The gaming industry lost its best marketer and the world lost a tremendous human being when John Romero passed away on April 30, 2015.
And I lost a great mentor and friend.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve shed my tears, sent my condolences to John’s wife, Robin, and written my own tribute to John. Grief has given way to thoughtful introspection, gratitude for John’s massive contribution to the gaming industry, and the thoughts in this column sharing why I think John Romero was so impactful.
I think John would smile that we may still be learning from his life, even after his death. From my view as a “Romero disciple,” here are some of his biggest contributions to our business, some well-known, some perhaps not as known or appreciated.
WHAT JOHN ROMERO TAUGHT US (IF WE WERE LISTENING)
An Overall Philosophy of Marketing—John was the first person in gaming to philosophically frame our marketing challenge. He told us that it was all about “prospects,” not “suspects.” He hit us with the “relentless logic” that we should care about measurable results and not just filling the place or making the big boss happy. He encouraged us to seek out the little “marketing edges” that would add up to a significantly improved performance.
The Power of the Personal Approach—Long before today’s fancy “database segmentations,” John understood that if you could make a casino player feel that you were speaking only to him or her, that if you could make them feel what it was going to be like when they come to the dinner, or the show or the tournament, then you would dramatically improve response. Not only that, but you would also build an emotional connection to the player and a real, live casino executive. Many of John’s “ghostwritten” letters from a casino GM had players wanting to “meet the person who sent them such a nice letter.”
Words over Pictures—Many casino executives today still don’t believe John’s unshakeable belief that an engaging letter with many words beats a brochure with pretty pictures every time. “No one reads a 1,000 word letter,” they say. “They will if you make it compelling and all about them,” I can still here John replying.
“The legacy of a man can be seen in what he did, how he did it, and how he impacted those who came behind him. John Romero not only ‘did it all,’ he did it with class, style and integrity. He left behind an entire generation of marketers and casino executives wishing they could make even a sliver of his impact on their world.”
Opportunity Times—John Romero was the first one to make us realize that you market to times when you actually need the business. So his signature (and first in the business) blackjack tournaments always targeted soft, midweek timeframes. His splashy, holiday season casino promotions were value-filled spectaculars in order to “compete with Santa.”
The Well-Crafted Story—Along with his trademark personal letters, John knew people would respond to a good story better than to just a simple offer. So his direct marketing prospects might hear about a VIP golf invitation from a GM who was battling the yips, or a dinner special from a chef who stumbled on a tasty dessert recipe at a little “hole in the wall” restaurant in Montana. Think this engaged potential customers to “come on in?” You bet.
Sense of Urgency—No one knew better than John Romero that creating a sense of urgency helped to “sell.” He pioneered the “early bird discount.” He used “limited quantities,” “offer good only this week or till they’re gone,” “bonus if you come in a day early,” and other catchphrase marketing lines to get his target audience not only responding, but responding right now.
The legacy of a man can be seen in what he did, how he did it, and how he impacted those who came behind him. John Romero not only “did it all,” he did it with class, style and integrity. He left behind an entire generation of marketers and casino executives wishing they could make even a sliver of his impact on their world.
Not a bad legacy, pal. You done good.