casino departments with multiple supervisors. This concept sounds so good and so common sensical (“we all serve the guest together”) that I wonder where it falls apart. Because it has never caught on.

“What Can I Do For You?” – One enterprising casino executive team had its senior executives spend dedicated time on the casino floor, introducing themselves to gamblers in action and asking if there was anything they could do RIGHT THEN to improve the guest’s experience. Sounds pretty powerful, but most players said, “No thanks,” “Let me win,” or “Get me a drink.”

Booster Playing Cards – One enterprising promotion company patented the concept of having coupon offers on the face of casino playing cards. I guess the idea was to sell the cards to customers and give them 52 reasons to come back to visit the casino with offers that hit their hot buttons. Or 52 reasons to visit local participating merchant partners. Or…

The Manager on Duty –This is the notion where each member of the senior executive team spends a dedicated period (typically a weekend a month or two) on the casino floor with customers and employees as sort of a “senior facilities manager on duty.” This is a brilliant idea (executives on the floor) and I see the concept at a few casinos, but it seems to degenerate into a “chore” where the honchos eventually end up spending their shift behind closed office doors. Again, too bad.

Retail Kiosks in Gaming Areas – I’m not referring to “regular retail” here, but the notion that in a table game pit, for example, customers could buy cards, dice, chips, even dealer shirts and aprons. Sounds like a revenue stream to me, but it’s never really caught on.

“Premium Wine By the Glass” Dispensers – These automated dispensers exist, and a few casinos have stuck them in their resort areas, thinking customers might go for a glass of really good wine, that is usually only available by the bottle. So far, no luck with this good idea.

GM Hotlines – In this notion, phones are spread throughout the property, inviting guests to call the GM (or some other senior manager) if they have any issues that need fixing. For some reason, the phones go unutilized and end up ringing to a switchboard operator instead of the GM’s office.

Yes, there are countless good ideas that have never really made it in our industry. That doesn’t mean you should stop searching for them or revisiting those that had a “faint whiff of success.” And I still like the “Manager on Duty” concept.