The rituals listed above are superstitious in nature. Other rituals, however, are more ceremonial and occur on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; these can be used to create a strong bond between a player and a property. Rituals can have an undeniable effect on your brand and loyalty from customers, employees and other stakeholders. If you’re trying to create a healthier community, a ritual could be the tool you need to create a sense of belonging and familiarity.
As human beings, we are creatures of habit. Routines provide us with a sense of security and stability. The word “ritual” can conjure primitive, mystical or sacred ceremonies. Still, rituals are an essential part of our lives, such as brewing a pot of coffee every morning, cooking a huge Thanksgiving dinner once a year, or the way we mark life—weddings, Sweet Sixteen, or Quinceañera celebrations. Rituals provide us with a sense of belonging to our families and our communities. They could offer customers (and employees) that same sense of belonging to your brand community. As operators and business owners, we are continually setting patterns of behavior we hope will build loyalty. Done with intention, you will build loyalty.
Rituals are not exclusive to large brands. Often, rituals are adopted by low-cost and mass-market brands. Perhaps it is the need to add some differentiation, and in a veritable sea of slot machines, a distinction is undoubtedly the goal of every casino brand marketer.
Indeed, you may have already participated in a brand-based ritual without even realizing it. For example, whether it is a day at the beach or a Cinco de Mayo celebration, you can’t deny the ritual of lime with your ice-cold Corona beer. It has become such an unspoken expectation that drinkers simply consider it “the way it is.” This ritual makes them feel like “insiders” because they understand the “right” way to consume the beverage.
How do you eat an Oreo? The right way, of course. Chances are you twist the wafers apart to get to that yummy cream filling first, or you go for the dunk into a cold glass of milk. Either way, yours is an emotional, sacred ritual you likely grew up with and are sharing with the next generations. Dunk or twist, eating an Oreo has become more than simple consumption. Through consistent marketing, the manufacturer took this everyday routine and turned it into a meaningful ritual and manifested an eating event.
For years, Apple consumers would line up to be the first to purchase the latest smartphones. Apple encouraged this ritual, making the first buyers feel special by limiting the initial supply (to the bane of all who preferred to wait).
And, some claim Hallmark “invented” some holidays to further emphasize the ritual of card-giving for special events.
Hey, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. I definitely need a break.
Rituals can also be a key element in how we engage and retain team members. Elaine Wynn used to send cakes from Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas to the directors on the team. It was a personal ritual she had created to further enhance the bonds with employees.
Disney cast members receive service pins, depending on how long they have been with the company. Each pin is coveted because it is distinctive for each year and gets affixed to their name tags. It’s a form of recognition that is visible to both the cast member and the public.
When I started working at the Isle of Capri, I discovered a long-standing ritual of distribution of logo wear that happened each quarter that employees loved. They would never face the dilemma of not having a thing to wear.
There are also silent rituals, that can build employee engagement such as where and how executives take their lunch and dinner breaks, or how they stroll the back of the house.
HOW TO CREATE RITUALS
If you had a chance to read my column on Talk Triggers (September 2019 Casino Journal), you’ll find some of this very familiar. I believe rituals must have a few common elements to stand the test of time and truly become a part of your brand. Here are some traits winning brand rituals have in common:
- Consistency—By definition, rituals consist of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
- Relevancy—The goal is to bond your target audience to your brand. Rituals must be connected to both.
- Specific to an audience—Disney guests may love to wear a pin with the number of years they’ve visited, but chances are your audiences may differ in their motivations. Find the unique triggers for each audience and curate the experience for that.
- Entertaining to an audience—Remember, we are in the entertainment business. For other brands, I would typically advise them to make rituals enjoyable, but casino brands need to step it up a bit.
- Assistance in the adoption—No one likes to feel like an outsider. Your rituals should be easy enough for first timers to take part, while still creating an extraordinary experience each time it happens.
- Shareable—If it’s not on social networks, it never happened. Make sure people will want to talk (positively) and share with friends and families.
Rituals are often derived from existing behaviors; they should physically involve the customer (or whomever your target is) and create personalized experiences for them. Above all, they should be repeatable. Here are some common casino activities that can be sculpted into brand rituals:
- Jackpot celebrations—These used to be the heart and soul of many slot floors, but cost-cutting and technology have curbed this great moment, saving celebrations for big jackpots only, and often not much celebration. These capsule parties can be created as multi-sensory experiences that anyone can participate in. From simple cowbells to confetti cannons, find the ceremony that best fits your brand and that can (and will) be repeated.
- Birthday celebrations—Another familiar ritual is birthday greetings to both customers and employees. Are you creating an experience that will bond the recipient to your brand? Can you improve your birthday experience in a meaningful way?
- Product giveaways—Your tchotchkes can also become valuable rituals. The original operators of Lady Luck had a crazy key chain that customers would rub for good luck. When the executives at the Isle of Capri considered reintroducing the brand, the key chain was the number one item that came up. Many former customers still had them!
Rituals give customers a compelling reason to choose you over your competition. Did you know that Oreo was not the first chocolate sandwich cookie?
Without the ritual, they would just be another cookie option on the shelf. But the chances are that your emotional connection to that simple ritual of dunking or twisting will make you choose the pack of Oreo cookies.
How will you use ritual to create an enhanced connection to your customers, team and stakeholders?