We should all know by now that a brand is much more than a logo or a tag line. A brand is a promise we make and keep to our customers, and its successful operationalization enables our success.

But what do we mean to operationalize a brand? In its simplest guise, this is the process for how we bring a brand to life, and infuse the customer’s journey with its presence. I’ve been giving this a lot more thought lately as our flagship property, Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore Ala., undergoes a branding facelift.

Our original company logo featured a “W” encased in a square (rather than a circle), the logo typeface was a slightly italicized serif font, and the name “Wind Creek” was rendered as a single word. We made small adjustments over the years to accommodate various marketing channels, but ultimately settled on a wholesale redesign when it became apparent that the old logo was difficult to read on the small screens of mobile devices. Optimizing media for mobile consumption is a tremendous challenge, but as all marketers are now acutely aware, the mobile device and mobile messaging is driving much of marketing communication. We responded accordingly, beginning with our corporate identity program.

In its very first manifestation, the refreshed logo design was created as a branding element for WindCreekCasino.com, our free-to-play “social casino,” where customers can play online games for free and earn real-world rewards. The circle “W” and a san serif font treatment were deployed first as a practical solution because its elements were still legible even when rendered within just a handful of pixels on a phone. Further, we recognized that the online version of our brand would be experienced by a vastly larger audience than our current brick-and-mortar customer pool. The mobile version of the social casino would draw the most traffic, and our brand visibility on the mobile devices would now have the largest share of consumers. It only made sense at that juncture to keep going with our brand refresh, and capitalize on that brand equity we would soon earn online.

This is a good example of the online brand tail wagging the analog dog. The small screen utility of the new logo treatment inspired us to embark on an enterprise-wide rebranding. (The key image at the head of this article features the installation of our new signage at our flagship Atmore resort.) As the architect and gatekeeper of our company brand, I find this transformation to be riveting. The physical manifestation of the brand is a powerful force, but, of course, signage is only one component of its operationalization.

MAXIMUM EFFORT

How are you delivering your brand promise to your customers? Have you created physical assets that support your promise? A brand voice needs to be confident with a justifiable and supportable promise to your customers, and the brand experience must be both visceral and salient. In an ideal scenario, a resort will first identify its idealized customer, its target beneficiary, and then build the necessary physical assets to deliver the promised experience. The last step is creating and delivering a marketing communication program that attracts that customer. What follows is an example from my career of this process in practice.

MGM Grand is arguably among the best-known casino brands in the world.  Prior to 2005, the resort marketed itself as the “City of Entertainment.” Its size and diversity of offerings were certainly “city-like.”  “Entertainment,” on the other hand, was a not a plausible brand pillar; there is nothing unique about a Las Vegas resort offering entertainment. Las Vegas as a designation essentially owns the entertainment promise. Crafting a convincing, entertainment-centric brand promise to differentiate a property from the other Las Vegas resorts—all of which offer entertainment—becomes implausible. However, this mega-resort could support something obvious and tangentially related… the promise of “Maximum Vegas.” That is: everything and anything that you can experience in Las Vegas, you can experience at MGM Grand—but grander, bigger and better.

Las Vegas ranks among the most competitive markets in the world; developing a breakthrough communication platform to position the property and provide a message that uniquely differentiated the resort was my mandate. Beginning in 2005 at the start of my tenure as assistant vice president of marketing, we assembled the marketing communications to deliver a “Maximum Vegas.” With our lead creative agency, Cramer-Krasselt’s Phoenix office, and our in-house advertising team we began to build the campaign. In tandem, to fully operationalize this new position, and to breathe life into “Maximum Vegas,” a commitment was made by senior executives to invest in amenities that could further deliver on that promise. In order to truly deliver a “Maximum Vegas” experience, MGM Grand would have to expand its offerings and provide more amenities appealing to a broader set of customers.

MGM Grand had become increasingly reliant on the drive-in, value-minded visitor from southern California; it was time to “fire” some of those customers and attract the higher-spending, higher-income visitor. Management created new offerings to draw in that younger, hipper, (and richer) demographic. More suites and better-appointed rooms were carved out to create a “W-like” boutique hotel known as “West Wing” within the hotel, along with the construction of “Skylofts at MGM Grand,” 51 two-level loft-like suites on the top floors of the property.

A revitalized luxury room product, supported by high-end restaurants led by an eclectic group of well-known celebrity chefs, including Tom Colichio and Michael Mina, augmented by a wide array of options appealing to our loyal mass customer, MGM Grand now delivers “Maximum Vegas.”

For Wind Creek, our tagline, “Find Your Winning Moment,” describes the customer journey. A winning moment is not just hitting a jackpot at one of our gaming machines. It could be a day in our spa with your friends, a romantic dinner at FIRE with your spouse or a day bowling or watching movies with your family. In a myriad of ways, Wind Creek’s world-class amenities allow our team members to create winning moments. Each encounter is an opportunity to deliver world-class customer service and render unforgettable winning moments for our customers. In this way, we can bring our brand to life and convincingly deliver and keep our promise to our customers.