Erosion is the process by which things eventually get worn down. Typically, this is caused by natural elements—rivers, rain and wind slowly wear away the Earth’s surface, and a thousand years or more later, we’re all staring down into the Grand Canyon.
In business, however, the erosion of our brand does not turn your company into a natural wonder. At best, it makes it a cautionary tale others can learn from.
Consumers today have more entertainment choices than ever before, every one of which can erode your customer base. Indeed, the number of ways to while away the hours continues to grow as technology advances—just think of all the new ways you found to spend your time and money while under COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders of this past spring. This consumer response to the coronavirus creates a challenge for casino marketers, who need to divert client attention away from these alternative forms of entertainment and back to the gaming facility.
Recapturing trade lost to coronavirus is just one of many ongoing business-eroding factors casino marketers must recognize, face and overcome on a daily basis. Accomplishing this feat is no easy task—even seasoned marketing executives unknowingly fall into bad habits and faulty decisions when faced with the constantly heated battle for the customer wallet. “We want to show that we’re cooler/hipper/better/newer than the competition, but we don’t want to turn off our core slot customer who is used to things the way they are.” Sound familiar? It’s the almost impossible marketing balancing act most casinos attempt to accomplish each day.
Recently, I sat with Jan Talamo, chief creative officer and head of brand strategies for Think-Traffic, to discuss how we may be inadvertently eroding the brands we are entrusted with stewarding and developing. Here’s are countdown of the top five marketing mistakes that can exacerbate brand dissolution:
Mistake #5: Inconsistency in applying brand graphics—While I tend to always want to stress the experience as the image of your brand, the tactical, visible pieces are just as important. Marketing collateral, promotional items, advertisements, and even the checks we use to pay team members and vendors are all a reflection of the brand. Consistency builds a solid foundation, but if you did a review of the above, you’d probably find many inconsistencies—often the result of production limitations and wannabe creative gurus.
As you develop or refresh your graphic identity, you must have a full understanding of the utilizations and how adaptations can enhance rather than erode the brand image. The quickly evolving media landscape requires us to consider our brands’ graphic applications in a variety of mediums. Perform a full audit of logo usage around your property and online, then make a plan to make corrections. It’s worth creating an updated media library to ensure consistency.
Mistake #4: Short-term mindset—This is a natural trap for many marketers. We see a viral video and wonder how we can replicate it. We see competitors drop prices to boost sales, and we respond by sending out a quick supplemental piece with a better offer—if they give away a truck; we respond by giving away a Ferrari and so on. A short-term strategy such as this often means something needs to be printed immediately, so we send a logo and pray that it will be produced correctly.
Short-term thinking can feel great. Gratification is quick, and the gains are fast. However, I would argue that developing a long-term mindset is more beneficial because it can create a foundation for growth. Talamo adds that he has seen instances where marketers, “have lost sight of the market and have lost sight of the numbers. So they entitle and overinvest in the low end of the database, filling the casino floor with bodies rather than customers. The result can often kill the brand experience.”
Consider how you want the brand to be perceived and experienced and fight for that. Combat the urge to jump on the latest trend if it will not build long-term value and enhance the brand experience.
Mistake #3: Treating social media as an afterthought—I participated in one of the first discussions of social media in casino marketing. At the time, many national brands were making a splash, but some casino marketers looked to the digital channels as something for “the young.” Sometimes, the marketers knew social media was the direction to go, but the company leadership saw it as a bad fit and not worthy of attention.
Now we know these channels are populated with the young at heart—our sweet spot. As the channels like Facebook evolved, some marketers figured, “Why not? It’s free.” But it’s never been free—at a minimum, it required a body to post in a somewhat inconsistent manner. Today, changing algorithms and engagement with your audience requires a science/experience/brand hybrid.
Additionally, newer social media outlets are prime with the next generation of casino gamers. So it is crucial to understand where current and target customers are and that you present a flow of information that inspires them to visit because they want to be a part of what you are sharing.
Mistake #2: Relinquishing the brand reins—Of course, the experiences we provide must also be consistent with the brand vision. Two elements sneak up on us because they have traditionally been decided by others: service and pricing.
Actions are perhaps more critical to the brand image than the size and color of your logo. Think about that—the systems and processes we put in place can bring the truth of our brands into the spotlight. In the current market, where customers can praise or annihilate us with a post shared with their network of friends and family, the tools we put into place must create the experience that lifts our brand to top choice in the target’s mind.
Pricing is typically thought of as a retail issue. Do you sell your dishwashing liquid for $1 or $2? But pricing is very much a factor in how we strengthen our brands, and it comes in the form of slot hold. I realize this is a hornet’s nest of a debate. One side is convinced that customers are not able to tell when the hold increases. The other side is convinced that customers are indeed price sensitive and can sense those adjustments to the floor. The point here is that, as marketers, we must err on the brand’s side and the customer’s expectations of the brand.
That said, the rein that often slips the easiest is how team members interpret the brand experience. I have seen way too many instances where the brand is distilled down to a tagline and logo when team members are welcomed and subsequently trained. Partner with human resources to trace the team member journey and identify ways to breathe the brand into the process. Team members will be well informed and create uniquely branded experiences to set you apart from your competitors.
Mistake #1: Rose-colored glasses—It is human nature to want to work with a cool, vital brand rather than an aged one. I was recently talking to a fellow brand marketer about the demise of an old brand that we grew up with. I hate it when new leadership casts aside old brands rather than embracing them. But this does not just happen with older brands and new directions.
In many ways, we do this when we’re not honest with our brand (or ourselves) and when we, as Talamo says, “rely on ‘mesearch’ rather than research. There is a huge difference between how we see our brands and how customers see them. Marketers and agencies can lose sight of the market when they don’t do enough quantitative research and qualitative blue-ribbon panels with high-value customers.”
Continuing a two-way communication with your most-valued guests will ensure you do not lose sight of your brand’s truth.
As marketers, we must always remember that we have been given the responsibility to steward our brands to create long-term shareholder value. We must be honest with ourselves and understand the market, competition and how we can leverage the brand’s strengths to complement the needs and desires of our most valuable customers.