Marketers are a generous bunch; that was one conclusion you had to come away with from the recently held Gaming Technology Conference panel on digital marketing, which collectively presented a useful template for any casino marketer looking to up his or her digital game.

The panel was composed of Greg Cannon, vice president, content marketing and All Things D, Caesars Entertainment; Holly O’Brien, director of marketing, Cannery Casino & Hotel; Brian Best, vice president of eCommerce/digital marketing, Boyd Gaming Corporation; and Randy Dearborn, vice president of multimedia and guest technology, MGM Resorts International. The speakers offered plenty of insights into social platforms, partnering, personalization, leveraging data, monetization and developing ROI scenarios that can help marketers get buy-in from upstairs. The session also highlighted strategies, tactics, the technologies themselves and the interfaces you might deploy at the property level for guests to experience. Here’s what they had to say:


Cannon said casino marketers shouldn’t have digital teams anymore; your whole team should be digital. “It wasn’t that long ago that multimedia/interactive/digital that served as a sort of internal consultancy,” he said. “There’s a lot more leverage to buy media when all of your team understands digital rather than digital being a throw-in on traditional media buys.”

 The same thing goes for PR; there are a lot of benefits to driving traffic to your own channels; to your websites and blogs. As a community group, there used to be an interesting debate; where does the social team belong? It’s pretty clear today that it doesn’t belong in an HR group, a compliance group or corporate communications. Rather it’s more of a community organization with a marketing/PR focus.

“There will always be a distribution team that will have an eCommerce focus, which understands how to get folks to convert through a website or a mobile site, but I don’t think that having a digital group siloed out is a very modern way of thinking,” said Cannon.

On the platform front, Cannon said your programs should be present on platforms that make the most sense to you. “I see a lot of folks ask ‘where do I get started; it’s so overwhelming’ or ‘I’m not active on Pinterest, I haven’t signed up for Instagram yet.’  The fact is that not everything makes sense for everybody and by trying to be active everywhere you can really lose credibility.”

 The bottom line for Cannon is if you don’t have fresh content and you’re not posting often, you probably shouldn’t be active on Pinterest. If you’re not ready to engage what customers are going to share about your brand or your product, you probably shouldn’t be so active on Instagram.

“There are a lot of different platforms for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “You want to focus on what your customers do, how they shop and what other brands they interact with; that should give you a good sense of where you might want to start. Obviously Facebook and Twitter are big.”

Your mindset might also need changing. To be successful, recognize that you are no longer talking at people, you are talking with them.

“This is the single most valuable point I have been able to make with the executives at Caesars,” said Cannon. “They understand the value of real-time data, engagement and analytics. Meaning, you put out a television ad or print piece, it’s giving a message or something that you want to communicate, but on these social channels, it’s live feedback. You make a statement and you can get a response instantly. Or if a customer makes a statement; other customers can jump onto that quickly. It can quickly snowball into something that can go in the other direction if you’re not engaged in the conversation. Understand that when you speak now, even if it is on a billboard, you can quickly get a response through digital channels and you need to be ready to react.”

Authenticity and credibility are some of the key words that float around digital. There’s a lot of noise out there; if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything. “There’s no reason to be on a channel just because the channel exists,” Cannon said.  “Don’t talk 100 percent about yourself.”

Partnering can be a great way to make an impact. “The best way to earn credibility in a particular category is to piggyback off of someone else. If you’re a property and you’re trying to get well known in Twitter; leverage one of the partners that you have in the property. If you work with Pepsi, Pepsi is so active in that space, do a promotion with them and leverage it.”"


At Cannery, the digital marketing goal is to engage with customers and non-customers however, wherever and whenever they want. “Non-customers are out there, too,” said O’Brien. “Delivering a brand-enhancing experience across gaming lines matching entertainment, dining, movies; we all have many amenities, let’s not forget them. Offer convenience; that’s absolutely why people are coming to us through digital media.”

For Cannery, the menu includes mobile, social online, e-mail, onsite systems and a combination thereof: kiosks and the player system; their CanPerks text messaging program; a webPASS play-for-fun app designed to drive visitation to the property; a mobile sports app; e-mail promotions to drive visitation; and dynamic date ranges for data pulls.

“We’re all so used to that 30-90 day period,” said O’Brien. “But you can look back much shorter for very targeted and specific reasons for your VIP events.”

By deepening existing relationships and forming new relationships through very good search engine optimization (SEO) and display advertising, Cannery is able to build and grow its data repository, helping the casino move faster, save money and make money.

Partners can help leverage all the data. “LMS, OpenTable; I’ve got a whole list of people who have booked dinner reservations and I can target them and market to them,” said O’Brien. “Ticketmaster is also a great partner.  Our mobile sports app gives us another portal to cross-market through. People who are thinking of betting on sports from home are very likely entertainment seekers so we can target them with our Ticketmaster offers. Lastly, we’ve got one of the only theaters in the Las Vegas Valley with reclining seats, beer and wine. That’s another data port for us. All of these things really fit well together.”

In selecting social media partners, O’Brien said it is critical they are metrics-minded, forward thinking and they must be present. “They have to come to your property and live and eat and drink there,” she said. “Do the things that you do and understand your customers. Avoid vanity metrics; we all have followers and fans. But what is the engagement number? How many people are forwarding to friends? That’s where you really get into important numbers.”

Also on the partnership front, Cannery has enjoyed success with Ricochet Rewards (Aristocrat) and Splashdown Countdown (Konami). “These can be deployed very quickly,” said O’Brien. “Sometimes, even if you don’t have the luxury of an e-mail blast a couple of days prior, you can program the floor that day and make live announcements to get people to stay. The metrics speak for themselves; we increase coin-in by up to 33 percent during the hours of one of these promotions.”

Opportunistic text messaging and e-mailing are great ways to help fill up down times. Cannery pushed out an offer of $5 free play on Thanksgiving from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., when the post-dinner funk sets in. “That one ended up doing quite well and it cost us pennies on the dollar,” said O’Brien. Similarly, a targeted e-mail campaign starting December 26, another very slow time, enjoyed a 30 percent redemption rate.

The play-for-fun site, supported by SEO, has 4,500 participants. Over half are in the 0-9 and 10-24 ADT segments which is exactly what Cannery expected, but it is a good gateway for the property. Web credits are redeemable for on-property rewards, such as free slot play, and thus can only be used at the property. Weekly (Friday) on-property drawings for people who participate in webPASS also help drive visitation.

Creating your own buzz can help with Facebook and Twitter. Cannery held a chef’s dinner in the kitchen of one of its restaurants which was actually a contest on Facebook. In order to participate, you had to have a CanClub card. “It was an intimate experience; the winners were back on Facebook and Twitter telling people about what a great experience they had in the kitchen with our chef and sommelier,” said O’Brien.


As inboxes and mailboxes are becoming more filled with e-mail and direct mail; text messaging is becoming more saturated; even Facebook news feeds now require you to pay to get your news feed to customers who actually like you. That’s where personalization and relevant content have become a focus at Boyd Gaming, said Best, whose presentation focused on digital enhancements to Boyd’s BConnected loyalty program.

“As everyone knows, it’s more cost effective to retain a customer than to acquire a new customer,” said Best. “One of the things we wanted to do from a loyalty perspective is retain our customers, especially within the digital space. More personalized offers; more relevant offers—if I’m a table games player, don’t send me slot offers—that’s very, very important.”

The gaming industry has really been founded on direct mail and database marketing. If you’re in local or regional markets, your database marketing opportunities are probably the number one objective that you have.  In the digital age, Boyd has added e-mail, the Web, mobile text messaging and then social media and mobile apps.

“It’s really about the customer and how they want to be communicated to,” said Best. “Getting and acquiring the necessary data is very important, especially with the younger generations. They don’t want to be e-mailed anymore; they want to be communicated via Twitter and text message.”

Boyd personalizes its offers most often by type of customer, worth, and tier level, and the digital side is where much of that activity happens. “The opportunities in print are pretty limited; you can do some personalization with variable print and variable imagery, but the more complex your campaign gets, the more it costs to print,” said Best. “On the digital side, it’s very cost effective to reinforce digital imagery. We’ve been doing direct mail forever and doing offers based on worth. But you need to also do that in e-mail. You can do bar coding directly in e-mail these days. You can do variable images and content so that it is personalized and relevant.”

Personalization has been extended to the BConnected website itself. BConnected Online uses technology to target advertising and displays based on what Boyd knows about the customer. “Every customer’s experience, whether they are low worth or high worth, is customized,” said Best. “Every ad that we put up, we tag. It might be country music, a steakhouse; if our customers have displayed interest in those areas, they will be highlighted on their website. It has been a very popular site for us, both in terms of traffic and revenue generation.”

One of the keys to the site is that it’s a communicator of offers. Boyd has more people using this website than it has e-mail addresses on file; close to two out of three customers use it on a regular basis. The website is also used to capture customer information.

“About 94 percent of our customers willingly tell us what they’re interested in,” said Best. “They want you to market to them for what they’re interested in. We use this as a data capture tool to feed our data warehouse so that we can be better marketers, not just on the digital side, but on the direct mail side as well. If we know someone is a country music fan and we need to fill seats, we can do that using that data.”

BConnected Social rewards customers for using Boyd’s online and social tools. “It is a benefit for us if someone shares our content,” said Best. “That’s free advertising and we want to reward you for that activity. Every time you book a room online that saves us close to $4 a booking. Every time you log in to one of our systems, that’s one less phone call to our customer service agents or to a promotions manager.”


Digital signage and Twitter walls are transforming MGM’s properties in dramatic ways. The company is trying to eliminate as much of its static signage as possible and flip it over to digital. The idea is to give people the information they need when they need it, aiding revenue in the process.

“When the pool is closed no one needs to know where the pool is,” said Dearborn. “In the morning they’re looking for the convention center and Starbucks. We call it live directional signage. If I’ve got tickets available for the show I can start pushing them to the show an hour before with offers.”

When table game displays are down, they run marketing that often generates lots of useful data. “We’ll run RSS and Twitter feeds,” said Dearborn. “I had to wait for WiFi to get caught up so these are hard-wired in on Mac minis. The joke is I’m the second largest Apple store in the city. Everything from a small table game display to the 260-foot display in front of Aria runs on Mac minis. Dynamic menu boards; we have a ton of these everywhere at cafes, etc. Interactive touch screens in front of restaurants capture analytical data. I took a sample of 45 restaurant touch screens at our slowest time of the year [December]. I had 366,000 unique visits; one million patrons during our slowest time; the data that comes back is overwhelming.”

Marketing is claiming visual real estate wherever possible. Drink/wine/dessert menus are often displayed on iPads at the table with room for marketing on the display. MGM has about 1,000 of these out there right now in 35 markets. At New York New York in December, the 14 way finders on the property had almost 23,000 unique visits. “We’re tracking everything,” said Dearborn.

IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) systems are helping make in-room TV commercially useful. “In the room we don’t make money on video-on-demand anymore, so I’m looking at these screens as a marketing device,” said Dearborn. “I can push promotions through the start-up screens and track every single button that people push in my Room—menu items and what they’re watching. If I know that people are watching Jersey Shore and that Snooki and Pauly D are going to be in one of my rooms there’s the tie-in.”

Fun and buzz are part of the equation as well. MGM’s giant CRT video wall in the lobby has been replaced with a Twitter feed. The idea was to divert attention so that people wouldn’t realize they stood in line for 20 minutes waiting to check-in. They also run promotions on the wall to get social engagement.

“We’ll ask who they think will win the fight if there’s a big match on-site,” said Dearborn. “There are two things that happen that I never anticipated. I only built this as a shiny object, but the amount of traffic I’ve gotten off of this is insane. For a fight we will do live voting. We scrub everything—this is analytical data—we look at the calendar of events and pre-load all these things. We opened a Starbucks at Mandarin at our City Center project; they came to me and I developed it for them. I now have these things everywhere; Instagram walls, Twitter walls. The outlets at the property started using it for instant marketing. A nightclub or restaurant would tweet to the wall, ‘Hey, 2-for-1 drinks,’ or ‘Dinner special tonight.’ They used it as a marketing portal.”

“We said let’s start looking at all of our digital advertising that is going out to these displays,” Dearborn added. “I would leave a dynamic field so those groups could leave a call-to-action at any time of the day. We don’t have to go through the process of building flat files that go back and forth repeatedly. People are free to post whatever their marketing is at any time.”