Like most of you, I travel through one too many airports. At some point they start to feel like the same place.
Nothing really stands out, but a few months ago I noticed one of Southwest Airlines’ new marketing communications materials. The headline read, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” The brand refresh had been the first for Southwest in 14 years. The goal was to remind customers and employees alike that people are at the heart of everything the airline does. Good stuff. I think it really speaks to the Southwest brand and how big a role their employees play in delivering the experience they’ve promised. I noted the similarities to a casino. Without a brand promise and our employees, it’s just a box of slots and table games. And, as we think about the popular topic of attracting Millennials and new customers in general, you have to ask “is a box of slots enough?”
There has been a lot of writing about the partnership of marketing and IT, but what about the partnership with operations? After all, operations are truly where the brand rubber meets the road. More importantly it is the employees themselves that breathe life into what we, as marketers, create.
As marketers, we must consider marketing to internal customers as well as the external ones. Care for the quality of the work and message should be just as high, if not higher. You could think of BOH as “back of house,” or you could think of it as “begin over here.” All of a sudden, it has much more importance.
How do you ensure consistent brand experiences? Here are some pointers:
Hiring and on-boarding—First and most importantly, make sure your employment brand matches the promise you are giving to customers. Then, hire the right people for the brand. Take the time to make sure recruiters and human resources are in agreement and understanding as to exactly what the brand stands for. That’s a promise to customers and employees, not a just tagline.
Next step is the perfect on-boarding process. Be open and honest with the state of the business and what it will take to get to success. Explain your brand as more than just a logo, but a culture. I once worked at a Las Vegas operator where a couple of people actually quit after the first day, and that was okay because they recognized that they couldn’t live up to the standard. Zappos offers employees a “Pay to Quit” cash payout if they chose to quit during on-boarding. Why? It’s more important to have people on the team who understand the vision and are willing to play a role in reaching the goals set. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at their culture book, I recommend you do. It’s a collage of employee thoughts on what the Zappos culture means. It’s the best articulation of all employees being in sync that I have ever seen. Download it today if you haven’t experienced it. If you wonder how successful Pay to Quit has been, take a look at Amazon. They’ve adopted the same program and are taking it a step further by offering employees the option over multiple years.
The Southwest brand team recognized how important it was to get everything right internally. Before sharing the rebranding materials with agencies and marketing partners, the brand team initiated process flows for internal approvals and hosted webinars and trainings to educate and empower the employees to be successful brand stewards.
Ask employees for their opinion—We survey our customers for everything down to what kind of salad dressing they prefer on the buffet. Our employee needs are just as important. Have you ever asked anyone outside of your staff meetings for ideas for promotions and events or ways to streamline a process? When your next planning time comes around and you’re developing your marketing calendars with the same programs as always, send out a “call for entries.” See what happens when everyone feels free to be creative. I was really impressed with the team at the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Boonville when they opened up their ideation to everyone on the property. Sure, some ideas were never going to be executed, but who is to say a slot tech hasn’t been observant and hasn’t come up with a great idea for a promotion? There were some really creative ideas that felt new and different. As marketers we depend on the good ol’ car and cash drawings. They are the workhorses of our promotions toolkit. However, our dependency on these tried and true performers often keeps us from seeing something new. Sometimes it takes a new point of view to do that.
Understand what it takes to engage each and every employee—I recently visited a property and when I asked what was challenging them the most, they said it was getting employees to know what’s going on. You have to wonder if that question isn’t better off being flipped. How can you get the message out in a way that employees are willing and able to consume and retain? In advertising, you look to understand where people are getting information, but in-house, we often assume the daily operating brief and posters in the back of house are the channels. If you think about how you are consuming information, you’ll probably realize that has changed over time. In fact, it probably changes pretty often. What makes us think our fellow employees are using the same channels?
We call IT when the promotions module isn’t working the way we think it should. We call them when the printers break down. Have you called them to ask for ideas that help with communications and sharing throughout the property? There are a variety of social business software solutions that allow everyone to collaborate and communicate. When you provide employees with an opportunity to consume information on their own terms, they will. Think beyond the poster in the employee dressing room. Most of all, think about providing the tools employees need to deliver the promise being given in your communications materials.
Share—Everyone wants to play a part in the success of your casino. Bring your teams together and encourage empowerment, engagement and improved performance. Share your goals. You don’t have to be the only one watching the numbers. Communicate where you are and where you’re headed. It’ll be nice to have someone else along for the ride.
And have fun… lots of it! Let’s face it; we’re not performing brain surgery. People come to us to have fun. We work in the entertainment industry. Let’s entertain and be entertained.