Imagine This has been servicing the casino industry with robust and unique programs and gifts since its founding in 1999. For nearly two decades, the company has continued to grow and evolve its casino-focused business, becoming one of the largest casino marketing companies in North America. Imagine This currently services over 350 gaming properties in the U.S. and Canada and expects revenue to top $140 million in 2018.
Among the keys to this continued growth: a customer-centric approach that emphasizes result and profit maximization, and a willingness to help clients take advantage of the latest gaming industry technology. Indeed, as gaming operators have evolved from a “build it they will come” mentality to a sophisticated, data-driven philosophy, so too has Imagine This. Moving beyond simply being a “gift vendor,” the company created and perfected the powerful Continuity Program, incorporating data and predictive analytics to help casinos generate more trips, more revenue, more net profit and greater loyalty from their best players.
Patrick Papaccio, who, along with Shawn Keep, co-founded Imagine This and now fills the post of CEO for the company, recently took some time to answer questions from Casino Journal Editor Paul Doocey regarding the company’s product lines, business approach and plans for the future. Below are some excerpts from the answers:
How did Imagine This get involved with the gaming industry?
PAPACCIO: Funny story. As Shawn Keep and I began our company, we did mostly corporate promotions. But then one day when Shawn was driving to his river home in Parker Ariz., he stopped into a local casino to find out if they did any promotional items. Bingo! And that’s how we got started in the gaming industry.
How did the company carve a profitable niche is this industry?
PAPACCIO: These words are not a cliché when it comes to what it took for us to gain a foothold in the industry. Tenacity, persistence, willingness to risk, learn from our successes and failures, working to separate ourselves from competition, and last but not least, passion to succeed which helped us navigate thru two recessions on our path to becoming the leader.
Our success is because we are client-first centric. We learned the easiest road to success is to simply help our clients succeed. Imagine This discovered an opportunity in the customer loyalty part of gaming by investing time and resources into understanding casino player reinvestment strategies directly from our clients. From this, we were able to develop our Casino Continuity Program.
Understanding human behavior and developing an incentive-based program, along with making the program fully accountable, meant we could prove the effect of the program on the players who choose to participate in it. Our analytics enable the program to help our clients make fact-based informed decision making, which is “actionable” and “measurable” so our clients can go from “gut feeling” decision-making to decision making based on research and facts. The provability aspect is why our clients look to our program as their number one revenue-generating program. Our program analytics, which we provide no cost, have been vetted by the most sophisticated data teams in the industry.
We focused on this part of our business, due to its repeatable sale nature. Our clients run our program from six times per year to every single month. We have literally thousands of casino executives who are references for us. This repeatable nature of our program means we have consistent sales all year long.
Imagine This also offers lines centered on Gear, Product Sourcing and Custom programs. How do these fit into company strategy?
PAPACCIO: Frankly, we only provide the sourcing and promotional products as a convenience for our clients. There are thousands of suppliers who can provide these products to them. Our growth has caused us to focus on simply helping our clients grow through our player acquisition and retention programs.
What support services does Imagine This offer its casino customers?
PAPACCIO: Imagine This is a true full service company. We make our own products, developed the revenue generating program for our clients to use these products, and support our programs with a turnkey approach. We design, fulfill and implement all aspects of our programs.
There are a lot of companies offering loyalty marketing programs and products. How is Imagine This separating itself from the competition?
PAPACCIO: Imagine This is the original creator of the Casino Continuity Program. Over the years we have reinvested heavily to bring techniques, tools, services and products to make it a one of a kind program. While others have tried to knock us off, they simply can’t match the experience, resources and reputation to do what we can for our clients. Imagine This is the only company that has a true full service approach with in-house services including, program service team, data analytics, art department, inventory management, and creative product development and importing team.
What is the ROI like for gaming operators that opt for Imagine This?
PAPACCIO: ROI is important, but needs to be also stated in context. As one of our clients said many years ago, “I can’t deposit an ROI, but I can deposit profit.” This was said because the casino executives we deal with are mostly concerned with bottom line profit.
There are many factors that affect ROI including economic market demographics of a particular property, if the property is tax exempt like most Native American properties, or highly taxed like in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and others. So ROI for our program ranges from a low of 150 percent to 900 percent. What’s important to know is, because we take a data approach when designing the program, we insure that our program is always profitable for our clients 100 percent of the time. Our post analysis backs up the results each and every time.
What are some of the properties that have bought into the Imagine This package?
PAPACCIO: Imagine This services over 350 casinos in North America—from Casino Rama in Canada to Thunder Valley in northern California and hundreds in-between. Imagine This has built an impeccable reputation of delivering for our clients on time every time. Our entire company structure is built to serve our clients as a valued marketing partner. We genuinely care about the people we help.
How does the company go about getting new clients on board?
PAPACCIO: In the beginning, good ole fashion cold calling was how we began. Today, almost every new introduction is a referral from a happy client who also cares about our success or a client who has taken over a new property and asks us to come help support their new endeavor. As Shawn likes to say, “We are at a one degree of separation these days.”
How is Imagine This helping gaming operators tackle the issue of Millennial attendance at brick-and-mortar properties?
PAPACCIO: We have attended several conferences where this has been a topic of discussion. With the exception of the Las Vegas market, the backroom discussions with our clients have for the most part indicated that the Millennial segment is still too young demographically and financially for it to be a primary focus. Since across the country the overall consensus is the target demographic age is 45-75 years old and about 60/40 women/men. The assumption is, as the Millennial segment ages, it will be a natural transition, but time will tell.
Virtually all of our clients are focused on the here and now. As far as the programs Imagine This operates, we are confident they will transition well over to the newer generations, especially from a product standpoint.
What are some of the new products/initiatives Imagine This has planned for 2018?
PAPACCIO: Imagine This cannot disclose which new products we are launching in 2018 as to help our clients maintain a competitive edge. However, suffice to say, we have some fantastic new offerings for our clients. As far as new initiatives, Imagine This is unveiling our Player Acquisition 2.0 program to select clients. We have improved upon our original program to make the new one more impactful for our clients.