This year’s G2E offered the usual range of educational opportunities, but I find myself increasingly drawn to the marketing side of things, if only because whatever new products and processes are on display, the ones that take off will be available everywhere, and the challenge will quickly move from what to buy to how to market it.

To that end, Michael Laffey, president, Indigeony, led a session called, “Promotions with Emotion,” and he led it well.  Almost all marketing executives, he noted, say promotions are designed to drive traffic, build loyalty, increase time-on-device, build incremental business and fend off competition. “These are all good reasons,” he said, “but promotions can also be used to improve emotional connections with your guests and build your brand.”

Promotions with emotion connect you with your players’ lifestyles. “In our business, we know more about our customers than almost any other business in the world,” said Laffey. “We know how old they are, their zip codes, how much they visit, how much they spend, their favorite restaurants, their birthday…We know all that kind of stuff, but do we really know who our players are? Promotions need to reflect the values and the lifestyles of our tier one and tier two players.”

Laffey added that he has seen a lot of promotions come through his direct mail that are along the lines of, show up on Tuesday and you get an entry to show up on Friday for a promotion that requires you to come back on Sunday. “Those kinds of promotions are starting to drive our players nuts.”

Ads aren’t much better. “I don’t see a lot of relationship to the people in our ads and the people who are in our casinos,” said Laffey. “Other than Vegas, I don’t see a lot of supermodels playing craps. We’re missing the connection between our ads and the people who are actually in our casinos, which, in Oklahoma, is a 60.9-year-old smoking female.”

He asked, “How do you know if your promotion lacks an emotional connection?” A:  If the first words out of your winner’s mouth are: Can I have the cash?

Laffey spelled out six rules for successful promotions with emotion:

1. Promotions must reinforce the brand: That extends to your prizes, your methods and rules and everything you say. He gave the example of a casino in Bootleg, Calif., that has developed a connection with the rebellious nature of their guests. “They do tattoo shows, 420 parties, and one of the biggest things the city did down there for years was OysterFest. So we thought why not do BaconFest? Ten thousand people like oysters, so how many like bacon? A lot.”

2. Talk to your players and find out who they are: “I don’t know how many marketing directors I talk to every day who don’t go on the floor and talk to their players,” he said. “We have executive hosts or promotions people for that, right? You’re the one making the decision on how to keep peoples’ butts in your seats; you should be out there talking to them every day.  You can do that through VIP parties, surveys, focus groups, secret shoppers and all these different ways, but you wouldn’t believe what kind of information you can get from tier one and tier two players if you just ask them.”

3. Don’t do promotions that are easily copied: “We all compete with casinos where we don’t have to guess what they’re doing next month; it’s whatever we did this month,” said Laffey.  “If it worked for us it will have to work for them. So let’s try to do promotions that use our amenities, vendor relationships, and our customer connections to do things that our competition down the street can’t easily just pick up and do.”

4. Emotionalize promotions for all revenue streams: “How many marketing folks get calls from table games or F&B saying, ‘why don’t I get anything?’  There’s nothing wrong with making your promotions work for all revenue streams.”

5. All staff must participate: “I went to a steakhouse in Oklahoma the other day and my waitress knew everything that was going on in the casino, from how to get a players card, to what the promotions were, to when Senior Day was,” said Laffey. “I’ve run Elvis competitions and the entire staff wears pork chop sideburns for a week prior and they have fun. There’s more of an emotional connection when everyone’s having fun.”

6. Measurable metrics: Use coin-in, new player sign-ups, time-on-device, but also measure emotional returns such as brand awareness, guest feedback, social marketing and do follow-up research. “Ask people if they liked it, even if they didn’t win.”